When students in the elementary and middle school at Lubavitch on the Palisades start the new term on September 5, they’ll be going to a familiar place with a brand new name: The Tenafly Chabad Academy. Principal of General Studies Jennifer Davis said the name was chosen to convey all the important qualities of the school. “Chabad is an intellectual, educational movement and Lubavitch has also become known for being warm and personal,” she explained in an interview, along with Rabbi Mordechai Shain, executive director of Lubavitch on the Palisades and founder of the school. “Just as strongly, Tenafly is known for its excellent schools, and ‘Academy’ conveys that we have a rigorous curriculum.”
Rabbi Shain added, “I tell parents we give your child 200 percent—100 percent of a general education and 100 percent of a Jewish education.”
Davis said the curriculum is similar to that of other Jewish day schools with complete Judaic and secular studies and a full range of afterschool activities including sports and art. The middle school has a basketball team run by Nimrod Yosef, athletic director, who was a pro basketball player in Israel.
“Students who come here get everything they need academically, socially and emotionally,” Davis said. Gifted students have enrichment options and can go to higher grades for more challenging work. Every class has an assistant, an IEP (individualized education plan) facilitator to work with students who need extra help. Nita Harpaz, coordinator of the Hebrew learning center, helps students who transfer in from public schools with Hebrew and Judaic studies. “Differentiation is the key,” Davis said. “All teachers have to know what their students need.”
Technology is integrated gradually into the curriculum. The early grades focus on reading and writing. Grades 3 and 4 work on keyboarding skills, and in the middle school, each student has a Chromebook. Technology integrator Jenny Kritchevski gives computer lessons to children so by the end of eighth grade students are proficient in Microsoft Office. The faculty benefits as well; Kritchevski teaches the teachers how to integrate technology into their classrooms.
Rabbi Shain said, “Chabad in general is into expressing that everything in this world is a vehicle to use for God, including computers and modern technology. They weren’t created by man. They were created by God who gave wisdom to man. Technology can be used in a positive, constructive way, instead of destructive,” he continued. “You can teach a parsha with a smartboard and now it makes the parsha so clear.”
A Jewish education is a gift that all Jewish children should have, Rabbi Shain noted, and that’s why he started the school. “Chabad is all about outreach, helping Jews bring more Judaism into their lives,” he said. That’s why it was important to keep Chabad in the school’s name. “Here the Chabad niche is that everyone is a Jew,” he said. “All Jewish students fit here whether they are 100 percent observant or not.
On the last day of school this past June, each student received a hat with the Tenafly Chabad Academy logo. New students will get one on the first day, September 5; new shirts are in as well, and shirts and jackets are available for sale.
“We’re very excited about our school,” said Davis. “With our new expansion, and first eighth-grade graduating class this year, people recognize us as a viable educational option. This was the perfect time to change our name.”
Learn more about Tenafly Chabad Academy at http://www.lpsnj.org/.
By Bracha Schwartz