Jewish Schools Enjoyed a COVID-Free Year

Kellman Brown students enjoy an activity at school.
(Photo by Rachel Zivic)

In 2021-’22, Jewish schools became communities again. Though pandemic-era restrictions like masks and physical distancing remained, clubs, sports and other activities were able to come back in full.

If 2021-’22 was about reconnecting despite COVID, 2022-’23 was about doing so without restraint for the first time since 2019-’20 (before the month of March). In interviews for this article about the year, local heads of school barely even mentioned “COVID” or “the pandemic.”

As a result, 2022-’23 was about…well, so many of the other experiences that school years are often about. Here’s what happened at some area schools.

Abrams Hebrew Academy, Yardley

Abrams Hebrew Academy students participate in field day. (Courtesy of the Abrams Hebrew Academy)

Abrams sent more than 40 students and staff members to Israel. It also added a volleyball team to its list of extracurricular activities, according to Director Ira Budow.

“The kids are very into volleyball,” he said.

The Yardley school’s student body is full for next year with about 200 students. Budow is hoping to get approval from Yardley Borough for a new playground and an athletic field on campus.

Kellman Brown Academy, Voorhees, New Jersey

Kellman Brown stayed open for most of COVID and added 60 students between 2020 and 2022, according to Head of School Rachel Zivic. This year, the school expanded its zoology program, added a chapter of Kvutzah, a Jewish youth climate movement, and started a New York City trip for middle schoolers to see the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Tenement Museum.

“Our school continues to grow,” Zivic said.

Looking ahead to 2023-’24, Zivic is excited to open Kellman Brown’s Jewish Leadership Academy, a three-year program offering leadership lessons in the classroom and hands-on experience.

“Middle school is a time where students are more capable than we give them credit for, and they are very open-minded,” Zivic said. “And they don’t have the other pieces that high school brings like college applications.”

Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, Bryn Mawr

Barrack welcomed a new Israel shaliach, or an emissary from the Jewish state who teaches students about it, in Benaya Yehuda. It also enjoyed a banner year in sports, winning Penn-Jersey Athletic Association championships in girls’ soccer, basketball and lacrosse, as well as boys’ lacrosse.

School officials raised enough money to increase subsidies for the eighth-grade Israel trip to $1,000 per student, according to Head of School Marshall Lesack.

“With the ability to put time and focus in other areas, we were able to continue to invest in our students and the program,” he said.

Next year, Barrack will provide a 50% subsidy to every student who goes on the 11th-grade Israel trip and launch an upper school program called Barrack Institutes. This will offer high schoolers deep dives into STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) and business and entrepreneurship.

“More passion areas for students to explore,” Lesack said.

Foxman Torah Institute, Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Foxman, a yeshiva, was able to return to in-person open houses for prospective families, who come from the Philadelphia area, New York, Baltimore and Lakewood, New Jersey. It also constructed a new school building that will help the student body increase from between 80 and 90 students to 150, according to Head of School Yisrael Davidowitz.

Davidowitz said the building will open in the fall with a second building to follow within 18 months.

Kohelet Yeshiva, Merion Station

Kohelet Yeshiva high schoolers taught Torah to their parents during a night at school this past year.
(Photo by Nachi Troodler)

Kohelet, which serves students in grades K-12, introduced three new programs in 2022-’23, according to Communications Coordinator Nachi Troodler.

High school students collaborated on a scholarly Torah journal and presented lessons on their studies to parents during a “Night of Learning” at the school. Lower and middle school students were introduced to a new program called “Mitzvah Momentum,” in which they did activities relating to different mitzvahs, like chesed, or kindness, throughout the year. And leading up to Chanukah, students at all three levels learned together about the story behind the holiday. That program culminated with a menorah lighting in the gym.

“The underlying goal is to create a strong foundation in our students that enables them to continue growing and continue thriving not only as students but also as communal Jews and communal leaders,” Troodler said.

Next year, Kohelet will welcome 25 additional students, growing its enrollment to 355, and begin a project to expand its campus.

Perelman Jewish Day School, Wynnewood

Perelman was able to bring back field trips in full this year, according to Head of School Mitchell Daar. Those included days at the Insectarium and Dover Health Center and two nights at a campsite building fires and doing outdoor learning.

“Being able to get our students out into the real world and learning by doing is such an important part of what our program is,” Daar said.

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