Q & A with Justin Sakofs, Director of Congregational Learning at the Jacksonville Jewish Center

Interviewed by Daniel Sutton

Q:    What’s your vision for the Bernard & Alice Selevan Religious School?

A:    You’re not wasting time here. Let’s not focus just on the Religious School, let’s look at the educational program here for our community of every age and stage. Our Religious School focuses on giving our elementary and middle school age children a strong foundation of Jewish practice anchored in synagogue participation. This is done in part by building a Jewish lexicon of experiences, our learning happens beyond a “traditional classroom.” Over the past few years, we have incorporated modalities such as literature, art and technology to the classroom. I am continuing to expand this as we bring in cooking and sports to the experience.

Beyond Religious School, we have an outstanding year layed out for JTLI: the Jewish Teen Leadership Institute. Here our teens will be learning approximately three times a month about hot topics which will provide a Jewish lens to the discussion such as Kashrut in the 21st Century, Gender & Sexuality, Taking a Stand Against Anti-Semitism and of course the annual Ungle Hanukkah Sweater Party.

As I said, learning is not just for the youth, it is for everyone. We have plans ahead to empower lifelong learning through meaningful Shabbat experiences, Torah and Hebrew studies, and localized learning through “Brews and Jews.” It is my hope that everyone will find at least one topic or course they would like to attend and advance their own Jewish learning.


Q:    What’s one big change that you’ve brought to the Religious School?

A:    In the first three sessions, our students have been jazzed by the idea of Me’ah Milim - A Hundred (Hebrew) Words. Throughout our sessions, students are hearing Hebrew words for things we use, for example, we might write with an iparon, which can be erased by using a mahak. As we incorporate more and more Hebrew words our knowledge grows developing a basis for Modern Hebrew along with a connection to the Jewish people through language identity. For the student who demonstrates using Me’ah Milim, they will earn a hultza to wear with pride of mastering this accomplishment.


Q: Will you tell us what those Hebrew words mean?

A:    If you’d like to learn what the ivrit words mean, then you’ll just have to come visit and learn with us.


Q:    How can we reach you?

A:    Please don’t be a stranger, you can reach out to me at jsakofs@jaxjewishcenter.org and I look forward to meeting everyone in our sababa Jacksonville Jewish Community.