Families who come out of Mensch Academy know that they are the newest and most important link in the chain of Jewish people and tradition, owning their identity, modeling what it means to be a mensch, and creating an empowered, educated, inspired Jewish future.
Launched in October of 2016, we take students on a journey of learning and exploration, and enable them to create their own classroom environment. Our responsive curriculum 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!
Mensch Academy facilitators consider themselves co-learners and collaborators with your child and not just instructors/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.
Core Guiding Values at the Mensch Academy
These values lie at the center of our work and animate everything we do:
הִנֵּֽנִי – Hineni – I am here
At Mensch Academy we welcome kids and parents to bring their full selves to the table. This is a space where people of all backgrounds can learn together, and where real self-expression takes place through encouraging curiosity and questions, writing, music, text-study, projects, and through creating a space that is safe enough and loving enough for us to feel: to laugh, cry, sing out, be silent, pray, make art… whatever is real. Our goal is to give kids and families the Jewish ritual, textual, spiritual, musical and cultural tools to express themselves authentically.
קְהִלָּה – Kehilah
Community is where the rubber hits the road and where our learning about the ideals of gratitude, positive speech, compassion, justice and empathy are tested in real time with real people. At Mensch Academy, we create opportunities for children to connect with one another, and for parents to connect with their kids through Jewish learning, structured conversations, and prayer, building Mensches, people who respond to the world with generosity, curiosity, active listening, blessings, and other kinds of positive speech.
רוּחָנִיּוּת – Ruchaniyut
It’s the first commandment in the Torah: to generate, stoke and spread light. All of our learning must be oriented with the goal of building stronger character, more love, more generosity, more justice and more peace– more light– through our practice of Judaism. Mensch Academy strives to create an environment where each person can be moved, inspired, learn something, be challenged, taken on a journey, and brought to a higher emotional, spiritual, intellectual and moral place. Every session includes elements of Torah study, music and meaningful social encounter that build a greater sense of enlightenment, broadly construed.
כָּבוֹד – Kavod
At Mensch Academy we honor and value students’ ideas and experiences, and value their ideas and questions. We will provide meaningful opportunities to make choices about their learning. We are committed to supporting students questions and exploring their ideas with them. Students will feel loved enough and safe enough to take risks, ask questions, challenge responses and seek different ways to connect Judaism to their own innate spirituality.
Massive mazel tov to Ilana Gleicher-Bloom, Founding Vision Director of Mensch Academy at Mishkan Chicago, on winning the 2018 Covenant Foundation Pomegranate Prize! The Pomegranate Prize, inaugurated in 2011, is designed to honor rising leaders who have been in the...