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Enriching Jewish Life

August 23, 2012
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Any endeavor that promises a richer Jewish education for our youth is a good thing, which is why several developments on the local scene are worth embracing as the new school year gets off the ground over the next few weeks.

On the day school front, Torah Academy Girls High has a new home and a new name, offering a new generation of Orthodox girls a place of their own. The I.S. Kosloff Torah Academy High School for Girls will kick off the academic year in the Bala Cynwyd building that Aish HaTorah sold to them.

The development adds to the growing day school scene on the Main Line, where Kohelet Yeshiva High School, with an expanded enrollment and mission, and Barrack Hebrew Academy, with a new principal, offer top-notch educations. Though the schools may compete with each other for some students, they mostly serve different segments of the community. Together, they are educating a core of Philadelphia-area Jewry, helping to spawn a new generation of thinkers and leaders.

Brand new to the local educational landscape is the Solomon Charter School, which promises an intriguing hybrid of Hebrew and Chinese language immersion with the option of doing it all through cyberspace.

The brainchild of Steve Crane -- who was determined but ultimately unsuccessful in opening a Hebrew charter school at the same Vine Street site a few years ago -- this new enterprise raises many questions as it opens its doors. Organizers are quick to stress that it is not meant to compete with Jewish day schools. Indeed, it is not likely to appeal to those who want a strong religious component to their children's education. Still, the notion of a free, secular education that offers intense Hebrew learning, along with kosher food, Israeli culture and history, could be an attractive option for certain families.

At the same time, some initiatives in supplemental and informal education have gotten a boost in communal funding from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Grappling with a myriad of requests, those tasked with deciding which projects to fund recognized the urgent need to bolster Jewish educational and identity-building programs, particularly those geared to our youth.

Of the $11.9 million unrestricted dollars awarded in grants last month, more than half -- $6.3 million -- went to programs aimed at enhancing Jewish life and learning.

As the end of summer, the beginning of school and preparations for the High Holidays converge, let's honor those engaged in Jewish learning in all its forms and wish them much success.

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