Behrman House Blog

Discovering PBL Resources for the Jewish Classroom

Prayer has become more meaningful, intentional, and personal for fourth graders at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, Massachusetts, thanks to Project Based Learning (PBL). The fourth graders created a siddur all their own that is now used by their fellow students in K-5 classes. Guided by questions about why people pray and the importance of the siddur, the fourth graders worked in groups based on their interests. One group was in charge of siddur design and layout, a second group focused on kavanah, a third group worked on the siddur’s illustrations and graphics, and another group decided on the siddur’s content and the order of the prayers. Students combed through a library of siddurim as research, interviewed people about what’s important to include in a siddur, and reflected on their own prayer in the process. The project culminated in a dedication ceremony for the new siddur. (Click here for more information about TBS’s fourth grade siddur project and to see a copy of the finished prayer book.)

This is the power of Project Based Learning—to guide students in exploring real-world questions in a meaningful, engaging, and active way. A successful PBL project for the Jewish classroom teaches not only information, but must engage students in questions of Jewish life, identity, values, and connection.

This year, Babaganewz is working with Rabbi Dr. Aaron Ross to provide PBL lesson plans geared for the religious school classroom. The first in this new series is already available in the Behrman House Resource Libraries. Go to and search “PBL” to find it. Our first PBL project asks students to explore the Jewish idea of free will. Students, working in groups as ethical consultants to an automotive company, are presented with a memo outlining a real-world dilemma: According to the Jewish concept of free will, is it ethical to install anti-drunk driving technology in cars? To answer this question, students study Jewish sources related to free will and answer guiding questions as they go along. On presentation day, dressed in business attire, students present their findings to automotive company executives (well, they’re actually administrators or parents). Our free will PBL lesson plan includes all the sources and worksheets you’ll need to facilitate the project in your class, as well as direction and helpful hints for teachers new to PBL.

Here are additional resources to check out as you consider bringing PBL to your Jewish classroom:

·         Learn how to design your own effective PBL projects using tips and strategies from and  

·         Rabbi Dr. Aaron Ross gave a webinar in March 2012 discussing PBL applications in Judaic Studies. Here’s a link to the webinar. He also blogs at about his forays into PBL education.

·         Rabbi Meir Wexler led a PBL professional development session for a cohort of religious school educators from San Francisco area congregational schools via Skype. Read more about it here.

·         YU Chinuch Community’s PBL group is a forum for Jewish day school teachers to discuss PBL in their classrooms, share project plans with each other, seek advice, bounce ideas off of colleagues, and share struggles and feedback from classroom experiences with PBL.  Whether you teach in a day school or a religious school, you’ll find that there’s a lot to learn from Jewish educators who have taken the PBL plunge before you.

·         I will be offering a webinar on Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 1:00 PM about using the Behrman House Online Learning Center for Project Based Learning. To sign up, visit I hope you’ll join me as we embark on this learning adventure together.

About Behrman House's Project Based Learning Essay Series

This fall Behrman House Editorial Staff members wrote about ways to introduce this dynamic approach to learning into your own school, and provided an array of resources to get you started. Learn more and follow the PBL series here.