Unexpectedly, teachers and families explore their options for next year

Zev Hurwitz, Opinion Editor

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As parents and administrators scrambled to place Shalhevet lower school students and teachers in other Jewish elementary schools, Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy jumped at the opportunity to recruit new families by hosting an Open House event March 22.              

Better known as just “Hillel,” the Jewish day school held an informational meeting in Shalhevet’s own Beit Midrash to educate lower school parents about their institution.

“We decided to hold it in Shalhevet instead of our own campus so that the parents could see our school in a comfortable environment,” said assistant to the Head of School Chevi Rimler, one of the event’s coordinators. “But parents are more than welcome to come and visit our campus.”

The Hillel open house was just one part of the effort by Shalhevet to find spots for all displaced students and faculty — and in particular, to ensure that displaced Shalhevet students and are settled in a Jewish day school.

Among those who will be moving to Hillel are middle school history teacher Mrs. Ilana Zadok, who will continue to teach general studies.

“My first reaction was a broken heart over a broken family,” Mrs. Zadok said. “I will be teaching at Hillel next year and I hope to bring with me the good of Shalhevet and spread the Shalhevet warmth there, keeping the flame alive.”

Meanwhile, Rabbi Glenn Karonski, director of school personnel services at the BJE is meeting daily with lower school teachers at Shalhevet as an advisor to help relocate them to other schools.

According to the press release that announced the school closures (www.shalhevet.org), the BJE is offering its services to all teachers who request it.

Additionally, a company called Cal/West, which places es teachers in private, charter and independent schools, has also been made available to help transfer teachers from Shalhevet to other schools.

Mrs. Zadok said that both Shalhevet and Hillel made the process as easy as it could be under the circumstances.

“It’s bittersweet,” she said of her planned move. 

Monday night, Hillel head of school Rabbi Y. Baruch Sufrin opened the evening with a dvar torah, and then Hillel board president Michael Fallas gave his personal reflection on the school. Fallas has two children at Hillel as well as two alumni, Leona and Jojo, who are now in Shalhevet High School.

Mr. Fallas was followed by a video presentation that emphasized Hillel’s best qualities.

According to the video, Hillel is an equal opportunity school for boys and girls, who learn the same Judaic studies material, though not in the same classes. Like Shalhevet, the school stresses academics and menschlikeit, as well as a Bat Ami program.

Jonathan Newman, who has a two-year-old who will begin preschool next year, thought very highly of what he saw although Shalhevet was his first choice. 

“Their mission statement about every child being unique was pretty powerful,” said Mr. Newman, who is the uncle of senior Daniella and junior Gaby Newman. “I really like how they encourage parental involvement in the school. It really bridges the gap between what happens in the school and with the parents.”

Mr. Newman and his wife Alexis are strongly considering Hillel as their new school.

“It’s a place where the kids are encouraged to and do think outside the box,” said Hillel Head of School Rabbi Y. Baruch Sufrin. “We try to create a welcoming and empowering place.”

Batsheva Frankel, wife of Shalhevet director of technology Yossi, had mixed feelings about sending their young son to Hillel.

“It’s a very emotional issue for us,” said Mrs. Frankel. “We’re upset that had to happen but Hillel is hopefully going to be a good place for our son.”

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