Thursday, February 20, 2020

Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy is a new model in Jewish education: an innovative, financially sustainable online school that teaches a broad range of high-quality Jewish studies classes to a wide variety of students. Lookstein Virtual seeks ways to harness technology to improve and democratize Jewish education. It is dedicated to bringing quality online Jewish education to students everywhere, regardless of geographic location or ideological orientation, and to supporting Jewish schools, synagogues and families by providing affordable, innovative and flexible instruction.

Lookstein Virtual has worked with more than 1100 students in grades 6-12 from the farthest reaches of Alaska to suburban Detroit and metro Miami. Participants span multiple locations across the country and work in synchronicity (or not), independently or collaboratively. Its courses are finding a permanent place in the instructional toolbox of families and schools alike. For schools, this addition of online options to their course offerings expands their curricular choices, helps them provide individual attention to students, lowers their costs and increases school capacity. For many Lookstein Virtual families, the ability to log on at home serves as their primary connector to Jewish ideas, texts and traditions.

“[The students] are independent, get to work at their own pace, learn with a master teacher from Israel and on top of that they get the chance to learn with students from other schools—learning the collaborative skills that go with that—that is really cool,” shared Hadas Sadero of The Epstein School in Atlanta about her students’ experience studying Jewish texts in-depth and online. “We love that!”

Anna Sokolinski in Massachusetts enrolled her daughter in an Israeli history course outside of a school framework. She reported back, “[She] had a wonderful experience with Lookstein Virtual. She learned so much from this course and enjoyed everything about it—the fabulous instructor, the course materials, the assignments and live classes. I only heard positive feedback.”

Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy is a project of Bar-Ilan University’s Lookstein Center for Jewish Education and is supported by some of the biggest players in Jewish philanthropy, education and continuity today. The school’s primary funders are The Avi Chai Foundation, The Kohelet Foundation and The William Davidson Foundation, and they receive additional support from The Hadassah Foundation, Targum Shlishi and an anonymous funder.