Mensch Academy FAQs

We’ve adjusted to a Virtual Program to ensure safety, accessibility and consistency.

Have some questions? You came to the right place.

Read below for more information, or feel free to get in touch!

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How did we make the decision to go virtual?

We believe that in order to live our values, we need to meet virtually. In doing so, we are able to meet the needs of all the members of our community, including immuno-compromised students and family members.

By creating an entirely safe and well-crafted virtual experience, we aim to allow families more space to make decisions regarding how and with whom they spend time in-person. We want to offer a robust, playful experience for our students and believe a strong virtual plan is our best way to do so. 

Our primary objectives remain:

  • Prioritize the health, safety and well-being of all members of our community
  • Provide Mensch Academy kids with a nurturing and celebratory Jewish learning experience that upholds our authenticity and the core principles that shape Mensch Academy
  • Create a safe and consistent space for Mensch Academy students to be brave, curious, and relational during uncertain times

Mensch Academy policy is based not only on the best educational and medical data available, but also on core Jewish values that guide us. When data is unavailable, ambiguous, or conflicting, values provide direction. The values that lie at the center of our work and animate everything we do are:

  • Self-Expression Hineni –  I am here
  • Community – Kehilah
  • Honor & Dignity – Kavod
  • Joyful Inspiration – Ruchaniyut 

 

What does a typical session look like?

A sample day at Virtual Mensch looks something like this:

4:00 — 4:15: Community Tefilah (Song and prayer). We gather as a community (kehilah) to welcome each other, and sing and pray together.

4:15: Zoom breakout rooms by age group

4:15 — 4:30: Welcomes, games, and check ins

4:30 — 4:45: Text study/Theme learning. This includes exploring Jewish ideas through music, art and dialogue. Mensch kids develop big questions and ideas that they express through designing and creating projects.

4:45 — 5:15: Exploration (Yitzirah)

5:15 — 5:30: Reflections, check outs, and close

5:30: Bye! See you next time! (l’hitraot).

Why are there multi-age groups?
One of our values is community, kehilah, and we believe that multi-age groups give kids the opportunity to form community with others who can offer different perspectives. It also allows older children to take on a leadership role, while younger ones have the opportunity to learn from their peers.
Who are the teachers?
Our trained facilitators undergo significant professional development and coaching, which prepares them to guide children in developing their own ideas and interpretations of Judaism and Jewish texts. Our facilitators, working closely with the Vision Director, create and develop our unique, responsive curriculum.
What have we already accomplished online?

When we moved Mensch Academy from in-person to virtual last March, we made a quick pivot and dove right into:

  • Creative and playful zoom sessions
  • Bi-weekly 1:1 meetings with kids and their facilitators to continue to build their relationships
  • Fun virtual programs, like post-Passover Bagel Party, Half-time Fridays, and Monday Wind-Downs
  • We marked the end of the year with an online showcase of our learning 
  • A vibrant and hugely successful 3-week virtual Mensch Camp in June

We prioritized strengthening our relationships and curriculum digitally, and learned that the Mensch experience truly happens wherever we are.

What is a responsive curriculum?
Our learning is anchored around a theme, or a big idea, and we follow the ideas and questions of the kids to build on the theme. For example, for Passover, we studied “strangers in the land of Egypt” which led to many questions about how to define “strangers” and who might be a stranger today, and how we could best support them. Following the lead of the students, we created a guidebook to help support a new refugee family, sponsored by Mishkan. We also hired a member of another refugee family to translate the guidebook into Arabic for us!
Why do kids attend once a week (K+)?
Our mission is to help kids build character, confidence, curiosity and a sense of who they are as Jews in the world through engaging in serious Jewish learning, prayer and exploration. We aim to create a space where kids feel loved enough and safe enough to take risks and experiment with Jewish tradition, making it their own and becoming the best versions of themselves.

In order to truly create space where kids can feel vulnerable and open up to develop their own ideas, we need time to create a sense of community. In our experience, meeting once a week allows us to develop that communal trust that leads to deep learning and understanding.

Do kids learn Hebrew?
Yes, the Hebrew learning we do is individualized. Kids play Hebrew games together, and often get to choose how they want to engage with the language – by tracing letters, card games, Hebrew yoga, and more. Our goal is that by 6th grade, they will be able to decode Hebrew words and will be familiar with the Hebrew terms woven throughout our curriculum.