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Breaking with tradition, elite NYC school adds a second entrance exam date to accommodate Jewish families



(New York Jewish Week) — Hunter College High School, a prestigious middle and high school in Manhattan, has added a second date for its entrance exam after a Jewish parent complained that the test was scheduled for the eve of Passover. 

Hunter spokesperson Vince Dimiceli told the New York Jewish Week that he believes this is the first time the school has offered a second test date. 

Hunter College High School, which runs from seventh to 12th grade, is a coveted destination for many New York City students. Because the school is run by Hunter College, an affiliate of the City University of New York, it is free to attend.

Its three-hour entrance exam is invitation-only, and is open only to students whose grades or scores on state tests in English and math exceed a high threshold. The school does not admit anyone after seventh grade, so the exam is students’ only chance to gain acceptance to Hunter.

Erica Rahavy, a Jewish parent, told the Jewish Week before the second test date was announced that her son was invited to take the exam, but was dismayed to see that it fell on April 5, the morning preceding the first Seder night of Passover. Although the test does not fall on the holiday itself, which begins at sundown, Rahavy said the school “has to understand that families travel to be with their families on the holidays.” 

Hunter’s decision to add a second date to allow for Passover preparation reflects increasing sensitivity to religious observance at New York City schools, which have begun in recent years to close for a broad range of religious holidays. And it speaks to the particular sensitivities around Jewish practice in a city where Jews still make up more than 10% of the population. At the same time, the incident reflects how religious Jewish parents still contend with making sometimes difficult choices around holiday observance.

“I have no problem missing the day of school for my kids,” Rahavy said. “We’ve done that before to celebrate holidays with our families. It shouldn’t be quite so high-stakes that it’s just this one day or nothing.” 

In an email sent to Hunter’s admissions office last week and obtained by the Jewish Week, Rahavy wrote that her family has plans to travel on April 5 and asked if the school offered an “alternate time for students celebrating the holiday.” 

The school’s response, sent yesterday, was terse: “The Entrance Exam will only be held on Wednesday, April 5, 2023 in the morning and students have about three hours to complete the exam. HCCS is unable to administer make-up exams.” 

Upon receiving Hunter’s response, Rahavy was worried that she would be forced to “decide to have my son take this exam or have a holiday with our family, which isn’t really a choice we should be asked to make.” 

Soon afterward, however, the school changed its answer. As of Wednesday, a note on Hunter’s admissions website read, “An alternate test date for religious observance on Tuesday afternoon, April 4, 2023, held at Hunter College, will be made available upon request.” 

A day earlier, that line had not appeared on the site. But Dimiceli told the Jewish Week, ‘[W]e always knew we would need to make accommodations. That was not reflected on the Campus School website. It is so now.”

Rahavy did not immediately respond to a request for comment about her reaction to the additional test date. But speaking to the Jewish Week before the date was added, she said accommodating a widely observed Jewish holiday in New York City felt like a clear choice.

“I can’t imagine they would have planned this out on Christmas Eve when families travel to be with each other for the holidays,” she said.

The post Breaking with tradition, elite NYC school adds a second entrance exam date to accommodate Jewish families appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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