Petaluma's Inclusive Center for Jewish Life

J School

A Bigger Community

B'nai Israel is proud to co-sponsor the Community School for Jewish Learning - known as "J School" - alongside Congregation Ner Shalom of Cotati. By joining together, we have built an exciting, engaging and diverse student body and parent community. We offer our children a strong peer group, critical mass in their classes, fun, friendship, Hebrew, history, art, nature and tzedakah.

Raising mensches enveloped in Jewish spirituality

We involve our students in:

  • Lashon Hakodesh – Our holy language of Hebrew, in prayer, text and song.
    Torah – Our sacred text, our library and the values they teach us: how to live them and how to talk about them.
    Moadim – Our holy days and what they mean historically, ritually and psychospiritually.
    Derech Eretz – "The way of the world" — how to live an ethical life based on millennia of Jewish teaching.


Our students learn...

  • ✡ What does it mean to be Jewish?
    ✡ What is tzedakah?
    ✡ What is a sacred community?
    ✡ What is holy work and who does it?
    ✡ How can the Torah inform how we live and act in the world today?
    ✡ How does our story of liberation inspire us to liberate others?
    ✡ How do we infuse our days, weeks and years with meaning and connections?
    ✡ How are we connected to our people and the natural world through time and place and purpose?
    ✡ How are we connected to Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel), Am Yisrael (the people of Israel) and Medinat Yisrael (the State of Israel)?
    ✡ How can prayer affect what we do?
    ✡ How can prayers come off the page and out into the world?


We want for our children... learn and practice Jewish values, increase their Jewish literacy, deepen their sense of spirituality and build lasting friendships with their classmates.

Where, When & How
Students are grouped by K-2, 3-4, and 5-7 grades, and then post-B'nai Mitzvah. Students in our younger grades study mitzvot, Torah stories and holidays, and learn basic Hebrew through movement and song. Our oldest class learns Hebrew decoding, prayer, Jewish values and Jewish history, all in a way that allows them to understand the beauty, wisdom and relevance of Jewish tradition to their own life experience. We use art, music, drama, cooking and engagement with nature, and of course texts to bring Judaism alive.

We experience our Jewishness outdoors and indoors

The 5th-7th grade class also prepares Bar/Bat Mitzvah students through learning prayer, melodies, Torah trope, and ways to understand and relate to Torah text. J School is also open to young people who have chosen not to have a B-Mitzvah ceremony. Understanding the role of an adult in the Jewish community and in this world is relevant to all our kids.

High schoolers who participate in our Torah Lishmah (learning for its own sake) class explore areas of Jewish interest that they choose. Over the past years this has included mysticism, Biblical history, messianism, Hebrew poetry, folklore and humor. This class, taught by Reb Irwin Keller, is typically held in a café over hot chocolate. (Perks of growing up.)

Hours and Schedule

All K-7th grade students meet together on Sundays from 9:00 to 11:30.

We encourage parents to stay for the opening Tefilah Circle, from 9-9:25, to help model for their children joyous participation in Jewish life. 

The 5th-7th graders stay for lunch and an extra hour of study. J School will let you know details about this when you enroll.

This year, the fall semester will be held at B'nai Israel Jewish Center, 740 Western Ave., Petaluma CA. We will move to Congregation Ner Shalom, 85 La Plaza, Cotati, CA for the second semester, beginning in January 2019.

Ready to Get Involved?

You can download registration materials in PDF format. For more information on J School, contact Reb Irwin Keller at

And don't let money stop you. Tuition scholarships may be available for families who need them.