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How Experiential Education Has Changed The Game

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

At Talmud Torah of Minneapolis, we pride ourselves on academic offerings that provide deeper thinking for students as they mature. American Jewish history and Holocaust education is our focus in the 7th and 8th grades, with each year culminating in hands-on experiential educational trips. These trips provide lifelong benefits as well as help draw in students to increase retention in the crucial post Bar and Bat Mitzvah years.

In 7th grade, our curriculum engages students in topical conversations through a Jewish lens, learning about mitzvot and acts of loving kindness, and forming a greater connection to Jewish peoplehood by learning about American Jewish history. Their trip to New York City provides real-world insight into our history, with visits to Ellis Island, the Tenement Museum, and the United Nations. Students’ comments recapping their trip speaks volumes:

  • “It’s one thing to read ‘immigrants walked through this hallway’ in a textbook, but to go [to Ellis Island] and see it, to actually walk through that exact hallway, I felt like, wow! This is where people saw our country for the first time and started a new life.”

  • “I never saw this kind of thing in Minneapolis. We went on a walking tour of an Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. We also saw how Conservative and Reform Judaism touched the city. By walking through those neighborhoods we learned how these types of Judaism influenced not just New York, but the Jewish community [at large]. I didn’t really understand that until I saw it firsthand.

  • “Because of this trip, I feel like I am more aware of the other types of Judaism, Jewish history, and the immigration of Jews. Even more, though, I feel I’m much more aware of what Judaism is for me. [This trip] helped me expand my horizons.”

In 8th grade, our students focus on comprehensive studies of the Holocaust and the establishment and modern day topics of Israel concluding with a trip to Washington D.C. —the pinnacle experience touring the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, including an in-depth debriefing and discussion of their impressions.

  • “I will never forget walking into the room full of shoes… that is when the horror of the Holocaust really hit me.”

  • “What touched me... was not just the teaching... at Talmud Torah we learned what had happened... At the museum seeing the actual things like a train car, the stones from the street... knowing someone was there and what happened to them... is really what touched me.”

  • “I will never forget the look that I exchanged with a friend after reading a story about a survivor, we looked at each other with such sadness in our eyes, the 13 years old survivor could have been us…”

Upon return from Washington D.C., Hazzan Jeremy Lipton, our Head of School, remarked, “Of the many opportunities that I have had to witness excellence in educational programming at Talmud Torah, none has moved me as much as this month’s Kitah Het trip to Washington D.C. It isn’t just the fact that our 8th-grade students were extremely well prepared. It isn’t just because Washington D.C. (and what it symbolizes) can be inspirational for us as both Americans and as Jews living in a democratic, free society. And, it isn’t just because their amazing teacher understands how to empower students to take ownership of the content and the direction of their learning. Instead, it is because this culminating experience reflects our students’ ability to recognize parts of themselves and their families in what they saw and what they did BECAUSE they have been given the tools to become thoughtful, aware, engaged, involved and knowledgeable Jewish individuals through their educational interactions at Talmud Torah!”

To date, over 325 students have benefited from these trips. They are provided to our students on a heavily subsidized basis; our total cost is nearly $35,000 per year. We thank our generous donors for helping make these experiences possible. If you can help support future programming, please contact Hazzan Lipton, at

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