Etz Chaim Set to Open School in Elkins Park

Starting this month, the Etz Chaim Center for Jewish Studies is offering a new opportunity for young Jews to learn about their religion, its history and traditions, and the Hebrew language.

The Etz Chaim Hebrew School will be offered at the center's Elkins Park location on High School Road.

The school is geared mainly for children ages 6 through 13, according to Rabbi Alexander Coleman, educational and outreach director for Etz Chaim.

He added that for post-Bar- and-Bat-Mitzvah-age students, there will be "Torah for Teens," an informal learning and discussion program.

Students of both programs will learn about the Bible, Jewish holidays, observances, customs and history.

Coleman said that the intention of the Hebrew school is to be a flexible, one-day-a-week program that's "fun and informative."

It's also designed to provide everything a child needs to become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, he added.

Until now, according to Rabbi Dovid Wachs, executive director at Etz Chaim, the center has not really targeted its programs and educational efforts toward early learners.

But, he noted, a market exists among young married couples, since they often become more open to Judaism once they've had children.

Etz Chaim rabbis and teachers will work with the parents of the Hebrew-school participants, Wachs said, to continue the lessons taught by encouraging participation in the home.

With no synagogue affiliation or membership fees required — cost is a nominal charge on a sliding scale — the center is hoping to reach out to unaffiliated Jews in Eastern Montgomery County, said Coleman.

Coleman and Wachs emphatically stressed that Etz Chaim is not trying to go head to head with the more established Hebrew schools at the numerous synagogues along the Old York Road corridor. It's simply offering a different option for parents looking for a Jewish education for their children, they said.

Wachs also acknowledged that people can gain an entry-level knowledge of Judaism via programs at Etz Chaim, and then move on and join a neighboring shul.

"We are not a synagogue," he stated. "We're not here to compete." u



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