What does a typical session look like?
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Mensch Academy takes place from 4 – 6 pm. A sample day looks something like this:
4:00-4:30: Children are greeted by Mensch Staff, and answer an Opening Question. They have a snack and work on individualized Hebrew experiences.
4:30-5:00: Opening Circle (Ma’agal P’ticha). We gather as a community (kehilah) to welcome each other, and sing and pray together.
5:00-5:45: Project work around our Jewish theme. This includes exploring Jewish ideas through text study, music, art and dialogue. Mensch kids develop big questions and ideas that they express through designing and creating projects.
5:45-6:00: Closing Circle (Ma’agal Siyum). We gather to celebrate our day and sing together.
6:00: 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.
Why does it meet on two different days of the week?
We want to give kids a chance to spread out when they’re working in small groups, or for facilitators to meet with small groups throughout the space. At this point, we don’t have space to have all of the groups meet simultaneously. We also invest heavily in professional development for our facilitators, and it is important to us that they can work with all of our Mensch Academy cohorts.
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 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.
What's the space like?
Mensch meets at Mishkan Chicago in Ravenswood. Our goal is to create a warm and welcoming environment for classes. Rugs and bean bags give kids a place to relax and get comfortable while our communal tables allow for productive group discussions. The colorful walls are covered with kids faces, artwork, Hebrew, and other Jewish themes.
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.