New school to open September 2019

The campaign to make Jewish education affordable encompasses all reasonable efforts aimed at bringing more children into Jewish education’s classrooms. In some communities those classrooms are changing to incorporate the new technologies and pedagogical approaches of our changing times. GAJE supports all such reasonable efforts where the intent is le shaym shamayim, for the true purpose, of enabling youngsters to obtain an intense, high-quality education.

In this vein, GAJE is pleased to share the news of a planned new Jewish High School, ADRABA, to open in Toronto in September 2019. The following is the press release that GAJE received announcing the initiative.

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ADRABA announced today that it plans to open Toronto’s first 21st century Jewish high school. With initial support from the AVI CHAI Foundation and Jack Weinbaum Family Foundation, ADRABA will provide a fully accredited high school experience with an emphasis on Jewish literacy and community engagement.

ADRABA’s vision is bold, forward looking and inclusive. With technology as the engine for learning, every student’s pathway will be personalized. What effectively is a “school of one” is networked to many – teachers, practitioners and peers.

ADRABA’s focus on “MAJESTY” combines Math, Arts, Science, Technology and Engineering with Jewish literacy and Yiddishkeit.

“Our students can engage with Jewish tradition, values and history. Through learning and doing, they will come into their own as members of our community on their terms,” said Frank Samuels, ADRABA’s Lead Educator.

Allan Weinbaum, Foundation director, agreed: “We support ADRABA because of their inclusive vision. ADRABA’s emphasis on literacy and sustainability captured our imagination.”

ADRABA will open its doors on September 3, 2019 with an inaugural cohort of 30 students.

ADRABA’s approach – blended learning – has been used effectively in almost 200 high schools across North America since the late 1990s. Blended learning combines traditional classroom methods with online digital media. ADRABA’s “blended Jewish” integrates face to face instruction with collaborative and project based learning as well as independent study.

And best of all, blending traditional Jewish learning and experiences with 21st century education can be delivered at a mid-20th century price point.

“21st century learning is powerful. It’s freedom. It’s choice. It’s relevance. But best of all, it’s sustainable,” said Sholom Eisenstat, ADRABA’s Lead Technology Consultant. “Designing a 21st century school from the ground up makes this possible.”

ADRABA is eager to share information with families, educators and community members. Pre-Registration for 21st century students and staff opens in September, 2018.

For more details, connect with ADRABA now at info@adraba.ca or check ADRABA’s website (adraba.ca) when it launches on September 4, 2018.

About ADRABA

ADRABA was founded by Dan Aviv, Sholom Eisenstat and Frank Samuels – three early-tech-adopter Jewish educators who believe that we can do more and better with technology. Though they have extensive experience in Jewish education in common, they also personally embody a broad spectrum of educational and political perspectives as well as religious practices. But above all, they are committed to Jewish learning and the raising up of the next generation of literate, engaged Jews.

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Good luck to ADRABA. We wish them success.

Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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How far we are falling

The question “why be Jewish?” has always been an entry point into a polite but relatively innocuous discussion about the grandeur, traditions, values, literature and ennobling heritage of Judaism. Until recently.

Now, the discussion in the United States and especially among young adults on campuses, in social media groups and other points of peer assembly has become a literal one. “Why, in fact, should they be Jewish,” they ask one another?

Michael Chabon, the young talented novelist, recently conferred upon this troubling conversation his unique form of cultural blessing in a commencement address he delivered at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. He referred to marriage within the Jewish faith – one Jew marrying another Jew – as a “ghetto of two”, “a gated community,” “a restricted country club.”

And thus, the mission that has been the millennial, even sacred, guiding beacon for every generation of Jews has been reduced to a consideration of lifestyle convenience.

Oh how far we are falling. Where are we headed?

Andrew Silow-Carroll, the editor in chief of the JTA, provided a partial answer to Chabon last week. In an op-ed, titled “The non-misogynist, non-hypocritical case for Jewish continuity. With music.”

“The goal [is] not to shame people into sticking with the tribe,” Silow-Carroll writes, “but to identify and promote what it is about Jewish life that is worth preserving in the first place: a textual inheritance; a particular moral and ethical language; a series of distinct and meaningful rituals; a living awareness of a Jewish past, in all its glories and horrors; a profound sense of connection with people who share that story.

“That’s not tribalism; that’s not Bubbe saying she’ll sit shiva if you marry out. That’s a deep kind of cultural engagement that even Chabon should appreciate.”

That “deep kind of cultural engagement” is best reached through Jewish literacy. That has always been the paramount message of Jewish history. It is also our message.

And the best way to achieve “deep cultural engagement” with Judaism is through Jewish education.

We must all do our utmost to support Jewish education, in particular, to make it affordable for all families that seek it for their children.

Please consider donating to The Jewish Tuition Assistance Fund by calling the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto at 416.631.5703.

As we wrote last week, doing nothing risks everything.

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Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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Must we eventually excise the words “l’dor vador”?

Among the innumerable poetically powerful passages in our prayers is the statement: “l’dor vador nagid godlecha” or “l’dor vador halleluyah” in the Ashkenazi and Sephardi liturgy respectively. It appears in the reader’s repetition of the Amidah. Variations of the statement appear in other prayers.

It is a succinct public proclamation to God (and to fellow congregants) in the company of the entire congregation that our connection to God and to the people is an eternal commitment – l’dor vador – from one generation to the next.

How will we be able to do that in the years to come if more and more young people are slipping away from us, from counting themselves meaningfully within the Jewish people? Shall the statement only apply in the future to the observant minority of the Jewish people? Will it have to be excised from many of our prayer books?

L’dor vador is descriptive of the relationship that we have had with God and with each other since the beginning of our time as the Jewish people. But it is and must also always be prescriptive of our behaviour. Each generation must do its utmost to ensure the statement will be truthful for the generation that follows.

That means young Jews must be familiar with and even knowledgeable of the definition points of our peoplehood: faith, traditions, values, history, and language. And that means of course, that the older generation must facilitate that familiarity and knowledge to the younger generation.

The best, though not sole, way of raising and fostering knowledgeable Jews is through intensive Jewish education. And that is why – over and over again – we urge the community to take every possible collective and communal step to make Jewish education affordable for all families that wish it for their children.

If falls therefore upon all of us – institutions and individuals – who regard “l’dor vador” as words of active obligation rather than simply of wishful portraiture to actually do something to help make it true for tomorrow as well as for today.

The Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto has established a fund specifically dedicated to helping make Jewish education affordable: The Jewish Tuition Assistance Fund.

The month of Elul begins in just over a week. Traditionally, it is the time of year and for some of us, the time of life as well, when we reflect upon who we are as human beings and as Jews. Perhaps this year those reflections will yield in us a strong resolve to do our respective parts to ensure that l’dor vador does not stop with our generation or the next but that it will be true and have meaning for all time to come.

Thus we urge: Please consider contributing to the tuition assistance fund.

Doing nothing risks everything.

And as our great teacher Hillel said: “If not now, when?”

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Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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Thinking about the important

An interesting, edgy, from-the-heart essay appeared last week on the ejewishphilanthropy.com website. Written by Jordan Goodman, an “ordinary” but obviously strongly identifying member of the Jewish community, it was in response to an earlier article by Dr. Rob Weinberg that reflected upon the questions: What constitutes success in Jewish education? How do we measure success? And what practices should be adopted to ensure success?

Weinberg’s essay is educationally “technical”.

Goodman’s essay is more philosophically oriented. It is squarely aimed at the North American Non-Orthodox Jewish community.

Goodman uses strong language. His observation about the current state of Non-Orthodox communal Jewish life is at the core of the urgency of the need to make Jewish education affordable.

“So … when will professional North American Non-Orthodox (NANO) Jews (clergy, educators, movement staff, independent consultants, etc.), acknowledge that the failure of NANO Judaism is at the root of the membership retention/attraction and financial/funding difficulties experienced by many if not most NANO synagogues, institutions and organizations? There can be no change of any consequence without first acknowledging this incontrovertible fundamental fact.”

The essay is clearly provocative. But it is written le shaym shamyim (for the sake of a truthful discussion). Most important, it compels us to confront our own vision of how we hope to live our own lives for the sake of our children, our forebears and of course, ourselves.

In steering us toward this important introspection, Goodman does us all a favour.

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Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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The line that builds a healthy society

We are now in the “deep end” of summertime, treading comfortably in the gentle ripples of warmer weather and lazier days, of less obligation and more relaxation – or at least most of us.

If they have not already done so, teachers, staff and administrators of many schools are about to return to the essential task of planning for the imminent reconvening of school.

To a group of Diaspora Jewish educators who met recently in Jerusalem, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin succinctly conveyed the importance of Jewish education: “There will be no Jewish people without good and strong Jewish education. Education is the precondition of a healthy society that learns from the past, applies those lessons to the present, and draws conclusions for the future.”

To the generation of Jewish students who spent their university years in the late 70’s and early 80’s, the Boston-based, Jewish folk/rock music group, Safam, also succinctly conveyed the importance of Jewish education. In addition, they poignantly remind us that one generation always plants, builds and nurtures the foundation for the next.

Of course that generational task has constructed the line of Jewish life that has built the healthy society of which President Rivlin spoke.

Talmud Torah, by Safam

See the children, smiling faces
As the day’s begun
They’re our future, teach them brightly
Blessed every one

Education, obligation
True for everyone
So we study, Talmud Torah
K’neged kulam

And sometimes I know it’s true
You’re too tired to learn
But there’s a spark inside of you
Waiting to return

See the children in those pictures
When this school was young
They’re your parents, loved Talmud Torah
K’neged kulam

See the faces of the founders
Proud of what they’ve done
They were children, just like you are
Blessed every one

Feed the hungry, clothe the naked
Honor Dad and Mom
But to study Talmud Torah
K’neged kulam.

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Click to watch Safam perform the song. 

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Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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The issue of affordability moving to centre stage

The crisis of the lack of affordability of Jewish education has moved beyond the discussion phase. Many communities across North America are actively engaged in trying to find solutions. It is important that GAJE supporters know this.

Last week we wrote about recent funding initiatives of the government of Pennsylvania inspired, in part, by a local Jewish action committee.

This week, we draw GAJE supporters’ attention to a blog post by Yossi Prager on the website of the Avi Chai Foundation, entitled “An Area of Growing Political Consensus: Government Funding for Jewish Day School Education”. Prager is the executive director, North America, for The AVI CHAI Foundation. (AVI CHAI is a private foundation based in the USA and in Israel “committed to the perpetuation of the Jewish people, Judaism, and the centrality of the State of Israel to the Jewish people.”)

Prager points to a workshop last year hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) that focused on school choice issues and “achieved consensus on federal tax policy and other incentives to make day school education more affordable while continuing to sustain public education.” This consensus included, “JFNA promotes the expansion of federal tax incentives that can reduce the cost of day school education.”

Given the sensitivities surrounding the separation of church and state, Prager remarked that it was “remarkable that the Federation umbrella organization found a broad consensus among its constituents” for a nuanced approach to some manner of government contribution to help reduce the punishing cost of day school education. It is now clear, given the dimension of the problem, the issue of affordability is moving to the centre stage of Jewish communal life.

Prager reminds readers that the precedent of government assistance in the United States to day school education already exists. “U.S. day schools today already receive several hundred million dollars annually in government funding for a range of non-religious purposes and in 17 states benefit from incentives created by state tax-credit programs.”

He lists those non-religious purposes. Ontario readers will recognize in that list aspects of the health support services that GAJE and community officials seek from the government of Ontario in a manner that is equal and fair to all learning-disabled children in Ontario.

As with last week’s update, the point of bringing Prager’s blog post to the attention of GAJE supporters is to show that focused, meaningful, communally-driven efforts to make Jewish education affordable are being taken across North America.

Prager urges Jewish communities to undertake even more advocacy for additional government funding to lower the cost of day school education.

Once the new government of Ontario settles into the legislative benches, we hope and expect to see such public advocacy here to help make Jewish education affordable.

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Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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Exemplary government initiative

GAJE expresses best wishes and abiding hope for success and high achievement for Lisa Thompson, Ontario’s newly appointed Minister of Education and to Sam Oosterhoff, the newly appointed parliamentary assistant to the minister of education.

Along with the Health portfolio, Education is one of the two key governmental responsibilities that – more than the other important responsibilities – safeguard of our way of life and ensures the perpetuation of the cherished, bedrock values of our civilization and democracy.

Good luck to Ms. Thompson and to Mr. Oosterhoff in the joint carriage of their weighty responsibilities.

Of course, within the Education-related portfolio of responsibilities is the need to restore some measure of fairness to the government’s education funding policies.

To that end, for the information of the minister, her parliamentary assistant and their respective staffs, we point to a recently announced educational funding initiative by one of Ontario’s neighbouring states. (A GAJE supporter brought the initiative to our attention.)

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Pennsylvania has passed an annual budget that includes “record funding” for Jewish day schools. In particular, the state has allocated more funding to enhance the safety and security of non-public schools as well as enhanced scholarship funding to non-public schools to enable more low-and-middle income families to enrol their children in day schools.

To be sure, educational programming, delivery and funding in Pennsylvania are different than in Ontario. But the example of governments acknowledging – through pragmatic budgetary action – the importance of independent schools in fostering excellence in education and the perpetuation of precious, common values through diverse citizenship, should be noted and followed.

For the full story, see: https://teachadvocacy.org/news/record-funding-jewish-day-schools-pennsylvania-budget/.

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Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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Parents Tell Their Stories

We would like to share personal stories about how the affordability issue has affected families in our community. We will post these stories anonymously on our Facebook page and on our website.

We will not include any personal information such as names, schools, other institutions, or any other identifying information. We reserve the right to edit all submissions.

To share your story, either send us a message on our Facebook page or email us @ info @ gaje.ca.

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