Welcome to the Lese Center for Living Judaism, Central Synagogue’s religious school. We are thankful that you have entrusted us with your children’s Jewish education, and we commit to providing a supportive, innovative, and exciting curriculum to create true mensches.
This partnership between your family and our Synagogue leadership, Clergy, and staff is a lifelong connection to Judaism and the world at large. Through our new and cutting-edge curriculum taught through the Project Based Learning education model, Central fosters a Jewish communal experience that is enriched by deep learning of Jewish values that will extend to your homes.
To ensure that we create a safe, warm and welcoming environment for all, we have established the following guidelines and policies. We encourage you to review them and when appropriate to share them with your children.
Wishing you and your children a year of intense learning, Jewish experience, and growth!
Rabbi Rebecca Rosenthal
Director of Youth and Family Education
Director of Lese Center for Living Judaism
Director of Developmental Learning and Special Education
Please note that this is the handbook from 2019–2020 when we were in-person. An updated handbook for the 2021–22 school year will be available soon. All of the below policies have been developed with your child’s safety in mind. We appreciate your cooperation.
LCLJ is a comprehensive program that begins in pre-kindergarten and ends in 12th grade. While students must be enrolled by third grade to receive a b’nei mitzvah date in 4th grade, we strongly encourage parents to register their children sooner. Students who do not attend LCLJ before 3rd grade will miss out on vital learning and community-building opportunities that provide the foundation of Jewish education in the upper grades.
In order to receive a b’nei mitzvah date at Central Synagogue, it is required that your child be enrolled in the LCLJ in 3rd grade. Those who wish to join after 3rd grade must speak to the Director of the LCLJ to discuss any previous Jewish education that the child might have. Entry in the LCLJ after 3rd grade does not guarantee a b’nei mitzvah date.
Attendance and Commitment
Your child’s attendance will directly correlate to the amount that they learn. Each project depends on student participation and when kids are not in class, they are missed. We know every family is busy. Please help make this a positive learning environment for all by bringing your children to LCLJ each week.
Confirmation Class Attendance (10th Grade)
Students will miss no more than five classes annually, unless a conversation is had with a Central educator or clergy member. Participation on the Confirmation Study Trip is contingent upon a student having attended at least 75% of classes AND the Confirmation Retreat. Students must attend at least 75% of classes in order to be confirmed.*
*In all cases, we expect open communication regarding attendance challenges.
Arrival, Dismissal, and Safety Policies
The security and safety of everyone is our primary concern. The entrance to the Community House has been designed to improve security for our children and ease congestion during arrival and dismissal. During religious school hours, three guards are on duty. The guards are there to monitor the people entering and exiting the building. The security team will not allow students to leave the building unless they are with a parent (or legal guardian) with a key fob, or are escorted to a bus by a staff member. Key fobs are prepared and issued by our security staff. New fobs are available to new families; returning families should update their information on who will be picking up their child from religious school as necessary. There will be a $25 fee for all lost key fobs.
Arrival: When students arrive for religious school, they are greeted by members of the security team and faculty. Once students enter the building they may not leave until the end of the school day or until they are picked up by a parent or guardian.
Dismissal: Parents and caregivers must come into the lobby to meet their children, and all students are dismissed from there. Students must be signed out by their teachers before they may leave the building. All teachers and members of the security team will be available to help facilitate dismissal and escort children to their appropriate buses or cars.
The dismissal section of the registration form lists the names and phone numbers of those permitted to pick up a child. No child will be dismissed to an adult who is not listed on their dismissal form. If there is an emergency or a change that needs to be made for a child’s dismissal, the office must receive that change in writing. Children being picked up early will not be dismissed from their classroom until security notifies the teacher that their parent or authorized caregiver is in the lobby.
For early dismissals: please either contact your teacher before 3 pm or contact the Youth and Family Engagement (YFE) Administrator, Kazue Thomas, so that she can notify your teacher.
Cell Phone Policy
Cell phones are NOT permitted to be used by students during LCLJ hours, unless authorized for a specific lesson/program by your child’s teacher. All phones will be collected in plastic bins upon entering the classroom and will be returned at the end of the day. Should you need to reach your child during school hours, please contact the YFE Administrator, Kazue Thomas.
Behavior and Discipline Policy
Our school is one in which all individuals, whether students or staff, can expect to be treated fairly and with respect. All of our students are full participants in the creation of a positive learning environment. We consider parents to be valuable partners in our communication to the children that the LCLJ is a place where decorum is required. Your child’s teacher will be in touch in the event that there are behavioral issues that we need to work on together. So too, please feel free to call us if your child has any feedback about school that you would like to share.
A sense of security at all times is a prerequisite for education; therefore, physical violence, verbal abuse or emotional abuse is not tolerated under any circumstances. We are committed to providing staff supervision and guidance that supports our students in resolving conflicts. Our education staff is trained in ethical discipline and work hard to help all children feel that the LCLJ is a safe and happy place.
For more information about our behavior and discipline policy, please see our LCLJ Community Contract. This will be reviewed with your child on their first day of class.
The LCLJ is completely opposed to bullying and will not tolerate it in any form. It is entirely contrary to the values and principles we work and live by. All members of the LCLJ community have the right to learn in a secure and caring environment. They also have a responsibility to contribute, in whatever way they can, to the protection and maintenance of such an environment. Bullying means written, verbal or physical conduct that adversely affects the ability of one of more students to participate in or benefit from the school’s educational programs or activities by putting the student (or students) in reasonable fear or physical harm. This includes, but is not limited to, conduct that is based on a student’s actual or perceived race, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other distinguishing characteristic.
We are continuously committed to ensuring a safe and secure learning environment for all our students and their families.
Allergy & Food Policies
Upon arrival in the LCLJ, all students in grades Pre-K–6 will be given a snack. At the Community House, the snack consists of string cheese, apple slices and/or Popcorners. At our Downtown satellite campus, the snack consists of Madegood bars and applesauce. Students will not be allowed to eat when using LCLJ technology or during Hebrew or t’filah/music, or except in cases of medical need. Please send your child with a reusable water bottle to reduce waste of plastic cups.
Students who travel a long distance from their secular school and arrive late are advised to bring a small snack from home, preferably for the bus. Once students arrive at the LCLJ, including those students coming on the bus, they will not be permitted to leave the building for any reason.
If you are sending your child with their own snack, here are some guidelines:
- Snacks may not contain peanuts or tree nuts.
- No gum is permitted.
- Glass bottles cannot be brought into the building – cans and plastic bottles only.
- Please also remember that snacks may not contain pork, shellfish, or mixed milk and meat.
- Leavened products are not permissible during Passover.
We are a peanut and tree nut sensitive school. Please do not send any foods to school that contain peanuts or tree nuts including, but not limited to: peanuts, tree nuts, peanut butter, baked goods containing peanuts or tree nuts, and foods containing nut sauces or flavoring to be eaten in the classroom, or snacks anywhere else in the building—either before or after school. Please check granola and similar snack bars carefully because many varieties include peanuts or tree nuts as ingredients. While we make every effort to ensure no such nuts are present in the school, we remain a multi-use facility and cannot guarantee that children will not come in contact with peanuts or tree nuts (residue) inside the building.
Allergies to other foods (including but not limited to eggs, dairy products, soy, seeds, fruits, or gluten) will be handled on a case-by-case basis in that child’s classroom. Certain restrictions may be placed on all the children in that classroom (in addition to the prohibition on peanuts and tree nuts described above).
If your child needs an EpiPen or other allergy related medication we need you to:
- Make sure your child brings their EpiPen or medication to religious school.
- Supply us with instructions for using the EpiPen or other allergy related medication.
It is critical to the success of our work that we have excellent communication with all of our families. You are strongly encouraged to join our LCLJ K-6 Parents Facebook group and follow our Instagram @LCLJatcentral, where you will get real time updates on what is happening during LCLJ hours. Project Based Learning will be best documented in this way. For grades 7-12, you can follow our Instagram @censynteens and friend our CenSyn Teens page on Facebook.
Additionally, you will receive two emails a month. The first will be upcoming events and general information for the month in the LCLJ. The second will be individual emails from your child’s educator about what we are accomplishing during class time. Please make sure that we have your proper email on file to ensure that you receive our blasts and can follow along at home with what is happening at the LCLJ. If at any time you need to update your email address, please contact the YFE Administrator, Kazue Thomas.
Students may wish to communicate with their educators outside of the classroom. They should feel free to contact the educators via their Central Synagogue e-mail addresses and phone numbers. We also welcome parents to meet face to face with educators. Please be in touch with your child’s educator to schedule such a meeting.
Contact Your Teachers
If you have a question about your child’s class, you may contact their teacher.
- To see our current full-time educators, please click here.
- If you have any questions about the LCLJ, please contact Merissa Hochberg.
- If you have any questions about grades 3rd–7th, please contact Mirit Sands.
- If you have any questions about grades pre-K–2nd, please contact Becca Greenspan.
- If you have a question about your child’s learning needs or experience, please contact Rena Allen.
- Any questions about curriculum or larger LCLJ questions please contact Rabbi Rebecca Rosenthal.
At the Lese Center for Living Judaism, we pride ourselves in knowing and tracking the progress of our students. We use informal assessment strategies in the classroom throughout the year to gauge what our children are learning and where we need to further focus our instruction in the classroom. More formal assessment is done during 3rd-6th grade to identify your child’s progress with Hebrew reading acquisition. In January and June you can expect to receive progress notes from your child’s educator outlining your child’s progress. At any time please feel free to contact your child’s educator to discuss assessment and progress.
The Lese Center for Living Judaism embraces and supports all learners and strives to include as many children as possible. If your child has specific, learning, emotional or behavioral needs, please contact Rena Allen, our Director of Developmental Learning and Special Education.
All B’nei Mitzvah related scheduling, including tutoring, is organized through the Clergy study. Event space can be reserved within one year of your b’nei mitzvah. All questions related to your child’s b’nei mitzvah preparation should be directed to Keren Eckstein, B’nei Mitzvah Program Manager.
All b’nei mitzvah students must be registered and have their tuition paid to the LCLJ for their 7th grade year—regardless of what time during the year they become b’nei mitzvah.
Tzedakah (charity) is an important Jewish value. We encourage our students to experience by asking them to bring a monetary donation with them each week when they come to the LCLJ. The student body will play a key role in determining where our collective Tzedakah for the year is donated. Tzedakah is collected in each class each week.
Students in grades K–6 are encouraged to attend Shabbat services in the Main Sanctuary. Students in grades K–2 are required to attend at least three (3) Shabbat services each year and students in grades 3–6 are required to attend at least five (5) Shabbat services a year. In order to record the attendance of the students at Friday night or Saturday morning services, there will be a sign in sheet at the back of the sanctuary and students are asked to sign in with their name and grade. The sign in sheet will only be available during Shabbat services and will not be distributed at holiday services. If students are unable to sign in, an email from their parent to the YFE Administrator or Educator will work as a substitute.
For students in 7th grade: Students are expected to attend services regularly, but at least seven times during their 7th grade year. Worship is part of Jewish life and it is especially important that students and their families become accustomed to the flow of Shabbat service so that it is comfortable for them when they help lead it. Students are also asked to sign in at the end of services each week, and if they are unable to sign in, an email from their parent to the YFE Administrator or their educator will work as a substitute.
Each student who fulfills his or her services requirement will receive public recognition and a prize during the LCLJ.
In the event of the possible closing of school due to weather or any other reason, a decision will be made as early as possible and will be posted on the synagogue website. Families will be alerted via email and automated voicemail when possible. In general, Central Synagogue closes the LCLJ when public schools are closed.
Emergency Evacuation Procedures
When teachers must leave the classroom with the children in their class, they must take the daily attendance record with them. Teachers should always take their walkie-talkies with them. When the children line up at the classroom door or any other location in the building, using the count from the daily attendance record, the teachers must count the children, matching name to face, to ensure that all children are present and accounted for. Only then do they proceed out of the building. If there is a child missing, the teacher must notify the Directors and Security immediately, and then proceed with evacuating the rest of their class. Once the class has arrived at the designated safe area, the teachers must count the children again, using the count from the daily attendance record and matching name to face to ensure that all children are present and accounted for and the number of children counted prior to exiting the building matches the number of children counted upon arrival at the safe location.
Below are the degrees of evacuation and the final relocation site:
- For emergencies that require us to evacuate the Community House building only, we will relocate to the Pavilion located on the bottom level in the Sanctuary building on the southwest corner of 55th Street.
- For emergencies that require evacuation of the immediate 55th Street area, we will relocate to the Sony Plaza located at 550 Madison Avenue (Between 55th and 56th Streets).
- For emergencies that require evacuation of Midtown, we will relocate to Temple Shaaray Tefila at 250 East 79th Street at Second Avenue.
- In the event of an emergency evacuation, an emergency message will be left on the main synagogue phone only after we have safely evacuated the building (and if phone lines are up and running). Our priority is to make sure that everyone is out of the building and relocated to a safe location.
Tipping & Gifts
Central Synagogue employees, including the educators, are not allowed to receive cash or cash equivalent gifts and/or excessive gifts from congregants. If you would like to express your appreciation to your child’s educator, you may consider making a donation to the synagogue in their honor and/or giving them a modest, personal gift (such as a homemade gift, coffee mug, plant, $20 gift card). Also, if you would like to recognize the work of an educator, you can send a letter to the educator’s supervisor.
We try to take many pictures of our students for use in various publications and programming. However, photos of children will not be used for any publications or websites without a signed waiver from a parent, which was included in the LCLJ registration material. In addition, we do not attach a child’s name or identifying information to any photographs.
Lost and Found
If an item is found during or after class without any identifying information, it will be brought to the Security desk. If your child has lost an item, please check with the Security desk promptly, as items will only be held at the Security desk for a limited time.
B’nei Mitzvah Family Programs: A family’s attendance is required at the 4th grade Derech Mitzvah Program in the fall, and at the 5th grade B’rit B’nei Mitzvah program in the spring. Check LCLJ calendar for dates.
Retreats: Attendance is expected at the following retreats: Masa Mitzvah Family Retreat (6th grade) and the Confirmation Retreat (10th grade). Confirmation students must attend the Confirmation Retreat in order to be able to travel on the Confirmation Study Trip. Families who miss the 6th grade Masa Mitzvah Retreat must make individual appointments with a clergy member or educator to discuss the programming that they missed.
Throughout the course of the year, The LCLJ offers a variety of different programs for the children in grades pre-K–12. These programs are open to enrolled LCLJ families. If there is space in a given program, it may be opened to non-enrolled families. In this case a fee may be attached with participation. There will also be a number of programs that are geared towards families throughout the year that will be open to any and all who wish to participate.
RSVP/Cancellations: For many of our programs, we ask for RSVPs in advance. Those RSVPs drive our programming from transportation costs to staff to food purchased. We reserve the right to charge a $50 cancellation fee for any cancellations that give less than one week’s notice. A child may not participate in any outside programming, including Study Trips (grades 8–10), which require payment unless the payment is made BEFORE the program/trip.
We believe that finances should never stand in the way of our LCLJ students participating in enriching programs—whether that be going on a study trip with Central, to a URJ sleep away camp, or a variety of other experiences throughout the school year and summer. A scholarship application must be completed for each program. Once an application has been submitted it goes to the LCLJ Scholarship Committee who will allocate the funds appropriately. Please contact Merissa Hochberg for more information about applying for financial assistance.