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Perelman Principal's on a Memorizing Mission

August 18, 2005 By:
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Anita Block cannot wait for Sept. 8 to arrive. The new principal of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Jewish Day School's Forman Center has set an important task for herself - learning the names of all 175 students - and she's anxious to get started.

"There is usually something outstanding about a child's personality, the way they approach things and the way they carry themselves," explains Block, 58, of how she connects names with faces. You're simply wrong "if you don't think it makes kids feel really important and special - it does. The harder part will be learning all the parents' names, since I don't see them every day."

Up until June, Block served as educational director for Main Line Reform Temple, Beth Elohim, where she says she knew the names of all 750 students. Prior to that, she spent 14 years heading up the synagogue's preschool, which she helped launch.

But she is no stranger to the Forman school, which runs from kindergarten through the fifth grade, and is located on the Mandell Education Campus on Old York Road in Melrose Park. In fact, starting this academic year as principal represents a homecoming of sorts.

The Rydal resident, who has master's degrees in early-childhood education and Jewish studies from Beaver College (now Arcadia University) and Gratz College, respectively, got her start in Jewish education at the Forman Center as a fifth-grade substitute teacher 22 years ago, back when the school was located at Old York Road Temple-Beth Am.

Now that she's again at the day school, she expects a smooth transition from heading the supplemental Jewish education at Main Line Reform to leading Forman's full-time program.

"In a supplemental religious-school environment, the idea is that we're getting kids at the worst time of the day," she says with obvious frustration. "In a day school, we get the kids in an environment which is optimal."

This summer, she even got a jump on some of the new names; a few Forman Center students attended summer camp on the campus.

"I think this is the most exciting place to be right now!" she exclaims. "I feel honored to be here."

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