Ridgewood — In contrast to national trends, and reversing its own recent history, the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies (BCHSJS) kicked off its new school year with a significant increase in student enrollment. Taking into account the number of students who graduated in 2016, the number of students retained and new students added this fall, BCHSJS experienced a 45.8 percent student increase. While significant in and of itself, it is particularly notable in light of enrollment declines in other post Bar/Bat Mitzvah Jewish educational programs.
In 2013, e-jewishphilanthropy, a thought leader in Jewish information and publishing, reported that “the number of teens in supplemental Jewish schools is at a dangerously low level,” while reinforcing that “supplemental community and congregational Hebrew high schools are key to building a vibrant Jewish future. These schools help solidify strong Jewish identity in teens, so that when they leave their communities for college and realms beyond, they have a firm understanding of who they are and where they come from.” According to BCHSJS principal Fred Nagler, Jewish continuity is the ultimate goal of BCHSJS.
“We are pleased and grateful for this increase in our student body, but it doesn’t come as a surprise,” said Mr. Nagler. “BCHSJS is designed to be relevant to Jewish young people and they have become some of the best ambassadors to attract other students.”
In addition to fostering Jewish identity and forging friendships with other Jewish teens from throughout Bergen County, BCHSJS offers a host of other benefits that contribute to the increasing enrollment. Juniors and seniors can take advantage of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Middle College Program and earn up to six college credits while taking classes at BCHSJS. There are numerous community service opportunities that help students fulfill their high school requirements while giving back, and the school principal can provide college recommendations and transcripts.
The Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies is a regional Hebrew high school program for Jewish teens in grades 8-12. It draws from 23 different northern New Jersey congregations (Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Orthodox, Chabad and Sephardic) and has non-affiliated students enrolled as well. BCHSJS combines learning and doing to engage students and enrich their lives. For more than 40 years, it has been giving local teens the tools to form a Jewish identity that carries them into adulthood and stays with them for life. For more information, visit www.bchsjs.org.