Friday, March 22, 2013

Jewish Week Looking to Interview HALB/Tiferet Parents

Julie Wiener of the Jewish Week is looking to do an article on the HALB/Tiferet merger.  She asked me to post the following:

I'm doing an article about this for The Jewish Week, and would love to speak to Tiferet and HALB parents to find out how they feel about this. If any of you are on this blog -- or if any blog readers have friends at these places with whom they can put me in touch -- please e-mail me at

Thanks! Julie Wiener, Associate
Editor, The New York Jewish Week

Chag Sameach to everyone,

Update: Article can be found here:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tiferet "Merges" with HALB

The start-up school Tiferet, in the 5 Towns, was supposed to follow the He'atid model of using blended learning to reduce costs and lower tuition.  They just announced that rather than starting a new school they are going to merge with Hebrew Academy of Long Beach and try to incorporate their methods into the existing school (see the announcement, from their website, after the jump).  They haven't yet announced what the tuition will be but if tuition is not significantly reduced people won't consider this a merger but simply Tiferet giving up on its plan to open up an  affordable school.  At the very least, the funds from AJE should help with tuition reduction in the short run.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

BPY Increases, Moriah stays flat for 2013/2014

Link to the right shows the new BPY tuition schedule.  Tuition stays flat for Pre-K though they still haven't cut tuition for that grade as every other BC school has in order to compete with some of the new low-cost options.  1st-4th grades go up by $400 & 5th-7th goes up by $600.  They sent this letter explaining it.

Meanwhile, Moriah announced that they are keeping tuition flat for next year though they are adding a $285 assessment per family to cover security upgrades. They are also adding 5 more days to the calendar.  See their letter here.

As the letter explains, Moriah is making some budget cuts to reflect their smaller enrollment, which is something Westchester Day School should consider now that they have a low-cost competitor poaching some of their students.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

If Paramus Public Schools Jumped Off A Bridge.....

Anyone else think it's ridiculous that school was delayed for 2 hours at some Paramus Day Schools because of an inch of slushy snow on the ground?

Public Schools were delayed, which was unnecessary in its own right.  But if you're about to give off for 2 weeks you should be making an extra effort to stay open this week.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sunday, March 10, 2013

OU Clarifies Position on Blended Learning

After OU president Simcha Katz wrote an article endorsing blended learning in yeshiva day schools, including in new schools like He'atid but also in Yavneh, Maury Litwack from OU issued the clarification below.

I agree with the author that "Tuition relief will only come with all the available solutions working in collaboration."  I don't know why anyone reading the original article by Dr. Katz would assume otherwise. Nothing in his article suggests that blended learning would be a panacea to the tuition crisis all by itself.

My guess is that the clarification was driven by some angry phone calls or emails by supporters of existing schools that are threatened by the new models.   

Note from Maury Litwack Regarding Tuition Reduction Efforts

Recently, OU President Simcha Katz published an editorial in the Jewish Action regarding his thoughts on blended learning and the new schools that are built on this model. Some have construed this editorial as a singular endorsement for the future of Jewish education by the Orthodox Union. This is not the Orthodox Union position on tuition reduction
In the last eighteen months, we’ve spent a majority of our staff time launching state lobbying efforts to advocate for increased government funding for Jewish education. As we’ve stated many times in public and in the report that followed the OU tuition summit, we believe that government advocacy is a unique area that the OU can focus its expertise.
Additionally, we’ve worked with many other organizations such as Yeshiva University, Avi Chai and PEJE on collaborative efforts where available. Tuition relief will only come with all the available solutions working in collaboration.
I want to reaffirm the OU’s overall commitment to work with local community leaders in an effort to strengthen existing schools, shuls, and all similar entities, which are invaluable to Jewish life.
Maury Litwack
Director of State Political Affairs & Outreach

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bergen County Exec Meets With Day Schools

 Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan Meets with Jewish Day School Leadership

The New Jersey Orthodox Union office of the Institute for Public Affairs coordinated a meeting with Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan and Jewish Day School Administrators at The Moriah School in Englewood on Thursday, February 28.

Ms. Donovan was provided with a tour of the school led by its Principal, Dr. Elliot Prager.

Following the tour, she met with the 20 attendees, to become better acquainted and to discuss what the County can provide for the Schools in these financially trying times.

Amongst the suggestions made were the possibility of providing security assessments, security training, use of County parks and recreational activities, a free presentation on New Jersey history, and Special Education opportunities. Ms. Donovan emphasized that the County “has the ability to help you and your kids” and encouraged quarterly meetings between schools and the County for increased dialogue and cooperation.

Attending the meeting with the County Executive was Peter Incardone, Jr. her Deputy Chief of Staff, Councilman Yitz Stern and the Orthodox Union’s NJ IPA staff including its Director Josh Pruzansky, Arielle Frankston-Morris, Associate Director of Community Engagement, Sara Rosengarten, Associate Director of Voter Outreach and Ira Treuhaft a resident of Bergenfield.

Schools represented at the meeting were The Moriah School, The Frisch School, Yavneh Academy, Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, Yeshivat Noam, Yeshivat He’Atid, Ben Porat Yosef, Torah Academy of Bergen County, Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls and Solomon Schechter of Bergen County.

Monday, March 4, 2013

OU Prez Endorses Blended Learning

Blended Learning: The Newest Frontier in Jewish Education?

by   in President's Message
This is the question facing every Jewish day school in the country struggling with the escalating costs of Jewish education. Admittedly, there is no simple answer to this question; no silver bullet.
The Orthodox Union is fully committed to building legislative support for school choice (; and with communal support, we will, please God, prevail. But this approach requires patience; it will take time.
A more immediate solution may, however, be on the horizon. In my own community of Bergen County, New Jersey, one school has quietly begun a revolutionary experiment in Jewish education that has significantly reduced tuition costs. Yeshivat He’Atid, which opened this past September with 116 students, embraces a new and innovative—if somewhat controversial—educational approach known as “blended learning.” Remarkably, Yeshivat He’Atid’s tuition is 40 percent less than other schools in Bergen County.
What is blended learning and how does it manage to dramatically cut costs? Blended learning combines independent computer instruction with face-to-face traditional classroom methods. While my experience as an educator has been limited to teaching on the graduate school level for the past several decades, I believe that blended learning, while still in the experimental stages, may be one of the most exciting developments in the world of education, with particular effectiveness in grades one through twelve.
Envision twenty-first-century classrooms outfitted with big screens, laptops and software that teaches students everything from converting percents to decimals to writing persuasive essays. This groundbreaking educational model is increasingly found in public schools across the country. Imagine students using specially-designed interactive software programs to master Hebrew grammar and Chumash—the possibilities are endless! Indeed, many yeshivot have been slowly introducing digital media into their limudei kodesh classes. For instance, The Frisch School in New Jersey recently developed an iPad app for Gemara. And while educational software for Judaic studies is currently limited, companies and vendors are hard at work developing such materials. One extraordinary resource is the Aleph Beta Academy, launched by Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, regional director of New York NCSY.
With the explosion in digital learning across the country, not surprisingly, Jewish schools have begun to take notice. Tiferet Academy in the Five Towns and Westchester Torah Academy, both scheduled to open this fall, will be blended learning schools. Ohr Chadash Academy in Baltimore, Maryland, is yet another model of digital learning, and similar schools have sprung up in East Brunswick, New Jersey; Sharon, Massachusetts; Los Angeles, California and Seattle, Washington.
Advocates of blended learning—such as Meir Nordlicht, a board member of Westchester Torah Academy, and Gershon Distenfeld, chairman of the board of Yeshivat He’Atid—claim that it not only cuts costs, but it also provides a superior education. Teachers are able to customize computer activities for students based on skills and abilities, eliminating the need for both an enrichment program as well as a resource room. Moreover, because of the individualized learning component, classes can be larger than those in traditional schools. A higher student/teacher ratio also translates into savings. Furthermore, in some schools students take independent courses under the supervision of a facilitator (as opposed to a highly-paid teacher).
Nordlicht and Distenfeld contend that blended learning helps bring kids up to speed, teaching them twenty-first-century skills while ensuring that each child receives an individualized, personalized approach. Computer programs are continually assessing a child’s performance, providing invaluable feedback to the teacher. Most importantly, students get to learn at their own pace.
And yet, while I am excited about the possibilities of using digital learning to teach Chumash, Rashi and Gemara, I am cautiously optimistic. I know that opponents of blended learning also make compelling arguments. There is no hard data proving that blended learning impacts academic performance. It is foolish, opponents say, to jump headfirst into embracing a new educational approach when there is no evidence that the results will be any better. Moreover, many argue that in a blended classroom, students have to be self-motivated, and that blended learning overemphasizes digital skills over the fundamentals such as math, reading and writing. Many also argue that there’s no substitute for teacher-student interaction. One critic, cited in a New York Times article, referred to blended learning as little more than a “high-tech babysitter.”
In fact, blended learning does entail changing the teacher’s role. In a blended classroom, teachers guide more than they lecture, although effective programs strive to strike a balance.
Of course, the sacred rebbe-talmid relationship can never be replaced by a computer screen. A screen could never convey hashkafah or inculcate middot. And I certainly don’t believe that a software program, no matter how sophisticated, can teach one to “lain a gemara.”
In Baltimore, Rabbi Akevy Greenblatt of Ohr Chadash is another passionate advocate of blended learning. The school has the lowest tuition in Baltimore for its grade levels. When the school was in the formation stage, there was some opposition to giving students iPads and Internet access. “Computers,” he told parents, “are not dangerous if students are taught to use them properly.”
Even established schools such as Yavneh Academy in Paramus, New Jersey, are gradually introducing blended learning, giving students some control over the pace and content of their learning. Currently, the Avi Chai Foundation is working with thirty-six established yeshivot and day schools nationally to set up blended learning programs, according to program officer Rachel Abrahams.
Whether it is a new or established school, there will be costs to incorporate the technology. Expenses include computers and software, licensing fees for the software, specialized furniture, wiring and, of course, teacher training. Schools must be aware that cost savings may not be realized in the first year, during which philanthropy must fill the gap.
Is blended learning the panacea for which parents and educators have been searching? Is this approach feasible or even desirable for every Jewish day school and yeshivah? Do yeshivot and day schools have an obligation going forward to consider blended learning?
The jury is still out. Currently, all we can say with certainty is that this is an exciting venture in Jewish education that holds much promise. We have no guarantees that it will work. However, it is our responsibility to try various approaches and models to enable us to provide quality education at an affordable cost. And with God’s help, we will be successful.
Special thanks to Stephen Steiner, director of OU public relations, in preparing this article.
To learn more about blended learning, contact Rachel Abrahams, program officer, Avi Chai (212) 396-8850; Gershon Distenfeld,; Meir Nordlicht through Jeff Kiderman, executive director of the Affordable Jewish Education Project,; Rabbi Akevy Greenblatt at; Rabbi Aaron Ross at and Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone at
In addition, the following print sources and videos are available:;;

This article was featured in Jewish Action Spring 2013.