Vassar Temple Implements Innovative ‘Sababa’ Center to Enrich Religious Education

Poughkeepsie, Mar 4, 2013 — Vassar Temple opened its innovative “Sababa” Center to enrich religious education yesterday morning. Supplementing a classroom-based curriculum in the Seth A. Erlebacher Religious School, the center provides small-group and individualized experiences to the entire student body. The center takes its name from a slang Hebrew word for “great,” reflecting the center’s goal of offering great Jewish learning in an alternative format.

Vassar Temple Sababa Center

Vassar Temple Sababa Center

“Most teachers can reach about 90% of their students most of the time. We designed the Sababa Center to make sure that the other ten percent are also engaged in productive learning,” explains Vassar Temple’s Director of Education, Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, who holds a PhD in linguistics and who has consulted on Jewish education across North and South America.

“Everyone is unique,” Hoffman adds, “and the Sababa Center encourages students to express their individuality by giving them a maximally responsive learning environment for at least part of the day.”

Unlike traditional “resource rooms,” which focus only on remedial help, the Sababa Center helps each student move past the inherent limitations of classroom-based education. The Sababa Center is for any student, “whether bored, unable to keep up, or otherwise unengaged,” says Hoffman. “In other words, everyone.”

While classroom learning tends to be curriculum based, the Sababa Center helps students explore tangents to what they are learning in class, and find their own personal connection to that material. Accordingly, the Sababa Center is staffed by teachers with diverse approaches and a wide range of knowledge and skills.

Students rotate through the Sababa Center for 15-20 minutes at a time.

The Sababa Center is funded in part by a grant from the Ann and Abe Effron Fund.

Vassar Temple, affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism, is an inclusive center of Jewish practice and study: The Seth A. Erlebacher Religious School at Vassar Temple serves students in grades K-12:

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