HomeAugust 2020University Synagogue

University Synagogue

This year, to maintain consistency, University Synagogue’s Living Judaism, religious school program will adopt a hybrid model of delivery. All instruction will take place online, making it convenient for families to attend and participate, and allowing us to employ the best possible staff from around the nation. Community-building will take place if and when it is safe, permissible, and in everyone’s best interests for it to happen.

This hybrid model has allowed us to carefully plan and institute state-of-the-art instructional curricula and materials and to access a bevy of incredibly talented instructors to deliver it. In fact, we are delighted to announce that national Jewish music recording star, Eliana Light, will be joining us as our song leader on Sunday mornings.

In other exciting news, Marla Weirschmidt, Irvine Unified School District’s teacher of the year for 2019-2020 will be teaching Kindergarten this year and Alaina Kaplan, our very popular 4th-grade teacher, returns as both our Youth Director and 4th-grade teacher, after graduating from UCLA.

Our curricular theme for the year is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” At the start of each month, our students will receive a Living Judaism Box filled with all things necessary for meaningful engagement and learning for the month, as well as treats, fun Judaic activities and other occasional surprises.

We are delighted to continue our excellent Hebrew reading program, where students progress at their own pace, in fluid ability-based group instruction. Beginners groups are continually forming as we welcome in new students from across the country, now that we are no longer bound by physical distance.

“University Synagogue is committed to personalizing every student’s religious education based on their personal learning style and family’s values,” Sue Penn, Director of Membership and Congregational Learning.


SUE PENN has a Master’s Degree in Education and recently obtained a Certificate in Jewish Professional Leadership from Northwestern University and the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning. Sue has been working at University Synagogue for 14 years. She lives in Irvine with her husband. They have three wonderful children. Sue is currently the Director of Membership and Congregational Learning where she oversees all membership, education, and congregant engagement from ages 6-106. Sue has been honored for being an innovative educator and is committed to creative approaches in Jewish Education. In fact, she has led national webinars guiding administrators and teachers in building innovative models of Jewish education. She also writes a monthly article for Jlife Magazine. Sue believes that every child needs to be challenged to reach his or her own potential priding herself in personalizing each student’s Religious education. She currently sits on the National Board of the Reconstructionist Educators of North America, is immediate past president of the Orange County Jewish Educator Association and has previously chaired the National Board of the Reconstructionist Educators of North America. Most recently, Sue was a participant in the Kaplan Center’s 21st Century Kaplanian Vision of Jewish Education.

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