(JTA) — A charter school in Manhattan that taught Hebrew to a diverse population of students will close at the end of the school year.
Families with children enrolled at the school learned in February that Harlem Hebrew Language Academy Charter School would close at the end of the academic year in June, and the school’s board of trustees finalized the plan during its April 26 meeting. The decision leaves families scrambling for new schools with just weeks before the start of the summer break.
The decision to close marks an abrupt fall for a school that was seen as a promising new model for language learning and racial integration when it opened in 2013. Its board and charter network, Hebrew Public, were so confident of its success that they undertook a costly building renovation several years ago.
Now, it’s unclear what will occupy the building where Harlem Hebrew has operated since 2013. The school, located in the historically Black uptown Manhattan neighborhood, and near the heavily Jewish Upper West Side, currently enrolls 370 students from kindergarten through eighth grade — about 70% of the total number of students it is permitted to enroll.
The school’s board of trustees cited low enrollment at the school and across New York City’s public schools when unanimously approving the closure resolution last month.
The decision to close was “difficult but necessary,” Jon Rosenberg, president and CEO of Hebrew Public, said in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Hebrew Public is a network of Hebrew-language charter schools with locations in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Philadelphia; there are also affiliated schools in several other cities, with efforts underway to open more.
“The combination of lower enrollment and high facilities costs has made the school’s future operation untenable, to the point where the [school] board, Hebrew Public, and school leadership all agreed that it would not be responsible to operate the school for another school year,” Rosenberg said. “Instead, we have prioritized using the school’s resources to give students and families a strong finish to the current school year.”
A representative from Harlem Hebrew declined to comment.
The school was founded in Harlem in order to attract a racially and socioeconomically diverse and inclusive student body. When it opened, it and other tuition-free Hebrew-language charter schools across the country were seen as an alternative of sorts for some Jewish families who sought to expose their kids to Hebrew without the price tag of a Jewish day school education. Hebrew Public has run trips to Israel for some of its eighth-graders, in which it aimed to show them the country while steering clear of religious education.
The Harlem school and its counterparts in New York City have experienced bumps in the road. The first Hebrew-language charter school, which opened in 2009 in Brooklyn, narrowly evaded closure early on because of low test scores. Harlem Hebrew, meanwhile, experienced its principal being charged in 2020 with assaulting a 7-year-old student with autism.
School staff will be paid through Aug. 15 and receive health care through the end of August, according to the meeting agenda. It said Harlem Hebrew is also helping its staff access job placements and opportunities at other charter school networks.
Harlem Hebrew is also scheduling two school fairs for families to meet with Manhattan and Bronx charter, city-run and private schools and created a database of school options for families to explore for the upcoming academic year.
“The teachers and leaders and social workers and culture and operations team members have been unbelievably dedicated,” Rosenberg said in the statement. “We are deeply saddened about the closure, but are grateful to all of the children and families and staff colleagues who have made the school such a special place.”
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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.
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.”
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.)
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.
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