This is something I have heard about a bit and never quite understood in regards to the Jewish faith. Kids have to do meetings and learn songs and reading before they cross into "adulthood"? Am I at least on the right track? I never knew so much went into this tradition.
Jewish religious school is kind of a more intense version of Christian Sunday school. In my synagogue, kids learn to recognize and decode the sounds of the Hebrew alphabet in the younger grades, and to read or chant various prayers in Hebrew.
They also learn the outlines of 5000 years of Jewish history and, in younger grades, do a lot of arts and crafts projects.
Occasionally they learn a bit of Jewish folk dancing that will get them laughed at if they ever try to demonstrate it in modern Israel.
K-3 meet once/week, on Sunday morning, for two hours.
4-7 Meet twice/week (two hours Sunday morning and two more Wednesday evening).
In 4th through 7th, there's more emphasis on learning the Saturday morning liturgy and on digging a little deeper into Jewish history and culture.
K-7 culminate in a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, where a child serves for most of the 1-and-a-half hour Saturday morning service as the prayer leader, and chants selections from the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures --- Genesis through Deuteronomy) and from the books of the Prophets (Micah, Isaiah, Hosea, etc), in Biblical Hebrew (a cousin to the dialect modern Israelis speak).
The child also gives a mini-sermon, called a d'var torah, in English, summarizing the Torah portion (s)he's just read and relating it, in some way, to his/her life and to the world around
(S)he then steps down from the pulpit and joins the congregation for the first time as an adult member of the congregation --- one who can be counted in the 10 adults necessary to be present before certain prayers are said.
(It's called a minyan and can generally be considered a Jewish quorum.)
The reception and other parties thereafter vary in their crassness or vulgarity.
(See Keeping Up With the Steins, to see a not-very-exaggerated tale of what I'm talking about here. Jeremy Piven (of Entourage) is awesome in it, as are Gary Marshall and the kid who plays the young man becoming Bar Mitzvah.)
If we can retain them another three years (grades 8 -10), back to once/week, the kids learn Jewish culture, history, ethics and lots of other cool stuff.
These topics build on lessons the kids learned when they were younger, but it's now possible to cover them with a more realistic view of the world around us and to really engage the kids in discussion and/or disputation about ethics, morals, and what was in the Washington Post last week.
Thanks for the post idea, e-e.