Religious School – A to Z Guide

An alphabetical overview of all things related to the Religious School…


The Goldsmith Religious School Building of Congregation Emanu-El is located at 10 East 66th Street. Unless otherwise noted, students enter and leave from this location only. Classes start at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays and 4:00 p.m. on Mondays. Parents should make every attempt to have their children arrive to school on time. Latecomers should go directly to their first period location without causing any disruption to the class in session. Changes to arrival location or procedures will be communicated to grown-ups in advance via email and Remind. Please notify the Department of Lifelong Learning via email () if your student will be arriving late. 

A-TEEM is our Religious School’s madrichim (teachers’ aide) program.. From being in classrooms to counting Tzedakah, these teens play a large role in helping our Religious School thrive! We meet before starting our day to check in, go over the schedule for the day, and review progress on personal goals for the year. A-TEEMers work on Sunday mornings from 9:00am-12:00pm or Monday evenings 4:00pm-6:00pm. Teens have the option to be paid for their time or put their hours towards community service. Formal full-time A-TEEM is a 9th-12th grade offering, however we are hoping to add “A-TEEM in Training” as one of our options for our 8th graders. For more information or to participate, please contact Em Besthoff.

It is critical that each student attend class on a regular basis in order to learn the material covered throughout the year. We therefore expect that students be present every week school is in session. In the event that a student must miss a session, parents are asked to contact the Religious School office in advance so that we may notify the teacher and arrange for appropriate make-up work as needed. If we are not notified of an absence in advance, then parents should expect an email from their child’s teacher to make sure that everything is okay at home.

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Being called to the Torah as a b’nei mitzvah provides an opportunity for communal recognition of a major milestone in the lives of our families. Members have the opportunity of participating either at the public worship service on Shabbat morning or at a private family service that may be scheduled Saturday afternoon or evening. There is no “doubling up”; only one child becomes a b’nei mitzvah at a given service.

A date for a b’nei mitzvah service may be scheduled beginning in 3rd grade. Any child who is becoming a b’nei mitzvah at Congregation Emanu-El is enrolled automatically in our Religious School and must remain enrolled to continue to hold the date for the service. To schedule a date or to discuss issues related to the preparation and ritual of calling a b’nei mitzvah to the Torah, including tutoring, please contact the B’nei Mitzvah Coordinator at 212-507-9601 or .

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Students are requested to keep cell phones OFF during Religious School hours. Should parents need to make contact with their children, they should call the Religious School office: 212-507-9546. If cell phones become a distraction, faculty or Department of Lifelong Learning staff will collect them and return at the end of the school day.

Through participation in school wide events, classroom teaching visits and private tutoring sessions, all members of the clergy play an active role in the Religious School and education of our students.

Our school is one in which all individuals, whether students or staff members, expect to be treated fairly and with respect. All of our students, from youngest to oldest, are participants in the creation of an environment conducive for learning. Students are expected to be courteous and respectful at all times, to cooperate with teachers, and to follow class rules. In the older grades, students take greater responsibility for setting the classroom norms that allow them to most benefit from each lesson. We expect our students to take their role as stakeholders in the learning experience seriously by arriving ready to fully participate in class each week. If any student’s behavior interferes with a classmate’s ability to learn, then we understand this to mean that the student is excluding him or herself from the classroom community.

Confirmation is the highest level of formal Religious School instruction. This monthly class taught by Rabbi Davidson explores questions of Jewish identity: specifically, our relationship to God, Torah, and the land, people, and state of Israel. Even if your teen did not continue in Religious School after B’nei Mitzvah, we welcome them into these conversations. The curriculum is informal and discussion-based and culminates in a service of Confirmation on the festival of Shavuot in June. The class writes the service, which offers everyone an opportunity to express their thoughts on the topics covered during the year. Confirmation is open to students in 9th or 10th grade only.

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If a student’s schedule prohibits them from attending Religious School on their regular day for an extended period (more than 3 weeks), parents can request a temporary day switch. Please call the Religious School office at 212-507-9546 or send an email to to notify us of the start and end date of the requested switch. We will coordinate with your child’s teachers to ensure that students are placed in the appropriate class(es).


School ends at 12:00 p.m. on Sundays and 6:00 p.m. on Mondays. Unless otherwise noted, dismissal is from the lobby of the Goldsmith Religious School Building of Congregation Emanu-El, located at 10 East 66th Street. For the security and safety of all children, parents and caregivers must come into the building lobby to collect their children. No student will be allowed to leave Religious School unescorted or prior to daily dismissal without written permission from the child’s legal guardian. In case of an emergency or a last-minute change, parents should call the Religious School office at 212-507-9546 for instructions. If a student has not been picked up within 15 minutes of the end of school, then the student will be brought up to the Religious School office until a parent or guardian arrives. Parents requiring a late pick-up should contact the office so that we can make proper arrangements.

Please see the section on “Early Dismissal” for related information.

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If a student must leave school early, then parents should contact the Religious School office in advance by phone at 212-507-9546, or by emailing. Parents should provide the time that their child will be leaving who will be picking them up (unless they have permission to self-dismiss). Students leaving early will receive a yellow dismissal slip. Please note that, for the safety of our students, under no circumstances will we allow a student to leave early without written or verbal permission from the child’s parent or guardian.

Students arriving early on Mondays will be supervised in our Early Room, beginning at 3:30 p.m. The Early Room is located in Blumenthal Hall, which is one flight down from the 66th Street lobby. Students are welcome to socialize or do homework. Once a month, students are invited to participate in a mitzvah activity. A light snack is provided.

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We endeavor to build a faculty of distinction, by hiring creative, passionate professionals to be our educators, who model the values and ideas of the community and inspire a journey of lifelong learning. Through faculty meetings, supervision, evaluation and professional-development opportunities, faculty members will have the opportunity to learn and grow as educators.

We believe that our role is to create accessible moments for parents to model Jewish life for their children throughout their lives.When our students participate together with their families in learning experiences, worship and communal holiday celebrations, they get more out of them, make more friends and simply have more fun. In all our programs, we create an environment in which families can explore Judaism together while forging strong connections to the Emanu-El community. Come for Havdalah, all school Tefilah or participate in our monthly family Shabbat services and dinner.

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We aim to support the specific needs of every child in our program, and we strive to create and maintain a healthy environment for all children. If a child has any special health or learning needs, then please let us know by speaking with the Director or Assistant Director of Lifelong Learning or by documenting special needs on the registration form. All of our school administration are trained in CPR and the use of an Epi-Pen. School personnel are not permitted to dispense medication to our students.

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Join us for a memorable adventure exploring Jewish history from Mount Sinai to Modern Israel. Families will walk through Jewish History from Mount Sinai to the modern state of Israel. Pass through the byways of the Old City of Jerusalem, rappel its ancient walls, and indulge in the diverse culinary delights at Mahane Yehuda. Designed for families with children 7-14 years old, you will have the unique opportunity to celebrate Chanukah in the footsteps of our ancestors. The trip will culminate in a special B’nei Mitzvah celebration, creating lasting memories for all participants. Learn more and register.

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Temple Emanu-El is a Reform Jewish congregation. When it comes to ritual traditions, we support personal choice based on learning, reflection and experimentation. In that spirit, students in our Religious School are invited to experiment with the wearing of kippot and other Jewish ritual garments. Kippot are available for use in our prayer spaces, so that students and parents will have the opportunity to make their own choice about whether to wear one or not each time they enter a prayer service. Students always are welcome to bring their own kippah from home. Senior Rabbi Joshua Davidson notes: “The kippah…a custom, not a commandment…instills humility before the Almighty, reminding us of God above.” Learn more about Temple Emanu-El’s approach to ritual from Rabbi Davidson’s Rosh Hashanah 2013 sermon.


Temple Emanu-El’s Stettenheim Library is open during Religious School hours. We invite parents and caregivers to spend time in the library and make use of the library’s resources. The Stettenheim Library maintains a collection of more than 15,000 items focusing on materials about Jews and Judaism. The library provides Judaica materials and relevant programming to enhance the religious and intellectual life of the congregation’s members and staff. The children’s book collection serves children from toddlers through the teens as well as their parents. The library also has a media collection including recorded books, DVDs and videos, and music CDs. Parents are invited to explore the library while their children are in Religious School.

Lost-and-found items are kept in the Religious School office. Students who find an item without identifying information should bring it to the Religious School office. If a student loses something, parents should contact the Religious School Office as soon as possible, and we will make every effort to recover the lost item.


Students are permitted to attend Religious School at Congregation Emanu-El for up to one academic year as non-members, at a modified tuition rate. After one year the student’s legal guardian must become a member of the congregation for the student to continue in Religious School. Only members may reserve b’nei mitzvah dates. For membership information, please contact the Temple Office or download an application.

The Herbert and Eileen Bernard Museum of Judaica of Temple Emanu-El features three galleries of Jewish art, religious ornaments and temple memorabilia that are noted for their striking beauty and rarity. Our teachers and museum staff create a hands-on, interactive experience using the museum’s collection to explore Jewish history and tradition. Using the resources of the museum and the temple (from a 14th-century menorah to discovering hidden spaces in the Fifth Avenue Sanctuary), we seek to enhance the classroom experience for our students as well as strengthen their link to Emanu-El’s history.

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During the school year (September-May), office hours for the Department of Lifelong Learning are:
• Sunday 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM
• Monday 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM
• Tuesday 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM
• Wednesday 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM
• Thursday 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM
Please note that we are closed on Fridays and Saturdays as well as legal and Jewish holidays. During summer vacation, our office is open Monday through Thursday from 9:30 AM to 6 PM and Friday from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM.

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Our Religious School has a long history of active parent participation and dedication. The Parents Association Steering Committee works in close participation with our staff of the Department of Lifelong Learning to set the agenda and establish the priorities for innovation and change in our school-age programs. These volunteers provide a means by which all parents may voice suggestions and concerns about our programs. Their primary concern is to build community among the families of the school and the synagogue. To get involved, please contact the Director of Lifelong Learning, Mike Witman.

Throughout the year, both in class and at special events, we take photographs of our students and their families. These photographs are used for our end-of-the-year slideshow at our closing assemblies. We also post photographs of school and family activities on sections of the congregational website and on the congregation’s social media channels. It is our policy to not identify any children by name in our materials. Parents who do not wish for Congregation Emanu-El to use photographs of their children on our website or in our publicity should contact the Religious School Office.

Students will be placed in classes according to grade and class size. To build classroom community, we endeavor to honor students’ requests to be placed with at least one requested friend. Final decisions regarding placement are made by the Director and Assistant Director of Lifelong Learning. Parents wishing to discuss their child’s placement should contact the Religious School Office.

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Throughout the school year we hold Shabbat dinners open to temple families and their guests. We understand that busy parents in our community – from Nursery School to Religious School – want to create a Shabbat experience for their children, but struggle to find the time. That’s why we’re offering accessible moments like Family Shabbat, where parents can participate in their children’s Jewish learning. Just register and show up. We’ll handle the rest. Dinners are appropriate for all age groups, and age-appropriate activities for the students (such as mitzvah projects, art activities, storytelling and games) are offered at each dinner.

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The Religious School schedule is as follows:
• Sundays, 9:30 AM to 12:00 PM, Pre-Kindergarten through Eighth Grade
• Mondays, 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM, Pre-Kindergarten through Eighth Grade

To download our Religious School calendar to your phone, please click here.

Our High School Confirmation program has a separate schedule; please click on the above links for the full calendars.

Religious School families will be notified about school closings via email and Remind; parents should make sure we have their current email address on file. Or, parents may call the Religious School office at 212-507-9546.

All security procedures are enforced strictly at all times. Please be advised that our security officers have the right, at any time, to inspect any individual as he or she enters or exits the Marvin and Elisabeth Cassell Community House (One East 65th Street), the Fifth Avenue Sanctuary (Fifth Avenue and 65th Street) or the Goldsmith Religious School Building (10 East 66th Street). The Religious School provides security and safety supervision for students arriving/departing by bus or by car, as well as for students arriving by foot to 10 East 66th Street. The temple cannot maintain security for those students being dropped off or picked up at any other location.


On Sundays and Mondays, a light snack is provided for all students in the classroom during school and in the Early Room prior the start of school. Because of food  allergies, we endeavor to keep our building free of nuts and foods containing nut products. Please note that food and beverages are not permitted in the Lowenstein Auditorium or in the Fifth Avenue Sanctuary. If you would like to further discuss food allergies with the school, please contact .

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The Teen Leadership Council (TLC) spearheads teen social programming and mitzvah projects, collaborating closely with Teen Advisor Emma Kate Lindsay. All programs, including Teen Hot Topics discussions on social justice and Anti-Semitism led by teen co-chairs, are open to Emanu-El teens. Open to all 8th-12th graders, these initiatives aim to cultivate resilience, meaningful dialogue, and a supportive community environment for Emanu-El teens. For more information, contact Em Besthoff.

This program is a full-year commitment to take a leadership role in determining where $10,000 of Emanu-El’s yearly philanthropic funds are allocated. From choosing an issue area and learning how to come to consensus, to creating an RFP and administering a grants process with presentations and follow up, these teens work hard to represent Emanu-El to potential grantees and the chosen organizational recipient. This educational process includes exploration of everyone’s Jewish identity and consideration of important values that guide decision-making in day-to-day life. This program is open to 8th-12th graders. For more information, contact Em Besthoff.

An integral part of the Religious School curriculum is Tefilah (Worship). Our goal is for our students to become familiar with the Reform liturgy, to understand the prayers and meanings, and to be able to pray in a variety of Jewish communal settings. Each Religious School session for grades 3 through 6 includes Tefilah. Students in Kindergarten through Second Grade begin to learn the prayers through their music curriculum. Parents and other adult members of a student’s family always are welcome to join us for Tefilah.

Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) offers temple members of all ages a wide variety of opportunities to volunteer to help those less fortunate in the community. Information about Tikkun Olam programs can be found on the temple website. Questions should be directed to the Tikkun Olam Committee.

Please visit the Religious School Applications page for fee and tuition information, including early registration discount information. This includes all costs for books and supplies. All fees associated with the Congregation Emanu-El Religious School are nonrefundable. All billing issues are handled by the temple’s membership office. Fees for registration in the Religious School are in addition to membership dues. Please note that in order to hold the date on our calendar, any child who is becoming a b’nei mitzvah at Congregation Emanu-El must be enrolled in our Religious School.

The mitzvah of righteous giving is an integral part of our Religious School program. Our goal is for students to see themselves both as advocates for organizations whose work they value and as young philanthropists. Tzedakah is collected weekly during school. Recipient organizations are chosen by our students. For more information about our tzedakah programs, see The Case for Tzedakah in Jewish Education.

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There are so many events that go on in the Religious School and temple overall, sometimes we need a few extra hands. Not only can volunteering result in much-needed help to the temple, but it also can strengthen a family’s connection to the Emanu-El community. Parents interested in learning about the many opportunities to volunteer in the school and beyond should contact the Department of Lifelong Learning.