Being “Just Like Camp” is Not Enough: Renewing Jewish Learning Afterschool

From Section:
Trends in Jewish Education
May. 24, 2013

Source: Innovation XChange

Rena Dorph tells of the founding of Edah, a comprehensive experiential Jewish after-school program serving Berkely, CA.

She writes:

"So, how can we renew Jewish learning after school…yes, in particular, during the hours that happen after school? What role can the lessons learned from camp education as well as education in other contexts play in supporting this renewal? What can we learn from other afterschool programs that successfully meet “serious” learning goals?

At Edah in Berkeley, California we are tackling this complex challenge head on with the generous support and wisdom of the Covenant Foundation, UpStart Bay Area, and both local and national advisors and donors. Edah’s mission is to inspire and engage children and their families through experiential, Hebrew-infused learning in order to nourish collective commitment to Jewish life and learning.


We are guided by a central principle: authentic, immersive experiences provide powerful learning opportunities through which people create meaning, develop Jewish identity, build strong relationships, and nurture community. We marry features of camp that are known to be effective with powerful elements of other relevant learning spaces. It is in the intersection of these multiple spaces that we designed Edah.

The Edah model builds upon the best of several existing program structures. Drawing on elements of several existing educational and enrichment structures, Edah is designed as a community of Jewish doing and learning. Edah builds on the existing structures and youth development goals of afterschool programs, the experiential, immersive, free-choice learning environments fostered at high quality Jewish summer camps, the commitment to daily Jewish learning and Jewish chevreh that characterize Jewish day schools, and the value of families learning and practicing together embodied in high quality family education programs.

Edah meets daily, offering participants the option of as many contact hours for Jewish learning as available in day schools. Edah also meets for full days or weeks when school is out AND we also has an annual retreat—yes, a little bit of that camp magic!

Working within this framework, we developed Edah as a program for children in Kindergarten through 5th grade that would both offer amazing Jewish learning for children and their families AND provide a national model for extensive and intensive Jewish education.

The program is designed to include Jewish learning experiences that are: experiential, Hebrew-infused, immersive, learner-centered, and project based. These experiences will operationalize the concept of na’aseh v’ nishma—we will do and we will understand1—by providing participants and their families with opportunities for doing Jewish practice, learning Jewish content and values, and being Jewish.

These opportunities support participants to become curious about, interested in, motivated towards, engaged in, and skillful in Jewish learning and practice. As a result, these participants develop both the will and skill to engage in Jewish living and learning and realize our program’s learner outcomes in age appropriate ways. These outcomes include: (1) positive Jewish identity; (2) knowledge of Hebrew, Jewish tradition, and values; and (3) capable of engaging in Jewish ritual and communal life."

Read more at Innovation XChange

Updated: Feb. 07, 2017
Community education | Experiential education | Hebrew language | Innovation | Supplementary schools