Holocaust Studies

T081514_inside-scoop-educationeaching the Holocaust is no easy feat. How do teachers find the resources they need to educate students about what is arguably the most atrocious period in human history? Thanks to the annual Jewish Museum of Maryland’s summer teacher’s institute, they have support. Every summer in late July or early August, the JMM and co-sponsor the Baltimore Jewish Council offer three days of training, including presentations, discussions and activities that provide Maryland educators with the tools to teach their students about the Holocaust. The program includes a bus trip to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The theme for this summer’s program, which took place July 28-30, was Keeping the Memories Alive: The Voices of the Holocaust and included presentations by the USC Shoah Foundation: The Institute of Visual History and Education and Centropa: Preserving Jewish Memory-Keeping History Alive.

Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain

081514_insidescoop-bookBy Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.
Penguin Group, 336 pages.

Parents of teens know that their behavior is sometimes baffling. In his New York Times best-selling book “Brainstorm,” neuro-psychiatrist Daniel J. Siegel explains there is method to the madness. Drawing upon the newest findings in neurobiology, Siegel helps readers understand what is happening in their children’s growing brains between the ages of 12 and 24.

In doing so, Siegel helps frustrated parents gain insight and appreciation for their children and for adolescence as a remarkable period of human development. Siegel hypothesizes that knowledge and understanding will lead to more harmony and improved relationships between parents and teens.

Community Colleges: Worth a Second Look

As executive director of public relations and marketing for Howard County Community College, Elizabeth S. Homan is well aware that many parents and students view community college education as a last resort.

“We know parents tell their kids, ‘If you don’t get your grades up, you’ll end up at community college’” she says.

Sandra Kurtinitis, president of CCBC, says that teachers at the two-year college are there because they love teaching and believe in the mission of community colleges.

Sandra Kurtinitis, president of CCBC, says that teachers at the two-year college are there because they love teaching and believe in the mission of community colleges.

“There is a lingering belief that community colleges are where you go when you can’t get in anywhere else,” admits Sandra Kurtinitis, president of the Community College of Baltimore County which has campuses in Catonsville, Dundalk and Essex, and extension centers in Essex, Hunt Valley, Randallstown and Owings Mills. Arguably, Jewish parents, “the people of the book” may be even more likely than others to view community college education in a negative light.

Homan says she understands why two year colleges are sometimes seen as last resorts.

“The four year model is so predominant. That’s all [parents] know,” she explains. What they may not know, she adds, is that doing well at a community college before applying to a four-year college or university often makes it possible for students to gain admission to prestigious four-year institutions that would have rejected them had they applied directly from high school.

Another thing parents may overlook is the tremendous savings community colleges offer even in comparison to four-year state universities.

“The cost differential is extraordinary,” says Kurtinitis. “Students can attend community college for $3,000 a year.”

At Maryland’s four year state universities, annual tuition is more than $9,000 a year, plus room and board, while tuition, room and board at private four-year institutions can cost upwards of $60,000 annually.

Those who make assumptions about community college students may be surprised to find that there isn’t really a typical profile for students who attend two-year post-secondary institutions. As it turns out, community college students are a diverse group, with a variety of goals, motivations, ages, religions, ethnicities and socio-economic statuses.

That being said, the average CCBC freshman is 27 years old; only 11 percent of students come straight from high school. Forty-two percent are minorities, and Kurtinitis says there is a large community of Russian students at the college.

Many CCBC students are the first in their families to graduate from college, 60 percent are women and many of them are seeking careers in nursing or allied health professions. “If you want a healthcare career, CCBC is a good place to start,” says Kurtinitis.


 Aaron Brager is currently studying for a master’s degree in mental health counseling.

Aaron Brager is currently studying for a master’s degree in mental health counseling.

After he graduated from Owings Mills High School in 2000, Aaron Brager wasn’t eager to go on to college.

“I really wanted to take time off from school,” Brager, 32, recalls. His parents, however, saw things differently. They insisted that he attend college.

“I did apply to some four-year colleges but I really didn’t feel ready to go. I didn’t feel I had the skills I needed and I was horribly undisciplined,” he says. “Being at Catonsville allowed me to transition from high school to college. I guess there’s a reason why they call community college the 13th grade.”

Talmudical Academy graduate Yosef Palanker of Pikesville spent two years in Israel before returning home to apply to college. Like Brager, Palanker felt unprepared to attend a four year institution.

“My high school focused more on Jewish studies, and I felt there were some gaps in my learning,” Palanker explains. “I thought community college would fill in those gaps.” Since arriving at CCBC, Palanker has taken remedial classes that he says have given him a great foundation for college-level study.

Like 65 percent of CCBC students, he has held part-time jobs while attending the school, so completing college is taking him longer than the two-year associate degree might have taken otherwise. But Palanker has taken full advantage of his time at the college.

Where Should I Study?

While some students, who have  traveled to Israel through Birthright or school, opt out of a study-abroad experience in Israel, others find the Jewish state culturally diverse  and the right choice. (Provided)

While some students, who have
traveled to Israel through Birthright or school, opt out of a study-abroad experience in Israel, others find the Jewish state culturally diverseand the right choice. (Provided)

In today’s internationally connected world, college students are well aware that in order to be globally competitive, an overseas cultural and academic experience, whether it’s for six weeks, a semester or an entire year, is imperative.

For many Jewish students who have visited Israel, whether on a gap year or a 10-day trip, the question is, “Should I study here again?”

New York University is one of the institutions leading this transformation of students into global professionals — a hot commodity, even during these bumpy economic times.

Chris Nicolussi, senior director for students in the Office of Global Programs at NYU, defined the goal of studying abroad as “giving students the opportunity to expand outside of their academic department and to expose them to other cultures.”

While cultural immersion is clearly evident on teen tours to Israel and Taglit Birthright, education may not be the top factor when it comes to choosing a study-abroad site.

Nicolussi said, “A lot of students choose locations based on what they see on television and in the movies.”

And Israel is not portrayed in the media as a cultural giant.

Take Diana Peisach and Eli Kahn.

Both said they consider themselves to have strong ties to Israel, but they opted out of using their study-abroad experience to be in the Jewish state.

Peisach, who recently graduated from the University of Maryland, had been in Israel for two months in 2011 and “felt like that was my study-abroad experience.” While some may view a nonacademic two-month Israel experience as only a glimpse of what would be in store for students living and studying in Israel for an entire semester, Peisach said she “had an incredible and comparable two-month experience in Israel on my own.”

Kahn, who recently graduated from Davidson College, opted to study in Granada,  southern Spain and was attracted to this location because of his major — Spanish — and because he “liked the idea of studying somewhere in Europe, where I had the opportunity to travel almost every weekend.”

While students studying in Israel have an opportunity to travel from the Golan to the Negev, Kahn admitted that when considering where to study abroad, “Israel really never came on my radar” because of the minimal opportunity for regional travel.

However, as pointed out by Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, executive director at NYU’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Life, the experience of studying in Israel “is very different from a summer teen tour because students atIsraeli universities will likely not find themselves in a homogenous group of students.”

Being around Israelis with various religions, cultures and ethnicities affords students an opportunity likely not given on the typical high school teen tour, Birthright or even on a gap-year program. The diversity at Israeli universities is one of the reasons a long-term stay in Israel will always trump a 10-day or month-long Israel trip, Rabbi Sarna said.

“Israel is such a rich, complex and multifaceted country, and in order to appreciate its depth, one must challenge oneself to look at Israel in many different contexts,” Rabbi Sarna said.

Nicolussi said that he thinks studying abroad marries the cultural and academic experience and that students should consider that before making their decision. He also said parents should let their children select where they go on their own.

“Studying abroad,” said Nicolussi, “is a very personal decision.”

Justin Hayet is a former JT intern.

Changing With The Times

The University of Maryland Hillel was one of five Hillels nationwide to earn a 2013 Vision and Values award from the organization’s national office.  (Provided)

The University of Maryland Hillel was one of five Hillels nationwide to earn a 2013 Vision and Values award from the organization’s national office. (Provided)

“I ate my meals there.”

That phrase, or some version of it, is usually the first thing that comes to mind when past generations of University of Maryland students conjure up memories of their experiences at the school’s Hillel.

Still, eating kosher food is not all Hillel provided. For decades, the Jewish campus hub has offered Shabbat and holiday services, social get-togethers and access to religious leadership. However, until recent years, there was one thing in common about all those opportunities: They physically took place at the Hillel.

“We didn’t go places. Whatever we did, we did there,” said Sarita Sragow, Maryland Hillel’s student president in 1962.

Said Mindy Shapiro, a UMD student from 1979 to 1982, “I think that back when I was a student, there really wasn’t this consciousness yet of taking Hillel out of the building.”

Well, there certainly is now.

The approach of making Hillel a more expansive initiative may be most evident in the organization’s Shabbat Across Maryland, which encourages students to take part in Friday night services wherever they are.

That’s not to say the Hillel building is rendered obsolete. More than 500 students flock to Hillel’s south campus headquarters for Friday night services. However, at the same time, hundreds more are lighting candles and ripping challah in frat houses, freshman dorms and off-campus apartments.

“It’s an amazing form of expression. We are not worried about people coming to a building. We want to engage students where they are,” said Ari Israel, in his 11th year as Maryland Hillel director. “It’s not our way or the highway, there are multiple ways. … We don’t think of Hillel is a place to go. We think of it as who you can become.”

It’s that type of forward thinking that recently made Maryland Hillel one of five Hillels nationwide to earn a 2013 Vision and Values award from the organization’s national office. The honor is given to Hillels that have taken innovative steps to achieve the vision of inspiring Jewish students to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel.

Maryland Hillel endeavors to reach this goal through its more than 30 student groups and 10 fellowship programs. It engages in community service projects and offers Birthright and other international trips. Students are encouraged to get involved through Facebook, Twitter and blogs. One doesn’t have to walk across Route 1 to fraternity row (Hillel’s initial location before relocating to its current dwelling on Mowatt Lane) to find out what’s going on.

“The concept of community is very different [than in the past],” Israel said. “People can identify as a part of something from their dorm room behind their computer screen, and they don’t have to physically go somewhere; so we have to be present there as well, and we are.”

And, as always has been the case at UMD, there is a deep pool of Jewish students to engage and inspire. Of the approximately 26,000 undergraduate students on campus, around 5,800 (22 percent) are Jewish. UMD has never lacked a Jewish presence, but in most recent years, it would seem that footprint is being maximized to its fullest potential.

Why do so many Jewish students view the university as a destination school? That reason hasn’t changed. UMD has always been a comfortable, welcoming place for Jews, and a lot of that has to do with the working bond between university and Jewish leaders.

Take for example the problem created by Rosh Hashanah falling early in the school calendar. The holiday commences two days after fall classes begin on Sept. 3. Customarily, the two weeks following the start of classes mark an “add/drop” period where students who are waitlisted for classes must “check in” online every 24 hours to remain eligible for the course.

Students observant of the holiday would not be able to access their computers during the first two to three days of that period and thus could miss out on the classes they want. But, Maryland Hillel worked with the university’s provost office to disable the add/drop period until after Rosh Hashanah ends.

It’s making these kinds of accommodations, Israel said, that draw in Jewish students from all over the country. And, that’s in addition to the strong base of Jews who enroll from the nearby Baltimore and Washington, D.C. metro areas. (Maryland boasts more than 1,000 Jews from Baltimore alone.)

It’s the local foundation, Israel added, that in part helps keep UMD as a top choice for Jews coming out of state.

“I use the expression it takes a minion to make a minion,” he said. [Students] want to appreciate that there is a strong Jewish community that will enable them to grow Jewishly and be comfortable.

With so much on-campus participation, Israel described Hillel’s facilities as “bursting at the seams,” and said that multimillion-dollar plans are in the works to either expand on Hillel’s current location or build a new center elsewhere.

Either way, Maryland Hillel will continue to establish itself as one of the premier college campuses for vibrant Jewish life, whether it’s in the Hillel building itself or somewhere outside of it.

Sragow, who now lives in East Brunswick, N.J., summed up the university’s ever-expanding appeal.

“There are kids from here who go to Maryland … because it is a bastion of Judaism on a secular college campus,” she said.

Breaking Out Fall Fashions

082313_breaking_out_fall_fashionsThe calendar may still read summer, but in a matter of days, kids will be heading back to school, and September will arrive. While I love summer and the easier laid-back routine that accompanies June, July and August, as a retailer and fashion fiend, I welcome the arrival of fall with open arms. To me, September has always signaled the OK to pull out sweaters and cozy fall items, as well as shop for the season’s newest trends. Just thinking about it gets me excited for some closet updates.

And as much as I love what the change of season means for my wardrobe, I get even more excited to break out fall fashions for my 6-year-old daughter and mini-muse, Elizabeth. For the wee ones, fall 2013 presents a great mix of fun and colorful, dramatic styles that mimic adult trends.

Back to school rings in with great color, from jewel tones and deep watery blues to superhero orange. Look out for embellishments from toddler to tween that will flash Mom and Dad back to the luxe ’80s and early ’90s — think faux leather patches, studs and trims and feminine lace touches.

But girls can’t have all the fun. Boys’ clothes get smart with collegiate looks and an emphasis on primary colors. Big-boy dress-up looks steal tweeds and plaids directly from Dad’s closet, and mighty lightning bolts make casual play clothes super.

Buying in the children’s market is fun for many reasons. The best part is that children’s designers often take dramatic and outrageous liberties with styling and color. After all, if you are going to wear rainbow plaid mixed with polka dots, what better time to do it than when you are 5?

Keep an eye out for tailored riding caps and feminine fedoras for tween girls. Toddlers get fun fleece jackets in bright hues perfect for transitional weather, and big kids will see a great selection of real-deal coats such as my favorites from the weather-tech geniuses at Marmot.

But back-to-school style doesn’t have to be sacrificed for functionality. One of my favorite accessories this fall is MadPax backpacks. They come in a variety of colors with wild spikes or bursting bubbles and are sure to be a carpool show-stopper.

Boring has no place in this season, so have fun with your kids’ clothes, involve them in the process of selecting a wardrobe, and enjoy shopping together.

Here’s a tip that I give parents each fall as they think about the re-emerg-ence of the dreaded morning routine. Start by giving your little one three top and three bottom options that mix and match well. Agree on the choices and set the options out the night before. It’s a win-win without the you-cannot-wear-your-shorts-in-December fight. Your child feels a great sense of independence, and you are reassured that your mini-me looks good and is ready for their daily activities, too.

Most importantly, invest in pieces that are well made. Most disagreements about what kids want to wear are really about their comfort. Kids want to wear clothes that will move so they can run, play, jump and simply be kids. But don’t put too much pressure on yourself this September, they just keep growing, and you’ll get a chance to do it all over again next year.

Bridget Quinn Stickline owns Wee Chic Boutique in Greenspring Station. Visit weechic.com.

Meet Rabbi Moshe

Ohr Chadash Academy students will also meet a new administrator at the start of the school year. Following the retirement of Rabbi Akevy Greenblatt, Rabbi Moshe Margolese, who was hired to serve as the dean of students, has taken on an expanded role.

“The Board of Directors felt a need to “secure additional strong administrative and student leadership support,” said board member Terri Rosen, explaining that OCA hired Rabbi Margolese in the middle of the summer.

“Rabbi Margolese … is well known to many in Baltimore for his exemplary and innovative work directing programs and leading young people in day school, yeshiva and camp settings. His Masters in Educational Administration, as well as his 10 years of experience working with parents, teachers and students, position him securely to guide OCA,” Rosen said.

Rabbi Greenblatt, according to Rosen, resigned three weeks prior to the start of the school year, leading to Rabbi Margolese’s expanded role. In addition, a group of other in-house professionals will have expanded duties.

“It is a very strong team,” Rabbi Margolese said. “The board is very involved and positive and eager to participate. … I am really impressed. … I am a dedicated, caring and committed person, and I will do my best [to lead the school.]

Fresh Perspective

Josh Bender and Andrea Cheatham Kasper will be two new faces at Krieger Schechter Day School this year. Head of School Bil Zarch says he and the KSDS leadership see them both taking active roles in moving the school forward. Photo by David Stuck

Josh Bender and Andrea Cheatham Kasper will be two new faces at Krieger Schechter Day School this year. Head of School Bil Zarch says he and the KSDS leadership see them both taking active roles in moving the school forward.
Photo by David Stuck

Krieger Schechter Day School will be starting its school year with two new faces in the halls, and they come in the form of high-level staffers. Josh Bender has been hired as the new head of the lower school and Andrea Cheatham Kasper as the director of teaching and learning.  The moves come one year after the retirement of longtime head of school Paul D. Schneider and the appointment of Bil Zarch in his stead.

For both positions, said Zarch, KSDS went on a national search. Bender, he said, “just stood out. There was something about him that we all felt he was going to be a great match.”

Kasper, said Zarch, “is a rising star.”

Bender took over the position from Sandra Medoff, who retired at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. Bender has worked in Baltimore before, as head of the religious school at Beth Am Synagogue downtown. For the last six years, he has been working as the director of education at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C. He is also a graduate of the then- Baltimore Hebrew University.

Bender recently was accepted into the Day School Leadership Training Institute at Jewish Theological Seminary.

“I am coming into a very successful school community that is so committed to education and Jewish community,” Bender said. “The level of dedication, commitment to everyone in the school is incredible.

Bender said he is taking his first year to focus on listening and learning. He plans to get to know the students and staff before moving too many new initiatives forward. But, he said, KSDS will implement some new professional development opportunities, launch a new social/emotional curriculum and do some work surrounding improvement of the school’s prayer experience. Bender is also bringing a program he calls Ta’am Shabbat (Taste of Shabbat), which will bring the school community together around Shabbat preparation.

Said Bender: “I feel more than anything incredibly fortunate to be part of this community.”

For her part, Kasper is also feeling fortunate. She was tapped for her position — a new position — by Zarch, who had worked with Kasper at his previous position in Boston. For the past five years, Kasper has been living with her family in Iceland and working on a Ph.D. in Jewish education. She said her role is “a large job, with many, many hats” and will focus on creating educational alignment between the curricula of grades K through 8. According to Zarch, there are 353 students enrolled in the school for the coming year.

Additionally, she will try to create what she terms “a learning community” at KSDS, helping teachers and parents gain a clear understanding of “what does good teaching at KSDS look like.”

Zarch said that Kasper impressed him and other school leaders with her deep knowledge of education and her desire to constantly improve her practice. He noted that Kasper is fluent in three languages — English, Hebrew and Spanish — the three languages taught at KSDS. Additionally, she has taught in Jewish and secular school systems, making her well versed in both equally important aspects of the KSDS education.

Zarch said Kasper will work closely with the teachers, invested in their growth.

“We are really committed to looking at how we can improve our practice,” he said. “When teachers are feeling like they are getting their needs met, it improves what happens in the classroom. There is a direct correlation.”

Said Kasper: “I am really excited about the ideas of innovative education and entrepreneurial education. … My work in my doctorate is all about educational leadership, and I am especially interested in institutional changes, in organizations and how they evolve and move forward their cultures.”


An Excellent Jewish Education

Sara Itzkowitz (left), Rabbi Chaim Amster and Ahuvah Heyman are three professional leaders growing Bnos Yisroel from great to even greater. David Stuck

Sara Itzkowitz (left), Rabbi Chaim Amster and Ahuvah Heyman are three professional leaders growing Bnos Yisroel from great to even greater.
David Stuck

When you walk into Bnos Yisroel there is a sign that reads, “Teaching students, not subjects.”

And that message says it all.

According to Rabbi Chaim Amster, director of development, since the all-girls school was founded in 2000 it purposely kept itself on the sidelines, growing “very quickly but quietly.” As the school prepares to open later this month, it boasts 460 students in grades kindergarten through 12.

Like most schools, explained Rabbi Amster, Bnos focuses on knowing and caring for every student. However, he said, what is different about Bnos is that the mission “permeates everything that we do. … The principal, coordinators, teachers, specialists, assistants and staff in the office — everyone has the same goal and vision for how they would like Bnos Yisroel to look and to affect the children.”

He said individual attention is not only the focus, but also the reality of the school.Parent and board president Jason Reitberger has had three daughters enrolled at Bnos since its inception. He echoed Rabbi Amster’s sentiments and said he has witnessed how the faculty and staff enable each student to maximize her potential.

“Its quest for academic excellence is something that was very important to my wife and me,” said Reitberger. “The success, in and out of the classroom, that my girls have experienced is a testament to the fact that [the school is] succeeding in its mission.”

Rabbi Moshe Hauer has consulted with Bnos. He described the school as “not just an institution, but a family.”

Reitberger said he has watched as the school grew from what he called “a mom-and-pop operation” into a top-notch institution “with sophisticated professional leadership supported by an active and engaged board of directors.”

Over the last year, explained Rabbi Amster, the school has been working closely with The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore to further its sustainability and success. Rabbi Amster noted that through The Associated Bnos took part in the Yeshiva University benchmarking process, which evaluated the school’s operation. It was found that enrollment is strong, tuition income was stable and overhead expenses were minimal. This was good news, he said. The program also recommended ways that Bnos could improve, which included greater fundraising and strengthening its board.

Last year, he said, the Bnos annual campaign increased by 70 percent and constituted 620 donors of whom about 100 give more than $1,000 annually.

“This last year, the budget was about $3.25 million. We receive approximately $2.25 million from tuition and fees, which leaves $1 million [to raise]. We get about $230,000 from the Associated and about $130,000 from the Weinberg Foundation,” said Rabbi Amster. “Then we get about another $250,000 from other foundations, including government grants. Add in the $400,000 from the annual campaign, and we have a positive cash flow.”

This situation, as has been reported through the media, is an anomaly.

Despite the successful model, Bnos plans to keep small. Reitberger said this allows every child to be noticed, appreciated and given the tools to succeed.Reitberger said the school has paid attention to the data, however, and recognizes that the Baltimore Orthodox community is growing. According to the 2010 Greater Baltimore Jewish Community Study, Orthodox households average 3.5 persons, but 4.9 persons if there are any children in the household.

“We take the needs of the Baltimore community very seriously,” said Reitberger, “and understand our place in supporting its growth. Our board has recently established a task force to address this critical issue internally, and we anticipate working with the other schools in the community to ensure that every child can access an excellent Jewish education.”

Said Rabbi Hauer: “I look forward to seeing [Bnos] continue to flourish in the heart of our community.”

Science. Technology. Engineering. Math.

Elliot Lasson says day schools need to focus on STEM subjects to ensure students have the opportunity to enter an ever-growing work arena. (Photo by Justin Tsucalas)

Elliot Lasson says day schools need to focus on STEM subjects to ensure students have the opportunity to enter an ever-growing work arena.
(Photo by Justin Tsucalas)

Science. Technology. Engineering. Math. Four words that make up an acronym that has become pervasive in the world of education. Day schools and yeshivot, according to Elliot Lasson of Joblink of Maryland, Inc., “have a responsibility to legitimately and adequately expose students to science and math classes so that they will at least consider those majors in college.”

Lasson said that he sees jobs in the STEM field posted more often than others, and that given Baltimore’s proximity to D.C. and leading national organizations such as the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, it is important that area students be prepared.

Lasson said he has informed area day schools about the need for STEM. He pointed to Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School as an example of a school that is moving the STEM curriculum forward.

Head of School Zipora Schorr told the JT that BT has focused on raising the standard of its science, math, technology and engineering programs for the last several years. She said she assigned department heads in each division to examine the topic and determine ways to improve learning.

Each year, for example, BT students have the option of taking a wide array of advanced placement science courses and in taking part in a science symposium. Students in high school also have the option of obtaining internships in science and math labs and then presenting the work they learned in the field.

Technology, said Schorr, is also a focus. The lower school utilizes the latest equipment in the classroom, and in the middle and high school, BT this year launched a program using iPad minis. While not all students are required to take part in the STEM curriculum, Schorr said there is a growing cohort that is interested in the industry.

“More and more students are going toward the science direction, primarily because of the technology,” said Schorr.

BT had one student develop an app, which he used to market himself during the college admissions process. Several students have taken part in — and placed high — in area robotics competitions.

“The good news is,” said Schorr, “we are encouraging our girls as well.” A 2010 American Association of University Women survey found that though women and men are more equally represented in today’s white-collar workforce than they have ever been, enormous gender gaps still exist in science and engineering careers. Studies have shown that barriers such as stereotypes, gender bias and a discouraging classroom atmosphere can deter women from pursuing careers in these areas and may explain why there are so few female scientists and engineers.

In New York, at the Davis Renov Stahler Yeshiva High School for Boys, students are involved in the Common Core Curriculum. According to Principal Gerald Kirshenbaum, 32 sophomores and juniors took part in an extensive STEM education  program last year to much success.

He said that it is not just yeshivot and day schools that are grappling with how to implement STEM subjects, but that this is a national challenge.

Kirshenbaum taught and held administrative roles in the public school system for decades before retiring into chinuch 15 years ago. He said the American education system is segmented, teaching branches of science and math in silos. In New York, where students take Regents exams, they are assessed based on their knowledge of physics or chemistry or calculus; there is nothing to gauge STEM. Additionally, he said, America has been focused on memorizing information and not on solving problems. A proper STEM curriculum, he noted, helps students think and challenges them to come up with solutions. That is what the program at Stahler is doing, he said.

Lasson noted that he thinks good educators can inspire students to be passionate about STEM fields. He said not bringing STEM into Jewish day schools would limit Jewish students from obtaining the highest-level jobs.

“We have a lot of intelligent, sharp students in day schools, and many of them end up in humanities or liberal arts curriculum. This is fine. There may still be some jobs. However, where things are really trending is toward technology and science and engineering and math,” Lasson said. “And this trending is not a blip on the screen. It is a transitional period in history and will influence future jobs. These skills will important in whatever vocation you are interested in. The schools should be on the bandwagon.”