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Students who switch between day school and public schools find their Jewish identities tested



This article was produced as part of JTA’s Teen Journalism Fellowship, a program that works with teens across the world to report on issues that impact their lives.

(JTA) — In 9th grade, Jonathan Korinman transferred to a specialized public high school in the Bronx after spending the previous nine years in private Jewish day schools. 

After leaving The Leffell School, a pluralistic Jewish day school in Hartsdale, New York, Korinman notices that he feels less connected to his classmates at High School of American Studies at Lehman College, his public school in the Bronx, than he did to his Jewish day school peers.

“When I was in a Jewish school, everyone felt connected with each other because of their connection to God or even just to Judaism,” said Korinman, a junior. “Without a God, or any form of Judaism in this public school that I’m in, there’s nothing tying each one of me and my classmates to each other.”

The differences that Korinman notices don’t end after last period. His home life is different, too. His family used to practice Jewish rituals on a regular basis thanks to his school, but now a family Shabbat is less frequent. 

“Through Leffell, we used to get challah every Friday, and that was an incentive to have a family Shabbat ritual, with the candles, kiddush and everything,” Korinman said. “Ever since I left the school for 9th grade, we don’t do that as much anymore.”

Switching school systems like this is common for many Jewish families in many communities, where there are significantly fewer options for Jewish high schools than for elementary and middle schools. While this transition can impact the way students choose to practice their Judaism individually, it also has an influence on the practices that their families choose to partake in at home. 

Enrollment in Jewish middle school — excluding haredi or Hasidic yeshivas — ranged from 19,000 to 21,000 students in the 2018-2019 school year, while in high school the numbers dropped more than 20%, according to a study by the Avi Chai Foundation of all day schools. Enrollment dropped by over 3,000 students from 8th to 9th grade. 

For some teens, the switch can be unsettling, although they often learn new skills and perspectives that they hadn’t needed to draw upon in their parochial schools.

Like Korinman, junior Shayna Garner attended the Modern Othodox Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston, Texas until high school, when she switched to Xavier Academy, a non-religious private school.

Lexi Hecht lights Shabbat candles in her home. (Jamie Hecht)

Since second grade, Garner has participated in the Bnei Akiva program, a Zionist youth movement, and even though she does not got to a Jewish day school anymore, she is still an active member and counselor of her group in Houston.

Garner also participates in the Jewish Student Union at her non-religious high school. 

“Every other Thursday, a rabbi comes to our school and brings us food,” Garner said. “We talk about upcoming holidays and Jewish other topics in general. The rabbi makes it really fun with questions for us and activities for us to do.”

Garner enjoys answering her non-Jewish peers’ questions about Judaism.

“My friends are very curious about my religion so I love teaching them about Judaism,” Garner said.

Some Jewish day schools are committed to helping their students transition to a public middle or high school. Columbus Jewish Day School in Columbus, Ohio offers fifth graders a unit with advice on moving on to public middle school, making new friends and maintaining a Jewish identity in their new schools.

“Our kids are academically and emotionally prepared,” Jenny Glick, director of enrollment management at the elementary  school, told the Columbus Jewish News in 2021. “That is not to say that transitions aren’t a challenge. The kids know that change can be hard and that is OK. They have the skills and support built in for success.”

Similarly, students at the Lippman School, a Jewish elementary school in Cleveland, are “coached in skills to help prepare them academically for middle school, as well as building general self-confidence and preparing them for a new and diverse learning environment,” according to the Cleveland Jewish News

For students who make the opposite switch, from non-Jewish to Jewish day schools, a new school can strengthen their Jewish identity. 

Lexi Hecht came from public school to the The Leffell School halfway through 9th grade, owing to the appeal of in-person learning during the pandemic. Although Judaism was not what originally drew Hecht to the school, it has become a significant part of her life.

Before coming to the school, she celebrated Jewish holidays at home, but never learned the full meaning behind them. Hecht incorporates a lot of what she learns at school into discussion at home and feels confident that she will be able to help her brother when he has the same transition in the coming year. 

“I feel a lot more connected to Judaism now because I’ve learned about where we come from and why we celebrate the way we do,” Hecht said. “I teach my family a lot of what I learn at school about the meaning behind the holidays and other traditions. When my brother comes to the school next year I’ll be able to help him and be a resource that I wish I had had.”

The post Students who switch between day school and public schools find their Jewish identities tested 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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Local News

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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