Loving the Real Israel: An Interview with Dr. Alex Sinclairf

Dr. Alex S“Ultimately, we need to have faith in the subject matter: Israel. We need to have faith that if we teach Israel’s beguiling, intricate complexities, being honest about its flaws as well as its wonders, our students will love it.”

In his forthcoming book, Loving the Real Israel, Dr. Alex Sinclair addresses the very real challenges that arise when confronting the modern state of Israel. Day schools are places that celebrate Israel, teach about our historical and contemporary connections to the land and people of Israel, and often bring our students to visit Israel to make those teachings come to life. But Israel today is a complicated, messy country, and it can evoke feelings in all of us that go beyond love, pride and awe. How do we teach students about the many sides of Israel? How do we acknowledge the more troubling aspects of Israeli society while preserving our students’ feelings of deep connection to our ancient-modern homeland?

Click here for an interview with Dr. Sinclair that conveys some of the book’s main arguments and offers some suggestions for how day schools can create an environment to develop a love and appreciation for Israel and its complexities.

Blunting The Poisoned Pen

This is a short op-ed written by Rabbi David Wolpe which attests to a virtuous characteristic of Solomon Schechter (the man.)

There were few scholars in the world in Schechter’s time that came close to his broad range of knowledge and even fewer that had his fluent pen. That he drained his writings of bitterness before printing them is a wonderful lesson. Sometimes, even in scholarship, it is better to be measured and careful than cleverly cruel.

Read the full article »

Och Academy receives $17 million from Ross estate

Och Academy receives $17 million from Ross estate
Long-time supporter leaves ‘investment’ for school’s future

Calling it a major “investment” in its future, the Golda Och Academy announced a $17.2 million bequest from the estate of the late philanthropist Eric F. Ross.

Ross, who died in September 2010 at the age of 91, was a major supporter of the Conservative day school. Its upper school campus in West Orange is named in his honor in recognition of a donation he made that led to the opening of the campus in 1991.

In 2007, the school broke ground on a $4.5 million renovation funded largely by Ross.

Joe Bier, chair of the school’s board of trustees, said the bequest would initially be used to support the Lore Ross Neshama Program. Ross provided annual travel grants so that all students who wanted could participate in the program, in which seniors spend their second semester in Israel after a week in Eastern Europe….

Read the full story in the New Jersey Jewish News »

Press Release: Schechter Day Schools Reinvent Identity

Solomon Schechter Day School Association introduces renewed focus on how its schools prepare students to engage the world

NEW YORK – The Solomon Schechter Day School Association – rebranded as the Schechter Day School Network – is proud to announce the launch of a renewed sense of purpose as it embarks on a future that will further engage parents and alumni in Schechter students’ learning process and the overall Schechter experience and attract new enrollment. With a history of quality education and critical inquiry inherent to Conservative Judaism, Schechter schools foster a commitment to lifelong learning and create an educational environment tailored to individual students’ needs that encourages students to discover their strengths and talents and become actively involved, invested Jewish citizens. At Schechter, children are educated holistically – academically, spiritually and emotionally – and prepared to become leaders in their own communities and advocates for Israel. Continue reading »

SSDS in New Milford celebrates a renaissance

From the Jewish Standard:

Astronaut Charles Camarda leads sixth-grade Schechter students in a discussion about how to make a perfect space suit for visitors to Mars.

Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County is having a “banner year,” says Shari Leventhal, president of the New Milford school.

… Among its most successful new initiatives is the expert eyewitnesses and role models program, said Leventhal. The approach — which has so far brought to the school, among others, two Knesset members, an eyewitness to Kristallnacht, and the national vice president of the Jewish National Fund — is meant both to educate and inspire students, she said.

The idea of presenting students with role models is very much in the minds of school leaders. Indeed, it was with an eye toward that program that Schechter selected its honorees for this year’s annual gala.

Receiving the school’s Shirley and Harris Shapiro Community Award on March 27 will be Rabbi André Ungar, rabbi emeritus of Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake. The award, said Leventhal, is presented to Schechter supporters who are role models within the Jewish community.

Read the full story »

North American Jewish Day School Conference in the News

The North American Day School Conference has been in the news all over the place! Check out these articles:

Conference confronts ‘new reality’ for day schools – January 20, 2011, in the JTA

Conference confronts day school future – February 8, 2011, in JewishJournal

Day Schools Exploring Online Learning – by Gary Rosenblatt on February 7, 2011, in his blog on The Jewish Week website.

North American Jewish Day School Conference Opens – February 7, 2011, in eJewish Philanthropy

No Jewish child left behind

In case you have not yet seen this, No Jewish child left behind is an op-ed piece appearing in this week’s web and print editions of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. The piece, which Elaine Cohen asked for with Marc’s byline, positions special education as a major thrust of the conference, and is a well-positioned pre-conference piece that underscores critical issues, such as this one, that will examined there.

This is the second major advance piece that we’ve achieved, in addition to the eJewish Philanthropy article that appeared late last month.

Among the media expected to be giving us extensive coverage: Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, JTA, New York Jewish Week, eJewish Philanthropy, JLTV – Comcast Cable.

A Brunswick Stew At N.J. Charter School

The New Jersey Jewish Week reports on a stew at a NJ Charter School.

Neither Floretta Caldwell nor her husband is Jewish, but this year at their daughter Dionna’s request they celebrated Chanukah.

And a few weeks ago on the way to her piano lesson, the little girl started chatting away in Hebrew. “I said, ‘Dionna, I have no idea what you just said,’” her mother laughed.

Dionna, who is African American and will also celebrate Christmas and Kwanza this month, is a first grader at Hatikvah International Academy Charter School in East Brunswick, N.J. The school, which opened this fall and has 96 students in kindergarten through second grade, is one of two Hebrew charter schools in the New York area and six in the entire country. They are part of a nascent but ambitious movement of publicly funded (and privately supplemented), tuition-free schools that, while forbidden from promoting religious practice, teach Hebrew language and Jewish/Israeli culture…

Read the full article »

Article: Hebrew Charter Schools A Very Real Concern

by Dr. Elaine Cohen
originally published in CJ: Voices of Conservative/Masorti Judaism

Because I grew up an Anglophone in Frenchspeaking Montreal, it comes as no surprise to me that young children who are exposed to a second language in an immersive learning environment can become fluent in that language. In Montreal, street signs, bus and metro advertisements, newspapers, food labels, shopkeepers, government employees, and just about all the programming on radio and TV reinforce French as a living language of communication, even for people who live and work in primarily English-speaking communities.

Similarly, Hebrew charter schools most likely will succeed in achieving their goal of teaching Hebrew as an expressive language. Continue reading »