Alternatives to Public School Education
has become a “hot” subject in our times. While the quality of
public schools and the issue of raising their standards has taken
center stage in what has become a national discussion, some parents
have chosen to take a different route and have enrolled their
children in private schools, parochial schools, yeshivas, and
home schooling. In the coming months Education Update will explore
these Alternatives to Public School Education. The series seeks
to challenge the readers and allow them find their own answer
to the question: “Why do some parents choose Alternatives to Public
School Education?”as well as distilling techniques, valuess and
innovations that might be imported to our public schools.We launch
our series with a look at the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy.
passing through South Orange Avenue in Livingston, New Jersey,
it is impossible to oversee an architectural masterpiece resting
proudly on the top of a hill. Large, black letters engraved on
this modern building reveal its identity: Joseph Kushner Hebrew
Charles Kushner, who founded the Academy in honor of his parents,
ensured that this 225,000 square-foot structure leaves visitors
in awe. The interior glass ceilings and walls in many classrooms,
labs, common spaces and the library provide an aesthetic and cheerful
home to its students.
[Charles Kushner] built a facility that people just marvel at,”
said Rabbi Scot A. Berman, the principal of the Kushner Yeshiva
High School, one of the two divisions of the school—the other
being the Kushner Academy serving the elementary and middle school
grades. “Many institutions come visit us to gain new ideas.”
The school’s state of the art facilities, its commitment to providing
every student with a strong Orthodox Jewish education and its
curriculum, designed to fit the needs of every single student,
perhaps explain why parents from the entire metropolitan area
choose to send their students to the Kushner Academy and the Kushner
Yeshiva High School. Thus, as Rabbi Berman explained, the school
philosophy about admission is inclusive with regard to academics,”
he said. “I think we have established ourselves and our reputation
for providing education for as many students as possible,” he
added, noting that when interviewing a student for admission the
school looks for a standard of seriousness, a commitment to Judaism
and to academic studies as well as to ethics.
they are prepared to work then we will provide them with a challenging
program,” he said.
Students are provided with a wide array of courses that include
Jewish education,—Bible studies, Jewish law and Hebrew—the required
basic subjects, and 18 hours/year of community service. Students
receive individual attention from the over 40 teachers in the
High School, while every classroom has 20 students or less.
Over 800 students walk through the doors of the building each
day—260 students in the High School and 540 in the elementary
and middle school. In addition, the building houses a school for
students with learning disabilities, which is closely connected
to the other divisions even though it runs as a separate entity.
“The whole idea is to have as much integration as possible,” said
The size of the building provides for outstanding interior facilities,
including spacious hallways, a variety of science labs designated
for particular subjects, two gymnasiums, a large auditorium and
a library with individual and communal stations for students.
Students also benefit from mentoring relationships established
with some of the parents whose children attend the schools.
However, according to Rabbi Berman, the Kushner Yeshiva High School
upholds three more standards that truly differentiate it from
other schools of its kind.
The first said Rabbi Berman is “being concerned to provide an
appropriate education for all students.” To achieve this goal
the school has a Learning Coordinator, responsible for tracking
the academic, emotional and social growth of every single student
in the school. The principal plans to also institute a religious
guidance counselor who will follow the religious and ethical growth
and concern of every student.
The second differentiating component includes according to Rabbi
Berman “a commitment to religious Zionism. The schools is unique
in promoting a culture of being concerned with life in Israel.”
Students engage in prayer for the people in Israel and hold a
community-wide event celebrating Israel’s independence. In addition,
the school brings teachers from Israel. “I can think of no better
way to bring Israeli culture to my students,” said Rabbi Berman.
The school seeks to further enhance ties with Israeli culture
by sending the sophomore class to study in Israel for two months,
a program unique to the school.
Finally, Rabbi Berman cited the school’s philosophical commitment
“to promoting modern orthodoxy as a positive value.”
The Kushner Yeshiva High School graduated its first class last
June. “Now we’ve established a track record,” said Rabbi Berman,
noting that some of the graduating students will attend seminaries
while others were admitted to a variety of schools, including
Ivy League institutions, such as Harvard, Columbia and Cornell,
Yeshiva University, Queens College, NYU and Hofstra University.
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