BCHSJS http://bchsjs.org Bergen County High school of Jewish Studies Fri, 07 Dec 2018 16:59:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.0 http://bchsjs.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/cropped-Untitled-1-1-32x32.png BCHSJS http://bchsjs.org 32 32 Mazal Tov! http://bchsjs.org/2017/07/01/mazal-tov/ Sat, 01 Jul 2017 00:43:46 +0000 http://bchsjs.org/?p=5723 There are all kinds of celebrations. Some are formal events, marking a milestone, significant accomplishment or achievement. Some are galas, fun-filled festivities where the spirit of happiness and joy is palpable in the room. Other celebrations are quieter, more personal events that might take place between just two or a […]

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There are all kinds of celebrations. Some are formal events, marking a milestone, significant accomplishment or achievement. Some are galas, fun-filled festivities where the spirit of happiness and joy is palpable in the room. Other celebrations are quieter, more personal events that might take place between just two or a handful of people. These are no less as important as the others, because all celebrations have at least one thing in common: a connection between two or more people who come together for a joyful reason.

At the BCHSJS Annual Gala Dinner, people came together to celebrate BCHSJS, its honorees, students, parents, educators and staff. The Gala itself was a celebration, with a feeling of happiness and pride evident in the beautiful room. Tables were set with yellow and white centerpieces and Israeli music played in the background. At the front of the room stood an American and an Israeli flag, marking the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem and 43 years of BCHSJS. Two BCHSJS students sang each country’s national anthem. And what’s a party without food? 125 guests selected dishes from sumptuous buffet tables that had something for everyone.

Built into the Gala itself were a myriad of celebrations, starting with recognition of the BCHSJS seniors and alumni who were at the event. Two recently graduated BCHSJS seniors stepped forward to share their thoughts, making the audience laugh and moving them with their insights about what they gained from attending BCHSJS. They talked about how hard it was for their parents to get them to go to BCHSJS, but once they did, it changed their lives through fun activities with other Jewish teens and by helping them form a strong Jewish identity.

Another highlight of the evening were the awards presented to distinguished community, parent and educator honorees. Recipients of the L’Dor V’Dor  Award, David Goodman and Dr. Hope Schlossberg, spoke about the importance of Jewish education and of supporting the school. Parent Honorees Alex and Doug Sobelman stressed that what mattered most were the 120 students who came together from diverse backgrounds throughout Bergen County every Sunday morning to learn and experience what it means to be Jewish. Educator of the Year Rabbi Shelley Kniaz spoke to the fact that there is much work to be done in building a strong Jewish identity in young people, but that BCHSJS was going far to fill that need.

At the heart of BCHSJS are its teachers, and one of them, Barnett Goldman, received the Exemplary Service Award, not just for his passion for teaching at BCHSJS but for all that he does in the broader community. He sat, surrounded by other BCHSJS educators and staff members, each of whom also continuously contribute to BCHSJS.

As the evening came to a close, one could look around the room and see a vibrant Jewish community with a single-minded focus: to build and nurture within our young people great pride, enjoyment and dedication to being Jewish. Mazal Tov, BCHSJS!

 

 

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From One Generation to the Next http://bchsjs.org/2017/05/04/one-generation-next/ Thu, 04 May 2017 18:08:29 +0000 http://bchsjs.org/?p=5713 To understand just one of the ways that BCHSJS fosters Jewish continuity among young people in Northern New Jersey, picture this: An elderly Jewish woman is gently led to a piano, where she eases herself down onto the bench. She is short and slight and dressed in bright, beautiful colors. […]

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To understand just one of the ways that BCHSJS fosters Jewish continuity among young people in Northern New Jersey, picture this:

An elderly Jewish woman is gently led to a piano, where she eases herself down onto the bench. She is short and slight and dressed in bright, beautiful colors. She gets her bearings and, smiling, bends over the key board. She pauses for a moment, then her gnarled hands dramatically hit the keys and she enthusiastically begins playing songs, some from the past, some from the present. The room of some 50 people join her in singing these familiar songs. She pauses briefly between them, smiles at the young people from BCHSJS standing nearby, and selects the next tune. The sheet music is propped in front of her, but it appears that she is playing by heart. There is no question that she is playing the songs from the heart.

The woman at the piano is 104 years old. She’s a resident of Daughters of Miriam/The Gallen Institute, a comprehensive elder care center in Clifton, New Jersey, where she lives a vibrant life. The young people standing by the piano? They are just some of the BCHSJS teens who, as part of their Jewish Volunteer Corp. class, visit Daughters of Miriam to build relationships with their Jewish elders.

They conduct many activities together, such as making a shared cookbook, but a good deal of what they do is simply talk and listen to each other. Each resident has a rich personal story to tell, and they are also curious about the lives of the BCHSJS students. On a recent visit, one resident shared beloved memories of a trip to Israel, while another gentleman showed a newspaper article about the hardware store he’d run for decades. Students and residents argued back and forth about a recent basketball game. And of course, uniting young and old were stories about food, especially at Passover! When asked about their favorite Passover dishes, residents argued the merits of matzo brei over Passover rolls and our BCHSJS students talked about their own favorite traditions and foods.  BCHSJS teacher, Barnett Goldman, said that his family had added a new tradition to their Seder plate – an orange – to symbolize the need to welcome people disenfranchised.

Students in our Jewish Volunteer Corp. earn community service credits that they can use on their college applications or resumes, but they gain something even more important than that. By volunteering at Daughters of Miriam, they bring life and light to an older Jewish generation, who in turn pass their Jewish traditions, memories, faith and pride on to them.

 

 

 

 

 

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Can our teens handle Anti-Semitism and BDS when they go to college? BCHSJS helps students say YES http://bchsjs.org/2017/04/05/can-teens-handle-anti-semitism-bds-go-college-bchsjs-helps-students-say-yes/ Wed, 05 Apr 2017 16:38:32 +0000 http://bchsjs.org/?p=5700 The AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to documenting, combating and providing education about anti-Semitism at higher education institutions in America, reports that in 2016, a total of 630 incidents took place at colleges and universities nationwide. In 2015, that number was 469, representing a shocking 34.3 percent increase. With […]

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The AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to documenting, combating and providing education about anti-Semitism at higher education institutions in America, reports that in 2016, a total of 630 incidents took place at colleges and universities nationwide. In 2015, that number was 469, representing a shocking 34.3 percent increase. With rising anti-Semitism and an increase in BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, an anti-Israel movement with activity across U.S. college campuses), the question is, will our BCHSJS teens be able to effectively respond to affronts about Israel and criticism about being Jewish when they go off to school? BCHSJS is working hard to make sure that answer is a definite YES.

Our efforts include a mandatory senior seminar class that prepares students for issues they may face as Jews, including handling anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism challenges confidently and safely. We also have classes that cover current events related to this issue and we tackle provocative topics.

Throughout their time at BCHSJS, we expose students to issues surrounding anti-Semitism within a broad, objective context so that they can carry on an informed conversation and address potential challenges when they graduate. At the core of our strategy is the importance of seeking out objective facts, including both sides of any argument. We also stress that they should understand the broader context within which the discussion is taking place. We remind our students to listen; it’s easy to assume that someone is going to say something when in fact they may have a different point of view or argument to voice.

We also support and take advantage of programs outside our school itself. Recently, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey conducted the iCAN Answer Now Teen Conference to prepare Northern New Jersey high school juniors and seniors – including more than 30 from BCHSJS – to discuss Jewish-related issues and threats on campus. Several BCHSJS students served on the planning committee for the event and played a role in shaping its content and execution. Not only did the conference heighten awareness of what students might encounter when they go to college, it gave them knowledge about accessing resources and strategies for effective communication with those opposing Israel.

We recognize that some of our students may feel isolated and alone when they arrive at college. They may be assigned a roommate who has never before met someone who is Jewish. While this doesn’t have to be a problem, we encourage our students to seek out resources, like Hillel, that will make them feel part of a broader Jewish community and enable them to build the types of friendships and relationships that they’ve enjoyed at BCHSJS.

This all comes full circle to our BCHSJS mission, which is to help our students develop strong Jewish identities. In short, we make our students feel confident and proud of being Jewish, which is the most important thing we can do to prepare them for the future.

 

 

 

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Giving Back, Getting Back http://bchsjs.org/2017/03/02/giving-back-getting-back/ Thu, 02 Mar 2017 19:28:59 +0000 http://bchsjs.org/?p=5669 This February, a group of nine BCHSJS students stepped onto an airplane and flew to New Orleans during their school break. Their purpose was to contribute to the ongoing rebuild of neighborhoods destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and to bring “green” or energy efficient light bulbs to homes in need of […]

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This February, a group of nine BCHSJS students stepped onto an airplane and flew to New Orleans during their school break. Their purpose was to contribute to the ongoing rebuild of neighborhoods destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and to bring “green” or energy efficient light bulbs to homes in need of affordable lighting – and to help protect the environment. This trip was the embodiment of Tikkun Olam, or “repair of the world.” And while our students touched the community in practical ways, that damaged community also touched them back.

For one student, it was his first time on an airplane and his longest time away from home. The trip took him out of his comfort zone and he came back a worldlier and more confident young man. Another student recalled that she was four years old when Hurricane Katrina hit and was amazed to visit a place she’d only read about in a history book. She returned with an appreciation of how long it can take to bring help to those in need and how many hands are needed to do so. Another student had regularly participated in charitable events, such as sending clothing to Israel or supporting our School’s holiday toy drive, but had never seen the look of appreciation on someone’s face when they personally received help from her. These were powerful experiences that had a profound impact on our students, and on our BCHSJS community when they returned and told their stories.

Many of those stories had to do with driving through the 9th Ward, the section of the city hit hardest by Katrina, and seeing the pervasive devastation. But there was progress, too, specifically with the Habitat for Humanity homes they helped ready for those in need. Whether painting trim or raking a backyard, they did work that would welcome people home to a new and better life. And while each of our students was only able to make a modest contribution, their overall contribution was significant and helped create something bigger than the sum of its parts. Through Project Green Light, our students went into people’s homes to install free energy efficient light bulbs. They were greeted with warmth, appreciation and, in one case, a “king cake,” a New Orleans tradition baked prior to Mardi Gras/Carnival. Other reflections were more sobering. When they drove through the 9th Ward they saw, still standing, uninhabitable wrecks of houses marked with the letter X. Underneath the X was the number of people who died in that house.

Being BCHSJS students means finding their place in a larger Jewish community, and our students were moved by how the New Orleans Jewish community was affected by this disaster. A physical therapy store front was built over a destroyed temple and the outline of a menorah could still be made out on one of the walls. They visited a gravesite where Torahs that had been destroyed were buried and a memorial created for them. These Jewish visuals reminded them of their role in a broader community, one that they were helping to rebuild and repair.

In reflecting on what struck him most about the trip, one student said that while they worked hard, doing it with other BCHSJS students “took the work out of the work.” The students also had a lot of fun at night as they experienced the city’s history, food and culture, strengthening friendships that began in New Jersey.

 

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Coming Home to the Holy Land http://bchsjs.org/2017/01/31/coming-home-holy-lan/ Tue, 31 Jan 2017 15:51:53 +0000 http://bchsjs.org/?p=5639   If you send 13 BCHSJS students and one BCHSJS teacher to Israel for seven days and ask them what they thought of the trip, you get 14 different answers. And yet, if you listen more closely, you’ll realize that the answers are actually all the same. The trip was […]

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If you send 13 BCHSJS students and one BCHSJS teacher to Israel for seven days and ask them what they thought of the trip, you get 14 different answers. And yet, if you listen more closely, you’ll realize that the answers are actually all the same. The trip was amazing.

So the real question is, why was the trip so amazing?

Some of the students in our Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey-funded Young Leadership Course had been to Israel in the past, and for others, it was their first trip. Either way, everyone was struck by the history, the culture and the breathtaking landscape wherever they went. Whether visiting Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, seeing a breathtaking waterfall in the Golan Heights, moving through the water caves or grottos of Rosh Hanikra along the Lebanese border or wandering through the Old City of Acre, the group experienced first hand places most of them had only heard about. Even for the students who had been there before, those sights were in Technicolor, they were steeped in history and they were larger than life.

The historical, religious and cultural aspects of the trip were reason enough to be there, but there was something even more powerful that made the trip “amazing.” That’s because when the BCHSJS group landed at Ben Gurion Airport, they weren’t arriving as just visitors, they were being reunited with fellow students they had hosted in Bergen County earlier in the year. At first, according to one student, they felt a little anxious, but the moment they began speaking with each other, it was as if no time had passed.

For months, the American and Israeli students had been “talking” through social media and Skype sessions as part of BCHSJS’ Young Leadership Course. The Israeli students had spent a week experiencing what it’s like to be Jewish in America; now the BCHSJS students were stepping into the Israeli students’ shoes. And while they were different in many ways, they were also very much the same. Both groups of teens lived on social media. They complained about their homework. They hung out with their friends. Both were preparing to be leaders. But there was one big difference: in Israel, the vast majority of people were Jewish! The BCHSJS students looked around their host families and friends and could imagine for just a little while what it would feel like to be surrounded by Jewish people every day of their lives, everywhere they went. That, to one of our students, is what discovering your Jewish identity felt like.

For all, it was a life-changing trip. For many, the most memorable part was the evening of December 31, when they relaxed and celebrated with their host students and families. As midnight approached and 2016 came to an end, both groups counted down from 10 and joyously yelled “Happy New Year” in the Holy Land.

 

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Repairing the World, One Student at a Time http://bchsjs.org/2017/01/16/repairing-world-one-student-time/ Mon, 16 Jan 2017 18:05:17 +0000 http://bchsjs.org/?p=5634   The Hebrew phrase tikkun olam means world repair; tikkun means “repairing” and olam translates into “world, cosmos, eternity.” In the broadest sense, tikkun olam today has become synonymous with the notion of social action and the pursuit of social justice. But on a more personal level, tikkun olam also refers to […]

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The Hebrew phrase tikkun olam means world repair; tikkun means “repairing” and olam translates into “world, cosmos, eternity.” In the broadest sense, tikkun olam today has become synonymous with the notion of social action and the pursuit of social justice. But on a more personal level, tikkun olam also refers to simple acts of kindness that are performed in one’s daily life to perfect or repair the world and help the less fortunate. That’s where our students come in.

 

Tikkun Olam is a core part of the BCHSJS experience and our commitment to the concept is woven through all that we do. We bring our values of repairing the world to life for our students – and we make it personal. One very powerful way that BCHSJS students can practice tikkun olam is to become part of our Jewish Volunteer Corp. This school year-long service-learning class provides the opportunity for students to learn and volunteer ten times during the school year with a group of senior citizens at the Daughters of Miriam/The Gallen Institute senior care facility in Clifton, NJ. Founded in 1921, Daughters of Miriam has served as a vibrant community for seniors at all stages of life. Its mission is to meet the social, emotional and healthcare needs of the elderly Jewish community in Bergen County.

 

Through our program, students engage with the Jewish residents and build one on one relationships with them. They create bonds while learning about the individuals’ life stories and documenting them in written and visual formats. Each week they feel and see how they are making a difference in the life of an older Jewish person and forging a link between the past generation and the present. In doing so, they strengthen their own Jewish identity and experience first-hand the power of tikkun olam.

Tikkun olam takes many forms at BCHSJS and we offer a myriad of “giving” opportunities throughout the year. We have drives or collections for needed materials, such as school supplies, clothing for Israel, holiday toys and a food collection for Passover. Our students and teachers volunteer as part of Bergen County’s Mitzvah Day and the Jewish Federation’s Super Sunday, some participate in a Habitat for Humanity trip to New Orleans. These activities instill in our students a commitment to repairing the world that stays with them long past their time at BCHSJS.

 

 

 

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BCHSJS is going strong http://bchsjs.org/2016/12/22/bchsjs-going-strong/ Thu, 22 Dec 2016 18:06:57 +0000 http://bchsjs.org/?p=5603 The Jewish Standard Original Article    If Fred Nagler — the head of the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies from 1982 to 2010, and the “new” principal since this spring — represents continuity in the life of the school, his commitment to continuity goes way beyond that. Indeed, […]

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The Jewish Standard Original Article 

 

If Fred Nagler — the head of the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies from 1982 to 2010, and the “new” principal since this spring — represents continuity in the life of the school, his commitment to continuity goes way beyond that.

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Indeed, Mr. Nagler said, Jewish continuity is the school’s ultimate goal.

There’s been far less continuity in the school’s location. Since it was founded in 1974, it has had four homes. “We started at Frisch until they moved,” Mr. Nagler said. “Then we were at the Bergen Community College-Hackensack campus, and then at Ma’ayanot. We’re at Moriah in Englewood now, though our offices are in the Temple Israel basement in Ridgewood.”

When members of the community — including former ADL head Abe Foxman, Mr. Nagler said — decided to get a school together, Mr. Nagler was a teacher at Temple Israel, tutoring a handful of post-bar-mitzvah-age students. The regional school — bringing together teenagers from local congregations — started with 160 kids the first year, “but by 1982 the population dwindled to less than 30, and it contemplated closing,” he said. By then, Mr. Nagler was principal of Temple Israel’s school, but it was clear that the synagogue no longer could afford to maintain that position.

“So we made a shidduch,” he said. “If BCHSJS opened, I would be principal.” It did open, and he remained principal for 28 years. It was a good run, but eventually he tired of it, handing the reins over to principal Bess Adler in 2010.

“I left and taught at Bergen Community College for five years,” Mr. Nagler said. “I was semi-retired when Bess left in February. They needed someone who knew the school to finish the year. I said I would do it until the summer. I wanted to go back to college, but they couldn’t find anyone.

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“And I’m still here.”

The school lucked out. According to a recent statement, “In contrast to national trends … 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.”

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Citing a 2013 report in e-jewishphilanthropy noting that “the number of teens in supplemental Jewish schools is at a dangerously low level,” the BCHSJS statement went on to say that “While significant in and of itself, it is particularly notable in light of enrollment declines in other post bar/bat mitzvah Jewish educational programs.”

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“We are pleased and grateful for this increase in our student body, but it doesn’t come as a surprise,” Mr. Nagler said. “BCHSJS is designed to be relevant to Jewish young people, and they have become some of the best ambassadors to attract other students.” Students come from all over Bergen County — and, Mr. Nagler added, others come from New Rochelle, Pearl River, Princeton, and New York City.

Mr. Nagler attributes much of the school’s success to “fantastic teachers. All have at one time, or still do, hold full-time positions as teachers. They’re all experts in what they’re teaching and love to be with teens.” Most schools, he said, look for the best teachers and say, “‘Here’s the curriculum.’ I sit down with each teacher and say, ‘What’s your passion? What’s your expertise?’ They teach what they want, and the students can choose what they want to study as an elective.”

“We combine everything,” he said, adding that most other programs are either completely academic or are structured to mimic youth groups. Every Sunday morning, BCHSJS students attend three 50-minute classes. In addition, community service opportunities are offered throughout the year. “We have four major collection drives — school supplies for Mitzvah Day, a Chanukah gift drive, a clothing drive for Yad Leah, and Passover food for Tomchei Shabbos,” Mr. Nagler said. “Students volunteer in New Orleans with Habitat and at the Daughters of Miriam. There are many opportunities to learn and to do.”

Those are the educational and community service components of the school’s program. “The third part is purely social,” Mr. Nagler said. “Students socialize with other Jewish kids. The first day for eighth graders, we take them bowling. The teachers come too, to meet their kids. This October we went to an escape room, where people work together to solve a problem.” Students also have gone to see “Fiddler on the Roof” and visited Six Flags Great Adventure. Twice a year, the school arranges a Shabbaton.

The school also offers a young leadership class, a program of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. High school sophomores and juniors — mostly from BCHSJS but from other schools as well — have the opportunity to establish relationships with Israeli students via Skype and participate in educational discussions. In addition to learning leadership skills, they also get to host their Israeli counterparts when they visit the United States, and they may participate in a trip to Israel.

The program has other benefits as well, Mr. Nagler said. 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. The school sends transcripts to colleges. “It’s impressive to a college,” he said. “It’s a co-curricular activity. They may have done well in public school, but they’ve also come on Sunday mornings.”

And why does this all work? “We’re pluralistic,” Mr. Nagler said. “We’re open for everybody — Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, Orthodox, or non-affiliated. We’re a true melting pot, a model for the community. Most students don’t know each other’s affiliation.” (As it happens, most of the school’s students are Conservative, and a large number of them come from Fair Lawn.)

“Putting all of this together makes a community for Jewish teens and a safe place for them to be, to feel comfortable, and to give their own opinion,” Mr. Nagler concluded. “That’s why they stay.”

Eve Bolkin of Tenafly, whose 17-year-old daughter Camryn, a senior at Tenafly High School, has attended BCHSJS for four years, said, “I was lucky to find out about it. Our own synagogue has a program, but not one she found challenging enough.” In fact, she said, she would have sent her older daughter as well if she had known about it then.

BCHSJS “offers many different things for different students,” Ms. Bolkin said. “I love that they offer classes that are really intellectually stimulating. She has found a number of teachers — especially one or two — that she loves, and she follows them.”

One of her daughter’s favorites is “a kind of philosophy class. It’s very engaging and she learns something every time she goes. She has a taste of what it must be like in college.” Indeed, last year, Camryn chose to take one class for college credit.

While her daughter has made a number of friends at the school, what she really loves are the classes, Ms. Bolkin said. “They learn a lot about the Jewish point of view on a particular issue” and how the secular world views it as well. “It always circles back to how it impacts us as Jews.”

Ms. Bolkin acknowledged that Camryn’s attendance at the school “was not posed as a question: ‘Do you want to go?’’’ Rather, given her mother’s belief in the importance of post b’nai mitzvah education, “It was, ‘You are doing it. Which program do you want to go to?’

“As a parent, I’m committed to her learning more about Judaism,” she said, adding that she would warmly encourage other parents to send their children to a post-bar/bat mitzvah program. “Some parents are far too passive about this,” she said. “The whole point of a bar mitzvah is that it begins education and learning.” If you don’t provide education after that, “the kid doesn’t know what being Jewish is.”

But in addition, she said, “beyond whether it helps a kid feel more connected, it makes the kid a more interesting child. You are learning an awful lot about the world, more than you do just in high school. You’re becoming a more well-rounded, interesting human being.”

Sima and Stuart Alper of Fair Lawn also are strong believers in continuing Jewish education. One of their children, now in college, attended BCHSJS, while their son, Adam, a junior in high school, has been at the Jewish regional school for four years.

“There really was no other option,” the Alpers said. “As Conservative Jews, we wanted to follow through on giving them a Jewish education. Both of our children were losing touch with their Hebrew school friends. We wanted them to keep a Jewish connection and get something out of the courses.

“We feel that it’s very important, whether they know it or not. They gain something from it. They develop a common bond that will probably be more meaningful when they’re older. They’ll appreciate it more as they mature.”

Also, they said, when it came to college applications, having both the leadership training and the experience of attending an extra-curricular program “showed the colleges their commitment. It made a difference.”

Jessica Baer, a senior at Fair Lawn High School, has attended BCHSJS since eighth grade. Her older sister went there as well.

“I love the opportunity to be there,” Jessica said. Pre-bat mitzvah education “gives you a baseline, but doesn’t allow you to look at Judaism from different angles. At BCHSJS you can take different classes based on interests outside of Judaism and tie them in.” For example, she said, you can look at the issue of medical ethics through the lens of the Talmud. “We’re looking at medical ethics and seeing how Judaism responds to them,” she said.

As a student interested in social action, Jessica said, “there are amazing opportunities outside of class,” such as working with Habitat in New Orleans, studying leadership skills, and going to Israel. “I do a lot of community service outside school,” she said. “When I do it with the school, it gives a different perspective.

“I’ve encouraged all my cousins to go,” she said. “I tell them that it gives you a different perspective, challenges your views, and provides a lot of Jewish role models. You pick your classes based on the teacher — you find your favorite teacher and end up following them. They’re not hiding in the classroom; they want to interact. It’s an amazing environment.”

For more information about the school, go to www.bchsjs.org.

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Miracles Happen http://bchsjs.org/2016/12/20/miracles-happen-final/ Tue, 20 Dec 2016 20:58:00 +0000 http://bchsjs.org/?p=5576 We are in a period of profound change, and with change can come uncertainty, unrest and fear. How fortunate we are to be Jewish! During this time of year, when the days are short and darkness comes early, we Jews do something simple, strong and sure: we come home each […]

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We are in a period of profound change, and with change can come uncertainty, unrest and fear. How fortunate we are to be Jewish! During this time of year, when the days are short and darkness comes early, we Jews do something simple, strong and sure: we come home each night and light candles on the family menorah. With this simple act, we illuminate the darkness by reflecting on a time in our history when good triumphed over evil.

 

Chanukah is a time to think of miracles – of one night’s worth of holy oil lasting eight. Eight nights is a miracle, but at BCHSJS, we experience miracles every Sunday morning, with students from eighth grade through senior year coming together to discover what it means to be Jewish.

 

This year, we are blessed to be 121 students strong. That’s 121 teenagers of all denominations (including non-affiliated) from throughout Bergen County discovering what it means to be Jewish. For many of these students, BCHSJS is the only place where they get to be with other Jewish teens, many of whom become friends for life.

 

Every night of Chanukah we use the Shamash candle in the center of the menorah to light the others, one by one. It is through our commitment to giving back, which we do by example and by providing numerous opportunities in the community, that our students themselves become Shamash candles, bringing small miracles to those who need them the most. At BCHSJS we take community service, or Tikkun Olam, very seriously. It is a core part of our curriculum and we have a host of activities students can participate in to help “repair the world.” The teachers and staff at BCHSJS are also like the Shamash, touching each one of our students with wisdom, knowledge and pride to help them go forth into the world as strong Jewish individuals.

 

So, as we light the candles on our menorahs, we offer this Chanukah blessing for miracles that happened centuries ago, and for miracles that we can make happen today:

 

Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.

 

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Jewish High School In Englewood Grows, Bucking Trend http://bchsjs.org/2016/12/02/jewish-high-school-englewood-grows-bucking-trend/ Fri, 02 Dec 2016 18:40:49 +0000 http://bchsjs.org/?p=5570   ENGLEWOOD, N.J. — Rachel Naparstek, an Israeli soldier, told 121 students at the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies in Englewood: “They sell ‘Mein Kampf’ at every street corner in Cairo.” She spoke about having to hide her Jewish identity there. For the first time in her life. […]

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ENGLEWOOD, N.J. — Rachel Naparstek, an Israeli soldier, told 121 students at the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies in Englewood: “They sell ‘Mein Kampf’ at every street corner in Cairo.”

She spoke about having to hide her Jewish identity there. For the first time in her life.

“I had to protect myself,” she told the Sunday assembly.

Her talk brought the students face to face with the reality of the Jewish experience in the modern world.

So do all the classes at the high school, a five-year program based in Ridgewood that meets at The Moriah School in Englewood.

The school, formed in 1973, is bucking the national trend of declining enrollment at Jewish high school programs.

In Bergen, enrollment has risen 46 percent over the last year.

Students come to the school from all over the county though a third are from Fair Lawn, home to a large Russian Jewish population.

They take classes with titles such as “Facing History,” “It Always Sounds Better in Yiddish” and “Deadly Conflicts in the Bible.”

Then there’s “Netflix and Jews II” and “Muggles, Magic, and Matzah Balls,” which is about Judaism meeting Harry Potter.

“Because of this place, I really love being Jewish,” said Cameryn Bolkin of Tenafly, “and I love being able to say I’m a Jew and I believe in the Jewish philosophies.”

She didn’t feel the same about Hebrew school when she was younger. To hear her tell it, the place just about put her to sleep.

But she, and other students, agree that the Bergen County School of Jewish Studies rocks. It’s relevant, cool, and interactive, they say, and the faculty can’t be beat.

Why?

Students are quick to answer that it’s the new principal: Fred Nagler of Teaneck, a longtime mathematics teacher and Hebrew school administrator.

Nagler’s formula is simple: he hires highly qualified teachers and asks them what they’re passionate about teaching.

“The magic is that students choose the classes they’re interested in,” he said. “Teachers choose what they’re interested in, and wow.”

In addition to stimulating classwork, students say the school helps them make new friends as they learn about their culture.

“Because we’re pluralistic, you can be in class with people who are much more observant and people who are non-believing,” said David Stack of Franklin Lakes, who attends with his twin brother, Walter.

He said the classes center on what concerns them all: the Jewish value system in the modern world.

Ben London of Washington Township appreciates the opportunities outside the classrooms, too.

Two years ago, as part of the youth leadership program, he went to Israel on an exchange program.

“I’m still in touch with people I met in that program,” he said. “When I go to Israel, I stay in people’s homes and when they come here, they stay at my house.”

For more information on the school, write Nagler at principal@bchsjs.org.

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Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies Reports 45.8 Percent Enrollment Increase http://bchsjs.org/2016/12/02/bergen-county-high-school-jewish-studies-reports-45-8-percent-enrollment-increase/ Fri, 02 Dec 2016 18:39:04 +0000 http://bchsjs.org/?p=5568 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 […]

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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.

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