First, the essentials.
- We had 51 students this year, which continues a general trend of an increasing student body over the last 7 years. I appreciate our students spending their time, energy, and ruach - spirit- with Epstein, and thank you to their families for shlepping them.
- Our budget and finances are in great shape, thanks to generous funding from the Jewish Federation and the congregations, tuition from families, and our donors, and, of course, our board. My sincere thanks to all.
- Speaking of our board, the Epstein School would not be what it is without your guidance, diversity of ideas (and I mean that in a good way), and commitment to our teens and the Jewish people. “Thank you” is not enough. Please rise if you are here: Fran Ciardullo, Jody Cooper, Miriam Garrow, Jennifer Jordan Hirsh, Jackie Kassel, Danielle Masursky (secretary), Rachel Rothman, David Sonnenfeld, Elizabeth Steciak, Louis Wilson (treasurer).
- Our office assistant, Jonathan Adler, is calm, steady, and also flexible, and I appreciate all those qualities.
- Our teachers educate our students with wisdom, creativity, knowledge, passion, and kindness. Thank you for investing yourselves in our future. Your names aren’t in the program, so here they are: Maria Carson, Rabbi Fellman, Ryan Howlett, Ora Jezer, Scott Miller, Bonnie Leff, Rabbi Pepperstone, Rabbi Shore, Becca Socia. Please rise and let us thank you.
When I was 20, I had the privilege of attending the Brandeis Collegiate Institute on the Brandeis-Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, California. It was a magical, summer-camp like experience for young adults. The brilliance of this program is that the activities and learning opportunities provide numerous entry points to Judaism: community service, kashrut, Israeli dancing and singing, classes with Jewish scholars, prayer (traditional and alternative), and an emphasis on creating Jewish art: music, visual art, writing, dance, and theater. The Epstein School of Jewish Studies does the same: with a mix of required classes and a range of electives, special programs, and our heavily endowed trip to Israel (thanks to a fund at the Jewish Foundation), Epstein also provides numerous entry points to Judaism, opportunities for them to further know and connect with our religion, culture, and people.
To that end, this year’s required courses continued to reflect the curriculum update that began 2 years ago:
• 7th and 8th grades wrestled ethical issues with Rabbi Shore.
- The 9th grade became careful readers of our most important Torah narratives with Rabbi Pepperstone and Rabbi Fellman.
- Offered for the first time, the 10th grade learned Jewish History, including events that lead to the atrocities of the Holocaust, taught by Scott Miller and Ryan Howlett.
- Juniors and Seniors learned with Rabbi Shore, prepared for Jewish life after graduation with Bonnie Leff, and studied American Jewish History with Maria Carson.
Those courses reflect some of what our students need to become knowledgeable Jewish adults, and many of our students like those classes and look forward to them. Then there are the electives… these classes are full of Jewish content, AND the students can pick what most interests them. (Ideas for new electives often come from students and parents.)
With generous funding from the Jewish Federation, the congregations, families, and donors, Epstein was able to offer 4 elective choices each semester. Every elective is not right for every student; rather, my goal is for each student to find one elective that excites them, or at least speaks to them, and fits who they are.
This year’s electives were:
- Mishnah, the first layer of commentary on the Torah, and focused on issues of damages, with Ora Jezer.
- Modern Hebrew with Maria Carson.
- Mussar, the study and pursuit of Jewish character and behavior development, with Bonnie Leff.
- The Haggadah and Pesach Seder, culminating in a school-wide mini-seder lead by the students of the class, incorporating what they learned, and funded by a grant from the Philip L. Holstein Community Program Fund of the Federation.
- The Top Ten Talmud Texts You Should Know taught by Rabbis Fellman, Pepperstone, and Shore.
- Navigating the Map: Leadership Skills for Madrichim (classroom teaching assistants and camp counselors) taught by Becca Socia.
Thank you for your continued support.