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		                                    Education		                                </span>
		                            <span class="slider_description">We are a Nationally Accredited Religious School that prepares students to be knowledgeable, active, and competent members of the Jewish community. Jewish education is the shared responsibility of the family, the school, and our congregation.</span>

Our school offers youth education from Pre-K through 10th grade. The Community Foundation for Jewish Education has recognized our curriculum as one of the finest in the Chicago area. As you can tell, we take education very seriously. Our Judaica faculty volunteers each week to teach our students and our Hebrew faculty provides 3rd through 7th-grade students with excellent preparation for participating in and leading congregational worship.  

Our dedicated faculty is made up of long-time congregants as well as parents of students.  

Our Religious School meets at Etz Chaim on Sunday mornings and is geared toward pre-kindergarten up through 10th grade. We have a mid-week Hebrew program for students in 3rd-7th grade on Wednesday afternoons as well as a remote Hebrew option. 

At our Religious School we do the following: 

  • Teach Judaism, T'filah (prayer), and Hebrew 
  • Create an environment for family involvement and participation 
  • Foster Jewish family living 
  • Provide creative and innovative programs 
  • Build Jewish self-esteem 
  • Express warmth, respect, and concern toward all members of our school community 
  • Help the children feel at home in the synagogue and make it a key part of their lives 
  • Impart a positive connection to the land of Israel and its people 
  • Develop within our students an abiding commitment to and love for Judaism


We are committed to fostering an abiding commitment to, and love for, Judaism in our students. Our curriculum seeks to give children a positive feeling about their heritage as well as the foundation for understanding the three main precepts of Judaism: God, Torah, and Israel. We do this so well that the Community Foundation for Jewish Education has recognized our curriculum as one of the finest in the Chicago area.

We prepare our children to take Torah into their own arms and to hold it close to their hearts by developing and strengthening their identity as Jews and adding to this foundation of Jewish identity the structure of Jewish knowledge.

Under the direction of our Director of Lifelong Learning, Marla Aviva Bentley, the teachers and staff are mostly congregational volunteers. You can learn more about the curriculum for each grade in the Religious School Handbook, but in essence, our students develop a mastery of Jewish tradition, history, Hebrew language, Bible, and Jewish thought. 

We strongly believe curriculum and teachers can only do part of the job so we also make family learning a priority in the Religious School. Each year a variety of programs involves the parents so the seeds we plant at school can be developed and nurtured at home. When children see their parents are actively involved, they understand that Jewish education is important, lifelong, and does not end with B'nai Mitzvah or Confirmation.

Jewish youths who know they are Jewish and what that means to them are prepared to take the Torah and hold it close. For them, the Torah can truly be Etz Chaim—a Tree of Life. 


Our community is made better by the participation of all. We practice fully accepting our students because we believe all are created B’tzelem Elohim (in God’s image). We provide a place to belong, both in the classroom, and our congregational community. For our school children, we have Madrichim (teaching assistants) who support students with distinct learning abilities and a resource room for pull-out sessions for children whose learning needs can be addressed individually.

That said, you know best how your child learns. Let us know, and we’ll accommodate their learning style. 






One weekend every spring we travel to the Olin-Sang-Ruby-Union Institute (OSRUI) located in Oconomowoc, WI for a retreat. We offer multiple programs for all ages. For instance, some programs are discussion groups, others are hands-on, and some take place outside. 

The retreat is for adults and children alike. School-age children sleep in a camp cabin under the supervision of college-age counselors. Adults have rooms in another building and most have a private bathroom. Younger children stay with their parents.

And don’t worry, we build in plenty of time for connection and bonding with our programs and over meals.

No child is too young, and no adult is too old. All are welcome to learn, pray, eat, relax, sing, and just enjoy Shabbat for an entire weekend!

Learn more about and register for the 2023 Congregational Retreat here


Not only is OSRUI home to our annual retreat, Etz Chaim is proud to send kids, staff and faculty to participate at URJ Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI) in Oconomowoc, WI. 

The camp offers several sessions to meet the needs and interests of campers from rising 3rd grade through high school. These sessions can be anywhere from five days to seven weeks. During that time, campers stay in cabins or tents all while learning about Jewish life. 

Plus, nothing beats Shabbat Shirah (song session) and Rikud (Israeli dancing)! Lifelong friendships develop, and each child’s connection to Judaism is strengthened at OSRUI.  

Etz Chaim is proud to regularly send the largest contingent of campers to OSRUI from a mid-size congregation, and one of the largest contingents from a congregation of any size! 

Contact Rabbi Consnowsky, Rabbi Wainer, or Marla Aviva Bentley to learn more, and for scholarship information. 


Do you love to read? You’re in luck – the Etz Chaim Jeremy Bruder Memorial Library is open and available for your use. You can borrow items from our extensive collection of fiction and nonfiction books for all ages. Plus, we have media, games, and other items available to borrow.

All materials are purchased through donations to the Robert N. Glass Memorial Library Fund. We are not accepting physical donations at this time.

The library is named after Jeremy Bruder, who was tragically killed in June 1996 by a classmate. You’ll see pictures of Jeremy lining the walls of the library with his beaming smile and expressive eyes. In keeping with Jeremy’s zest for life, and his quest for knowledge, it is only fitting and proper that the library is memorialized in his name. Come visit!

The Robert Scott Samuels Scholarship Fund

The Robert Scott Samuels Scholarship Fund is in honor of Robert Scott Samuels, who was taken from us far too soon. It supports those wishing to attend the Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute Camp or CFTY (Chicago Federation for Temple Youth) Leadership Training.

As for Robert, he was an accomplished swimmer and diver at 5 years old. He loved rock and roll music and playing with his older brother Michael, two years older than him. While Robert is no longer with us, this fund can support others in enjoying what Robert cannot.  

The Jeremy Bruder Memorial Scholarship Fund

This scholarship is in honor of Jeremy J. Bruder who was tragically shot and killed by a classmate on June 2, 1996. It provides scholarships for the Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute camp and the Youth Israel Trip for young people who would otherwise not be able to participate.

During Jeremy’s high school career, he excelled academically and was a true humanitarian. He actively participated in his school’s mentoring and peer mediation programs, and played several varsity sports. As an honor student, Jeremy had a voracious appetite for knowledge and always carried at least one novel or mechanical operation manual under his arm. His grades, his attitude, and his high moral outlook allowed him to achieve many of his goals but his biggest goal will never be accomplished: to attend the University of Arizona and attain a bachelor’s of science in as well as a law degree. 

He viewed his future with optimistic eyes and would have flourished in any academic environment because he applied the 3 D’s: dedication, desire, and discipline. He was so persistent in training for a triathlon that at 13 years old the race organizers changed the rules so he could compete with adults! Not only did he finish in the top 20% overall of the Wisconsin race, he proudly accepted the trophy for 1st place in his age group. On top of that, he battled exercise-induced asthma and still performed as well as he did.  

Jeremy constantly challenged himself not only by participating in triathlons, but he summited the Cascade Mountains in Washington State over a period of 21 cold and rainy days when he was only 15. 

While Jeremy is no longer with us in body, he remains with us in spirit and we’re sure he’s beaming with pride that he’s still able to help people with this scholarship fund.

Tue, March 28 2023 6 Nisan 5783