“This is not the religious school you dreaded as a child,” proclaims the website of Adventure Rabbi Kids, a Boulder, CO Jewish educational program for children. 

“A unique weekday Hebrew school that works for your busy family” is how Atlanta-based Jewish Kids Groups Afterschool Community describes itself. 

“We partner with children in long-term, project-based Jewish exploration, in a warm, Hebrew- and text-rich environment,” says the publicity for the Chicago-area Jewish Enrichment Center.

Across North America, new models of supplementary Jewish education are springing up. They share in common that they seek to be innovative and engaging in ways that distinguish them from the hated Hebrew school of times past, and in that they are usually stand-alone enterprises, unconnected with the synagogue.

Is this a passing fad, or do these programs show promise to revitalize Jewish education and generate vibrant Jewish engagement for the large majority of Jewish children who don’t attend day schools? To find out, the Jewish Education Project has asked me to inventory such programs across North America and to identify common traits and opportunities for learning and possible philanthropic investment. 

If you know of such programs in your area —or anywhere in North America— please contact me (ramie.arian@gmail.com) to let me know about them. 

Rabbi Ramie Arian is a consultant who works in projects involving experiential Jewish education, especially Jewish camps. He formerly served as Vice President of the Wexner Heritage Foundation (before we became The Wexner Foundation).