What does a typical session look like?

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Mensch Academy takes place from 4 – 6 pm. On Mondays, sessions are from 4:15-6:00. A sample day looks something like this:

4:00-4:15: Children enjoy snack and settle in while connecting with one another and Mensch Academy Staff

4:15-4:45 All-School Tefilah. At Mensch Academy, students learn the words, sounds, and meanings of the Saturday morning prayer service. 

4:45-5:45: 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.

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 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 “Mi Chamocha,” the song the people of Israel sing upon their freedom from slavery in Mitzrayim.  This theme led to questions around freedom–who is free, who is not, and what role do we play in the work towards collective liberation?  Following the lead of the students, we learned about revolutionary leaders who have come before us and who work for freedom in our communities today. Our learning culminating in class projects such as a freedom quilt, writing letters to incarcerated parents for mother’s day, and writing our own freedom songs. 

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?

Beginning in 2nd grade, students are invited to enroll in supplemental, small group Hebrew learning at no additional cost to families. Students learn in skill-level groups for 20 minute sessions with 1-2 other students. Hebrew learning is guided by Mensch Academy facilitators who support relational and linguistic development for students.

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.