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New school in town

Fort Lee shul to open Hebrew school branch in Englewood

Students last year in the Hebrew school at Gesher Shalom in Fort Lee.
Students last year in the Hebrew school at Gesher Shalom in Fort Lee.

There’s a new Hebrew school coming to Englewood.

Congregation Gesher Shalom, the Jewish Community Center of Fort Lee, is opening a branch of its Hebrew school three and a half miles north of its established home.

The Englewood branch, which will meet at the Moriah School, like the main school in Fort Lee will meet on Sundays and Wednesdays.

“Our main goal is to inspire a love of Judaism while incorporating 21st century skills,” said Zeeva Sklar, the school’s co-director.

The program emphasizes learning projects, technology, and individualized instruction. Classrooms in both Fort Lee and Englewood have smart boards and computers.

“Our mission is not only to deliver what traditionally has been taught in Hebrew school but to put on a modern spin and use the best pedagogy,” Ms. Sklar said.

Gesher Shalom in Fort Lee
Gesher Shalom in Fort Lee

Last year, the Fort Lee school taught 55 students ranging from pre-K through 7th grade. This year, “Depending on enrollment and the age breakdown, we will determine how many classes and grades we can offer,” Ms. Sklar said. “We are open to the needs of the community.”

“This is something we’ve been looking at for at least five years now,” Marvin Josif, the synagogue’s co-president, said. “It’s a very exciting opportunity for us and the community. We’ve been talking for quite a while now about expanding the coverage of our Hebrew school, to move into areas that we feel would allow us to broaden out the coverage for Conservative Judaism a little bit.”

Englewood’s one Conservative congregation, Kol Haneshama, does not have a Hebrew school.

“We’ve got a proven program,” Mr. Josif said of his congregation’s Hebrew school. “It has been refined over many years. We’ve been around 65 years, so there’s a lot of good history and experience.”

The school has been working with the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Synagogue Leadership Initiative and its ATID project. (ATID, which means future, stands for Addressing Transformative Innovative Design in Jewish Education.)

“We’ve been looking to be a thought leader in terms of bringing more modern techniques to the Hebrew school,” Mr. Josif said. “Bringing that kind of technology and philosophy into the program is important to keep it fresh, up to date, and in line with what kids are expecting to see, while maintaining the good, solid foundation people expect from Hebrew school.”

The school is looking to arrange for transportation to bring students to the Englewood campus after school on Wednesdays.

“We’re looking to make it as convenient as possible for kids to come and get a solid, hemische Jewish education,” Mr. Josif said.

The expansion to Englewood comes as the congregation will have to move from its physical home, to an as-yet-to-be-determined new one. The synagogue recently sold its building to a church that had been renting space in the building. The congregation has several years to relocate.

“The sale happened quite quickly,” Mr. Josif said. “We put together a search committee looking at all the options regionally. We can’t say where we’re moving yet. We are not looking to move far. Our home is in Fort Lee and the surrounding towns.”

For more information about the Hebrew school, call Gesher Shalom at (201) 947-1735 or go to geshershalom.org.

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