Portland Jewish Academy is a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and is proud of our partnership with them in strengthening our local Jewish community as well as the global community.










8th Grade Capstone Project

Every eighth grade student at Portland Jewish Academy has the wonderful opportunity of participating in PJA’s culminating experience, the Capstone Project. The Capstone Project is a multifaceted, interdisciplinary project which addresses our PJA middot (values) and tikkun olam, integrates the curriculum of the Jewish Studies program, and addresses the fundamental skills of the research process and academic writing as taught by the Humanities department. Capstone requires students to design, implement and facilitate a service project. These service projects, which will have a grounding in the historical and textual curriculum studied in 6th, 7th and 8th grade Jewish Studies, will also require the student to incorporate international mindedness.

After identifying an area of interest and an immediate need in their community, students will write a proposal for approval by the Capstone team of faculty members. Once approved, students create an action plan, with a detailed timeline.

After completing their service project, students will choose a related topic, conduct research and undertake the writing of a formal research paper. The Capstone experience concludes with the completion of a Drash, where students will make connections between Jewish history, text, their personal Jewish identity or the PJA middot.

Throughout their Capstone experience, students will document the hours they spend working on their Service projects in a log. Additionally, students will engage in regular reflection, making numerous blog entries to record their progress and their thoughts as they complete their project, their paper and their Drash. In the spring, the entire Capstone experience will conclude in an event where students will share their projects and experiences with their families and the PJA community.


Part I: Service Project

Students will

  • Identify an area of interest for their project
  • Write a proposal to submit to the Capstone Team (must be approved by the Team)
  • Write an action plan, including a project timeline
  • Document all service hours
  • Conduct a project
  • Record progress and reflect on their experiences through regular Blog entries


Part II: Research Paper

Students will

  • Select a topic related to their Service project
  • Narrow their topic to a thesis statement
  • Fully research their topic in order to support their thesis statement
  • Use multiple credible sources of information, including books, periodicals, online databases and internet websites
  • Draft an outline (or a reverse outline)
  • Complete multiple drafts of a formal research paper
  • Include parenthetical citations
  • Create a Works Cited
  • Find one adult to edit their paper
  • Engage in the Peer Review process
  • Learn proper MLA formatting
  • Record progress and reflect on their experiences through regular Blog entries


Part III: Drash

Students will

  • Write a Drash (interpretation or commentary) exploring the connections between the other elements of their Capstone Project and one or more of these elements from the Jewish Studies curriculum:
    • A specific text or character from the Tanakh
    • A passage of Talmud or Pirkei Avot
    • A specific prophet or Judge
    • A specific middah that has been discussed in class
    • One of PJA’s middot
    • An important figure in Jewish history
    • A mitzvah that the student values
  • Present their Drash to the Middle School community

A Sample of Recent Capstone Service Projects
Research Papers
Drash Titles

Shoe Donation Drive & Event Organizer – Soles4Souls

“Breaking the Cycle of Poverty”
“With Privilege Comes Great Responsibility”

Event Organizer & Volunteer – Soul Box Project
“Guns and their Effect on American Culture”
“Do Not Stand Idly By”

Event & Fundraiser Organizer – Canadian Jumpstart Tire
“How Sports Affects the Development of Children’s Minds”
“A Step on the Ice”

Fundraiser Organizer – HIAS & Volunteer – Pamoja House
“Immigration:  A Cultural Stimulus”
“Help the Stranger”

Event Organizer – Letter Writing Campaign
“Immigrants & the US Economy”
“The Modern Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel”

Volunteer – Catholic Charities Refugee Support Program
“We, the People”
“Both Citizen and Stranger”

Volunteer – Neighborhood House Food Pantry
“How to Create a Meaningful Community”
“Finding Practicality in Religion Today”

Volunteer – Center for Medically Fragile Children
“Effect of Ableism and How to Change Them”
“Evolving by Helping Others”

Event & Fundraiser Organizer – Children’s Cancer Association
“Why Childhood Cancer is Underfunded”
“Torah and the Gross Underfunding of Childhood Cancer”

Volunteer – Children with Autism at Aim High Impact
“The Free Treatment for an Incurable Disorder”
“The Eighth Level:  Self-Reliance”