The Mensch Lab: The Rabbi Harold B. and Elise Waintrup Religious School
Our school is more than a conveyor of Jewish facts. Gone is the time when Jewish connection was built solely on factual knowledge (if ever it was). We are here to educate our children not just to know things, but to become someones. We are in the business of crafting souls; of building character; of creating mensches (people of integrity). And rather than passing knowledge to our students, we co-create and jointly explore with them. After all, the menschim we are creating are them…and they must learn to author their stories and their menschlikheit (menschiness). We are guides. As co-explorers, our classrooms become not lecture halls, but labs.
As such, our school has a new “nickname”: The Mensch Lab. Honoring both the menschlikheit of our original namesakes (Rabbi Harold B. and Elise Waintrup) and the character of our students, the Mensch Lab is the place where we grow our Jewish future in the souls of young Jews.
The theme for our year of the Mensch Lab is, “We Are All In This Together.” Each month our school will focus on a Jewish value that, cultivated, helps our students to become the best they can and to be responsible for one another.
We aim to teach our students with very few hours per week. Within these short hours we plant seeds of Jewish inquisitiveness, character and exploration that will last them through their vibrantly Jewish adult lives.
Rabbi Harold B. Waintrup served our synagogue community for 59 years, with his wife Elise by his side. A trained librarian, she supported his work and shared his love of the Jewish people, known as the “people of the Book.” Together, they built this synagogue on Noble Hill, growing the congregation, creating a special community. The religious school was always viewed as a cornerstone of the congregation. To honor their many years of dedication to Jewish education, beginning with kindergarten, the religious school was consecrated their name on December 12, 1993, the 29th day of Kislev 5754, the fifth night of Chanukah.
Beth Am’s Mensch Lab holds that Jewish learning and participation in Jewish religious and cultural life are essential to the formation of a solid Jewish identity.
Therefore, the Beth Am Mensch Lab is dedicated to educating Jewish youth who will:
- See Judaism as a positive and meaningful framework for their lives;
- Express their Judaism through ethical behavior, ritual participation, and social action;
- View their Jewish education as a life-long process; and Involve themselves with their Jewish community both locally and globally.
Our curriculum is based on the idea that the purpose of Jewish education is the formation of Jewish identity. We want our students to see themselves in relationship to K’lal Yisrael (the Jewish People) and God. Through these ongoing and ever changing relationships, students will develop their own, individual Jewish identity.
Our curriculum includes not only classroom-based experiences, but also synagogue and out of school experiences that give students opportunities to experiment with and practice what they learn. Each type of experience helps our students find personal meaning in their relationships with God and K’lal Yisrael, forming a solid Jewish identity.
Statement of Philosophy
A Jewish education should encompass the opportunity for a student to experience and appreciate Jewishness through all of his/her senses. With this in mind, the general goals and objectives of our religious school are: (1) to have our students feel comfortable participating and praying in any service – each student will know and understand the various prayers, decorum, customs, and traditions of Reform Judaism; (2) to recognize that each Jew is a link to his/her past and directly connected to his/her future; (3) to participate in mitzvot within the community, not just in the classroom; (4) to foster social relationships between children from the various neighborhoods we serve.
 Special thanks to our student, Chelsea Cohen, who designed this year’s logo above and came up with our year’s slogan and hashtag.