Welcome to Mensch Lab!


Mensch Lab, the lower school at Old York Road Temple-Beth Am for students from Kindergarten until B Mitzvah, is a cutting-edge model of Jewish education focused on imparting joy. Nothing is more important to us than creating an association between religious school and the happiest times of our students’ youth, inculcating a proud Jewish identity that endures for a lifetime.

All our students, from Kindergarten through pre-B Mitzvah grade 6/7, attend Mensch Lab on Sundays from 9:30 am to 12:00 noon. Every Sunday begins with a breakfast at 9:00 am, where parents meet our teachers and catch up with other parents and students. Our Sunday breakfasts build a sense of extended family – the hallmark of our synagogue – and ensure parents are continually informed of their children’s progress.

Our students in grades 4, 5 and pre-B Mitzvah grade 6/7 attend Mensch Lab twice a week: Sundays from 9:30 am to 12:00 noon and Tuesdays from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Our Tuesday Mensch Lab sessions have a different flavor than Sundays. With our students already having attended a full day of secular school, we begin our Tuesday Mensch Lab sessions with dinner and a rap session in which students tell us their “oys and joys” of the week. Our unique Tuesday model, stressing social interaction in recognition of students’ midweek needs, has earned the praise of students and parents alike.

The curriculum

On Sundays, students from Kindergarten through grade 3 explore Judaism on a deeply personal level. We focus on Shabbat, Jewish holidays and rituals, begin Hebrew and prayers, and lay the groundwork for every student’s loving relationship with Israel, from the people to the land to the Modern State.

Instead of keeping students confined to the classroom, we rotate them around our synagogue for regular sessions with Rabbi Lieb and Cantor Zarkh, and for special sessions with folk singers and Jewish hip-hop artists. Music, art, stories, movement and play are the order of the day. With intention, the atmosphere is like a carnival, constantly moving, constantly keeping our students intrigued as to what happens next.

Mensch Lab is also among the select Jewish religious schools in the country to offer electives. Our Sunday electives, open to students from Grade 3 to pre-B Mitzvah grade 6/7, currently include Junior Choir, Bibliodrama, Modern Israel, Spiritual Journaling, and Yoga and Mindfulness.

Once our students reach grade 4, we integrate our unique Mensch Lab curriculum, “Jewish Heroes, Jewish Values.” We cover a wide range of heroes and values throughout the year. One week, we’ll focus on tikvah, hope. Another week we’ll focus on ometz lev, courage. And yet another week, we’ll focus on tzedek, justice, and so on

Every value has a corresponding Jewish hero about whom we draw comparisons to each student’s own self. When we present hope, for instance, we teach how Golda Meir maintained hope for a new State of Israel against the longest odds. We then guide students to draw from her personal traits to nurture their own optimism and resilience.

To that end, grade 4 is where we introduce current events in Israel at an age-appropriate level. Old York Road Temple-Beth Am has a rich tradition of standing with Israel, including during the toughest times.

“Jewish Heroes, Jewish Values” at Mensch Lab sets the stage for our upper school for post-B Mitzvah teens, Beit Noar. You can read more about Beit Noar here.

Mensch Lab honors the menschlikheit of Rabbi Harold B. and Elise Waintrup, both of blessed memory, and the character of our entire synagogue community.

Learn more about our special programs!