Bereishit: A New Beginning A Differentiated Approach to Learning and Teaching

Students in classBereishit: A New Beginning is a gender sensitive curriculum for Orthodox day schools developed by JOFA and made possible by The Covenant Foundation with additional support from the Jewish Women's Foundation of New York. The curriculum seeks to give our Imahot (Biblical matriarchs) a voice and encourages students to relate meaningfully to  the Imahot  as role models while challenging accepted gender stereotypes. The underlying pedagogical approach encourages students to ask questions and actively engage in text study with the enriched materials. Recognizing that every student learns and absorbs differently, the curriculum addresses the need for differentiated learning. It also provides suggested resources and midrashimto further enhance existing curriculum.

The curriculum consists of the following units:  
curriculum cover art

  • Brit Milah and Other Covenantal Relationships
  • Deepening Our Understanding of Tzniut
  • Chaye Sarah: The Life of Sarah
  • Rivka: A Paradigm of Hachnasat Orchim and Chesed
  • Rivka Decides to Marry Yitzchak
  • Rivka: A Model of Activism
  • Rachel the Shepherd
  • Leah’s Strong Eyes
  • Leah’s Relationship with Hashem
  • Sibling Rivalry: Rachel and Leah

Read the introduction to learn more.  

Click here to download the Bereishit Curriculum for free 

Click here to learn about the Shemot Curriculum.

About the Authors:
Chaya R. Gorsetman, Ed.D is a Clinical Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Early Childhood Education Track at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University. She specializes in supervision of student teachers and curriculum studies. As an educational consultant she has presented workshops on curriculum development in both Judaic and general subjects, as well as workshops for school leaders on creating reflective environments Dr. Gorsetman served as the director and co-author of the JOFA Gender and Orthodoxy Curriculum Project, Bereshit: A New Beginning—A Differentiated Approach to Learning and Teaching. More recently she was the Educational Director of the Educational Leadership Advancement Initiative of the Lookstein Center of Bar Ilan University. Dr. Gorsetman, in partnership with Dr. Elana Sztokman is currently completing a book, “Gender Issues in Jewish Day Schools: Educating for the Divine Image.”

Amy T. Ament, Curriculum Researcher and Writer, is a doctoral candidate in Jewish Education at the Azrieli Graduate school of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University. Prior to developing curriculum for JOFA, she taught in several day schools in Boston and Los Angeles, and coordinated the first two Day School and Early Childhood Conferences for CAJE (Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education). Ms. Ament received Master degrees in Jewish  Education from the Azrieli School and in Jewish Communal Service from the Hornstein Program at Brandeis University. Currently, she is mentoring novice teachers in day schools in the NY area.

Rabba Sara Hurwitz is part of the Rabbinic staff at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.  She also serves as Dean of Yeshivat Maharat, the first Orthodox school to ordain women as Spiritual and Halakhic leaders.  She graduated from Drisha’s 3-year Scholars Circle Program and studied for 5 years under the supervision of Rabbi Avi Weiss. She was ordained in 2009 by Rabbi Avi Weiss and Rabbi Daniel Sperber.  She received a B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University.  She also helped create JOFA’s Gender and Orthodoxy Curriculum Project. Sara was named as one of the Jewish Weeks 36 under 36, a “top pick” in the Forward50 most influential Jewish leaders, Newsweek’s 50 most influential rabbis. Yeshivat Maharat is a Bikkurim fellow and a recipient of a Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York Grant. Rabba Sara can be reached at [email protected] 

Amy Jo Svirsky, Ph.D., Project Evaluator, is a research, evaluation, and school improvement specialist. Dr. Svirsky conducted her graduate work in sociology at Cornell University and has worked for ten years as an independent consultant
with schools, school districts, and not-for-profit organizations. In addition to consulting, she was recently appointed Data Coordinator for a large school district in upstate New York to assist them in developing a culture of data driven decision-making for organizational and student improvement.