Hebrew school

The New York Jewish Week reports on New York’s first-ever Hebrew-language charter school:

Many Jewish parents at HLA said they never seriously considered a day school.

“Before we had kids, my husband said he would only want a yeshiva,” Amir says. “But he’s Conservative, I’m Reform and a yeshiva would be Orthodox. And very, very expensive. It was not something I wanted and we never looked into it, because once we heard about this option, we said let’s check this out.”

Irina Olevsky, an attorney, says that while her oldest child is in Hebrew school at a Conservative synagogue, she probably won’t send her son Eli, a kindergartener at HLA, except possibly right before his bar mitzvah.

“He’s getting everything I want from this school,” explains Olevsky, who lives in Mill Basin. “I’m not looking to have [my children] be religious to the point of knowing the prayers. That’s not important for me. Just knowing what their background is and what it is to be Jewish.”

Because HLA is not allowed to ask its students their religion, no one knows exactly what percentage of the student body is Jewish.

“All we know for sure is that the school is 60 percent white,” says Dan Gerstein, an HLA spokesman. “You can reasonably assume some are not Jewish, but there’s no way to tell how large that percentage is."

A handful of children wear yarmulkes, and about one-fourth have at least one Israeli parent. While all the Hebrew teachers are white and Jewish (a mix of Israelis and Americans), the general studies teachers come from a range of ethnic backgrounds; several teachers, along with Campbell and the director of general studies, are African-American.

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