As summer comes to an end, Jewish day schools around the Baltimore area are gearing up for the start of the 2023-2024 school year. And with a new year comes new changes — to classes, to school infrastructure and even to school grounds.
From the return of beloved programs to the addition of new facilities, there are many developments that will benefit students, parents and teachers alike. Returning to school after the summer can be a difficult transition for children, but these new changes ensure that there are always new things to look forward to that will make this year different from the last.
Here are updates from a few Jewish schools around the Baltimore area.
Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, Pikesville
Beth Tfiloh has been focused on adding new facilities to its campus, as well as branching out its offerings of different classes.
The school recently refurbished it library, adding more technological resources to “meet the needs of the new age,” according to Director of Education Zipora Schorr. The school is also building a new biotech lab in preparation for an upcoming biotech program and new STEM-focused classes, as well as a new college guidance suite.
Most exciting for students, though, will be the implementation of a new athletic turf field — a feature that Schorr says many Jewish day schools lack.
“No Jewish day school in town has this,” she said.
In the past, more athletically inclined students and their parents would often be torn between getting a Jewish education at a Jewish day school or attending a secular school with more sports-related offerings.
“A student does not have to choose between a secular school that has all these offerings and a Jewish day school that doesn’t,” Schorr said. “Beth Tfiloh is all of these things under one roof.”
Beth Tfiloh is also implementing a new inclusion program for students with learning differences in its lower school. The program features smaller classes, with one teacher for every two to three students, which will provide a more personal and hands-on experience for students who may need extra accommodations to learn.
“The primary goal is to include students with learning differences in the culture of the school, but also providing a program that is appropriate for their learning style,” Schorr said. “It’s very exciting and will make it possible for kids who would otherwise not be able to handle the environment at Beth Tfiloh to attend day school.”
Bnos Yisroel of Baltimore, Baltimore
Bnos Yisroel, a girls’ school that focuses on Torah learning, has added a few new programs for the year.
The school is meeting the increased interest in STEM fields with an all new program focused on science, technology, engineering and math, as well as by building a new science lab and offering more electives.
Bnos Yisroel has also implemented a school-wide gardening program in hopes of offering more outdoor learning opportunities for students.
“We are pleased to share that we have hired a master gardener to work on different projects with different divisions,” said Ahuvah Heyman, Bnos Yisroel’s school director. “We look forward to growing our garden, enhancing our landscape and building an outdoor learning space.”
Ohr Chadash Academy, Baltimore
Ohr Chadash plans to welcome a new shlicha from Israel this year, continuing its dedication to Israeli education.
Through Jewish Educational Services, the school already works with two teenage Shinshinim. It will soon add shlicha Karina Rand, who is coming from Israel with her husband and children. Her children will be attending OCA while she is there.
Shinshinim and shlichot are responsible for organizing educational programs based around Israeli language, history and culture. OCA entrusts them with organizing the school’s Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut programming, as both are holidays of great significance to Israel.
“They teach the children Hebrew songs and expand their Hebrew vocabulary, and they talk about communities in Israel and what makes them unique,” OCA Head of School Deborah Rapoport said. “They add a great deal of ruach, content and skill to the school, and they connect our kids to Israel.”
In addition, OCA is working on expanding its slate of after-school activities. For a long time, the school has offered the OCA Theatrical Society, which lets students participate in the performing arts. More recently, it has also implemented after-school sports programs, as well as art, dance, chess and music classes for elementary school students.
OCA also offers a local chapter of Girls on the Run, a nonprofit organization that trains young girls to run 5k races.
“It’s very empowering and bolsters their self-confidence,” Rapoport said. “It fosters very strong emotional and physical development, which is tied to our focus on social and emotional learning.”