BCHSJS launches new academic program, Better to Serve
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BCHSJS launches new academic program, Better to Serve

Rabbi Shelley Kniaz, director of congregational education at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake, left, and Jessica Spiegel, the principal of Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies (BCHSJS).
Rabbi Shelley Kniaz, director of congregational education at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake, left, and Jessica Spiegel, the principal of Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies (BCHSJS).

A brand-new program from an established religious school that will focus on service learning is slated to begin in the new academic year, giving students in grades 10 through 12 opportunities to do good works and practice volunteerism in an organized Jewish school setting.

The Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies is launching “Better to Serve,” a pilot program — and one of 10 schools in the nation to do so — that will be housed “north” at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake.

The program will be held Mondays from 7 to 8:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 19, 2022.

Jessica Spiegel, the principal of Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies (BCHSJS) is very excited about the opportunity to expand the current Hebrew high school program, zero in on doing service, and bring a new geographic and demographic element to BCHSJS.

BCHSJS, based in Ridgewood, is a non-denominational school for students in the 8th to 12th grades who want to continue their Jewish studies after their bar or bat mitzvahs. The school has been educating students for 60 years, said Ms. Spiegel.

BCHSJS students currently meet on Sundays and curate their curriculum according to their interests, which range from Jewish music, ethics, history, and other topics.

The new program, dubbed “BCHSJS North” will allow the teen leaders to choose from specific categories of service. They include poverty, the environment, caring for Jewish cemeteries, the elderly and Holocaust, and inclusion and disability. With the help of the educators, the students will partner with local and national Jewish social service agencies to implement their projects.

Rabbi Shelley Kniaz, director of congregational education at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake, said she is thrilled to resume its relationship with BCHSJS by hosting the Better to Serve service-learning program.

“This perfectly fits what our teens want, combining active community service projects with group discussions and Jewish sources, and socializing,” Rabbi Kniaz said. “We are also very happy to open our doors to Jewish teens in the 10th to 12th grades, regardless of affiliation, so we can broaden our Jewish circle.”

Ms. Spiegel said she is very excited about the launch of the new Better to Serve program at BCHSJS North and the opportunities it opens as it widens its reach to more teens in other areas of Bergen County.

It is good for the teens. And good for the community, she said.

“I think service learning speaks to today’s teens and can make a huge impact on the Jewish community,” Ms. Spiegel said.

For more information and to register for the program, www.bchsjs.org. For questions, email principal@bchsjs.org.

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