3220 Big Tree Lane, Wilmette, Illinois 60091 Weekday Services: M-Fri: 7:00am/Sun: 9am; Sun - Thu: 7:30 pm

Our Chet Class

Our 8th Grade Program at BHCBE


8th grade is a time of profound transitions. Our students have largely made it past the b’nai mitzvah experience and have their sights set on high school. For many, the initial teenage push toward independence is already in full swing. This moment is crucial is your child’s Jewish journey. Will Judaism be enough a part of their identity that they will eventually pursue it for themselves? Our 8th grade program is designed to encourage our students to choose Judaism and the Jewish people for themselves.


As both a people and a religion, Judaism has always acknowledged that the social, national, and spiritual all go hand in hand. There are few things that young teens are as concerned about as connecting to a group of their peers. For that reason, we’ve designed the 8th grade year to be as fun and social as possible. Our conversational Hebrew class will have our students constantly interacting in fun ways that also challenge them to use their Hebrew skills. Our Israel class culminates in a trip to Israel – Ta’am Yisrael – that brings 8th grade peers from all over Chicago together for a bonding experience like none other. We so believe in the power of this trip that we’ve even created a financial incentive for every one of our 8th graders to go – an automatic $400 scholarship courtesy of BHCBE.


We also believe that part of the value of an experience like this is being able to share it with the rest of the community. While our Israel curriculum builds toward a trip to Israel in February, there is a post trip component where the 8th grade helps plan activities for the Academy’s Yom Ha’atzmeut celebration. The year is designed to prepare, inspire, and empower our 8th graders to be young adult members of the Jewish community.


We are also nurturing that spirit of empowerment by inviting our students to take charge of their own education. While the whole class will be together for the Israel class with Debbie and the Tefillah class with Cantor Roytman, there will be an elective period where our students can pursue their interests. Below is a schedule and a description for each aspect of the program.

8th Grade Schedule
9:00 – 10:05

Inside Israel

10:05 – 10:15


10:15 –11:20 Track 1
Junior Madrichim
8th – 9th  
Track 2
8th – 10th
Track 3
The Play Project
8th – 12th
11:20 – 11:30

Bagel Break

11:30 – 12:00



First Period: Overview of the Israel Class with Debbie Winkler

Debbie WinklerThe 8th grade introduction to Israel class draws on the 8th grade Etgar Curriculum which is designed to take Israel from a theoretical place on a map and in the news to a very real destination rich with possibilities. Students begin the unit by dividing up into small groups and planning a mock 2 week trip to Israel. After putting together their ideal itinerary, students will have gotten to learn a lot about the many attractive sites Israel has to offer and by comparing with their classmates and actual itineraries, get a sense of what most people would regard as the “essential” stops in Israel.


After being introduced the many current attractions in the land of Israel, students will get a chance to study where it all came from. The next unit is called “In pursuit of peace” and it starts with the foundation of modern Zionism and goes up until Israel in the 21st centuries. Members of the BHCBE community who lived through the earliest years of the state as well as more modern times will cameo as guest speakers, bringing to life the realities of a young and growing nation. The unit will culminate in a series of posters the students will make, illustrating Israel’s growth from a dream to a very real state with very real accomplishments and issues.


Next students will get a tour of the many faces of modern Israel, including the political parties (holding a mock election), religious diversity, the role of the army in Israeli society, and much more. The class will culminate with the Ta’am Yisrael trip from February 12th – 26th, after which students will debrief and begin planning for the Yom Ha’atzmeut programs on April 30th. There will also be opportunities to explore issues of Israel advocacy in school and on campus as well as programs for further Israel engagement in high school such as the “Write On” program.


 Second Period: Overview of the Three Tracks Offered First Period

Track 1: Junior Madrichim with Saretta Lazovsky


Saretta       Some of the most powerful and enduring learning happens while teaching. Our 8th and 9th graders will get an introduction to the skills and habits that go into being a successful teacher’s aide. The class period will be broken into three parts: theory, practice, and reflection.  The theory portion will cover topics such as child development, strategies for teaching children with learning disabilities, teaching decoding, as well as more practical topics like how work collaboratively with your classroom teacher, how to be professional, and how to advocate for help and guidance when you need it.


For the practice portion of the class, Junior Madrichim will work one on one or in small groups with our K-2 grade students. Each Junior Madrich/a will be assigned to a class and teacher in advance, and there will be a set arrangement for when they will be helping each class and what their assignments and responsibilities will be. After about 15 – 20 minutes of classwork, Junior Madrichim will return and meet with the Junior Madrichim teacher who will help them debrief and process their experiences. Our goal is that by the end of the year, our students will be more confident and capable working with younger students and learn valuable professional and pedagogical skills.


Track 2: Conversational Hebrew
With the twin goals of maintaining existing Hebrew skills and building new ones to help our students connect to the people of Israel, we are excited to offer a conversational Hebrew class for both our 8th and 9th grades. The classes will be led by a native Hebrew speaker and will follow the following principles to ensure that the classes build confidence, are student centered and driven, and meet our goals of maintaining and building new Hebrew skills.


Our class will be based on tried-and-true principles that help students gain confidence learning to speak a second language:

  1. During student-led Hebrew conversations the emphasis will be on communication and fluency, not correctness. The point is for the student’s meaning to come through, not if every word is conjugated precisely. The class will have opportunities to review common mistakes and build new skills when students aren’t practicing their conversational skills.
  2. Before entering into classroom conversations, students will agree on some basic “rules for engagement” such as listening to each other with respect; listening actively by asking for clarification and examples; and advancing opinions clearly while still respecting the opinions of others.
  3. In order to keep the class student directed, student will get to choose discussion topics at the beginning of the year. Students will work in groups, write agreed-upon topics on index cards, and the teacher will collect them. One class session or part of one in brainstorming topics will likely yield enough topics for the semester.
  4. The class will feature a lot of small group and / or pair work. Conversations naturally occur in small, not large groups. Smaller groups also give students more opportunities to speak and they are less likely to be self-conscious.
  5. The teacher will teach students conversational strategies. Conversational partners will learn different strategies for introducing the topic, drawing each other out, asking for opinions, advancing their own, using examples, and so forth.
  6. Students will continue to review and learn Hebrew vocabulary, with an emphasis on the vocabulary that is relevant to the topic of discussion.

While the intent is for the topics for the class to eventually be student driven, the semester will begin with students having the option to pick from a few carefully chosen topics that tie into what the students are learning in their class about Israel. Some of the initial choices will be: 1) how to successfully pack for a trip, 2) favorite destinations to go in Israel, 3) which band / musician is the best in Israel and America respectively, 4) whether or not you are an adult after your bar / bat mitzvah and 5) Israel and the presidential candidates.
In addition to conversations, the class will have opportunities for games and role playing that will help students practice phrases and vocabulary in a more structured format. Examples might be shopping at a grocery store, ordering falafel, asking for directions, and other typical situations visitors experience when they travel.


The goal of the 8th grade year at the Academy is to connect our kids as strongly as possible to the land of Israel, culminating in a trip with Ta’am Yisrael on February 12th. Through learning and living the Israeli experience, our 8th graders will not only feel more strongly connected to each other but to the broader Jewish people. We hope that this connection will serve as a strong component of their identity through high school and far beyond.


Track 3: The Play Project with Rebecca Nadis


      Rebecca Nadis      For the first time ever, the entire BHCBE Academy will be working on staging an original musical that draws its inspiration from Jewish history. Putting on a production of this size is going to be a tremendous amount of work, and those students who are interested in taking a lead role in making this musical a huge collaborative success can sign up to work with our director, Rebecca Nadis. Options include working on choreography, set and costume design, lighting work, working with younger students to develop their roles, refining the script for the stage, and much much more! Students who sign up will have a great accomplishment to look back on after the curtain goes up on May 7th, 2017 – one that should engage them with their community and Jewish history like never before.

Tefillah with Cantor Roytman

CantorIn addition to connecting to the land of our people, Cantor Roytman will help our 8th graders explore the hopes, dreams, and prayers of our people through an exploration of our liturgy. In addition to learning about broad concepts in tefillah such as kevah and kavanah, the structure of the amidah and service overall, the role of the kaddish in the service, and d’varim she’yesh bahem kedusha – parts of the service that require a minyan – students will work to lead a Friday night service at the end of the year as part of a culmination of their journey together.