How can we integrate Jewish teaching and learning in our schools?


By Alfi Tesciuba, ORT Liceo Renzo Levi, Rome

In Rome Jews are called Romanim because they trace their Roman roots back to the second century B.C.E., well before the larger Jewish Diaspora.

There’s a long and rich history to Jewish life in Rome and about 12,000 Jews living here.

All the synagogues are Orthodox, which, like other local institutions, are funded by a voluntary tax on the city’s Jews.

About 900 children attend the community’s school, which runs from kindergarten to 13th grade. 

Jewish life in Rome is therefore closely tied in with civic life, history and identity. This is reflected in the school’s educational mission ‘to practice Judaism consciously and be active, learned, supportive members of the Rome Jewish community’.

With this established, you may now be wondering how we integrate these Jewish values in our school.

We’re tasked with providing an excellent Jewish and secular education and encouraging students to reach their full potential at ORT Liceo Renzo Levi.

We’re working closely with Educating for Impact (EFI), which is an initiative supporting the strategic planning of Jewish education in Europe.

EFI is familiar with the multiple challenges faced by developing communities and understands the processes for successful growth.

The plan for our school is to contribute to Jewish education through a series of professional development trainings for teachers.

So far, we have had initial training for all the teachers from Elementary to High school. Professional development topics covered will include effective lesson planning, differentialized instruction, active learning curriculum designing, Jewish studies for 21st century students and much more.

The aim is to enhance the teaching and learning in Jewish education as well as to carry out a comprehensive curriculum evaluation and the development of exemplary resources, which make use of the most up-to-date techniques and technologies.

EFI is also supporting a series of recreational and informal activities for parents and students of our school, connected to Jewish education and values. This is to root our school’s Jewish education in the wider community.

The school aims to instill a strong sense of Jewish identity and culture in its students, in order to develop strong new generations of Rome’s Jewish community.

Whilst the curriculum is designed in accordance with national requirements, mandatory study of Hebrew and Judaism for an average of seven hours per week (two hours of Hebrew, five hours of Judaism) is added. 

We incorporate Jewish life and ethos in a wider sense through daily school routines. There’s a daily morning prayer service in the school’s synagogue and all Jewish festivals are marked with festive activities. 

In the 10th grade, students visit Israel on an educational trip for two weeks during the winter holidays. Furthermore, each year a small group of 12th grade students join a delegation of schools led by Rome’s mayor on a visit to Auschwitz.

Jewish education in our school aims to let the students acquire knowledge of the Torah, the rules and the history of Jewish people.

By teaching Hebrew and English, the school encourages its students to connect with Jews from Israel and all over the world and to read the texts, interpreting them using the typical categories of Jewish tradition.

Students not only have to learn concepts, but they also learn to do (put into practice) and to read the world from a Jewish perspective. 

“Jewish integrity” is key: not just knowing and doing but behaving in a certain way, when studying, observing mitzvot, in relation to others and more. 

Our curriculum of Jewish studies includes history of the Jewish people and its relations with the history of other people, Jewish rules of daily life and how to practice, Tefillah, Conversational Hebrew and Biblical Hebrew, Torah and its content, Progression of Rabbinical culture and methods of interpretation of the Torah. 

It’s a comprehensive approach which encourages our students to develop a strong Jewish identity alongside other elements of Jewish life in the school and the wider community.

Notably, students are encouraged not only to be receptacles of new information and concepts, but to actively manage their learning, to work independently, and to collaborate effectively with the support of their teachers. 

Contact the education team if you would like to contribute or comment on this piece