February 28, 2008
L.A.‘s Jewish high schools are all over the map
(Page 4 - Previous Page)While many parents still send their boys away, others have found that out-of-town experience closer to home.
Mesivta of Greater Los Angeles, a boarding school on a scenic 8.5 acres in Calabasas, opened 11 years ago and today has 61 students, mostly from California but also from such yeshiva-rich areas as Monsey and Brooklyn, as well.
"It's an intense place with a lot of warmth. Usually those two things don't mix," founding principal Rabbi Shlomo Gottesman said.
This month, the school will dedicate its second building -- a dining hall -- and has plans for new dorms, staff residences, a library and a gym.
Another 150 boys are at Yeshiva Ohr Elchanon Chabad, and 90 girls at Bais Chana, both high schools of the Chabad movement. The schools serve mostly the children of Chabad rabbis from around California, and have dorms to accommodate students from as far away as Australia. The accredited schools are looked at as a training ground for future Chabad service, from teaching in Chabad schools to building Jewish outposts in remote communities, according to Rabbi Aron Begun, who has been head of the girls school since it opened in 1996. Bais Chana is finishing up plans to begin work on a new facility on Pico Boulevard, just across the street from the elementary and preschool building.
A few blocks away, Ohr Haemet, with 44 girls, offers an intimate environment where students get individualized attention.
Still, some students don't feel right in any of these schools. The Hancock Park-based organization, Aish Tamid, opened Pardes Academy for boys, an outdoor experience/Torah study/high school diploma option near the Grove.
The program started with seven boys last year and has 14 this year. Pardes has a social worker on staff and has contracted out with an educational service to teach classes and guide the kids through a course of independent study toward earning an LAUSD diploma or a high school equivalency exam.
"These kids need smaller classrooms, more individualized attention, and a personal rebbe or counselor they can talk to," founder Avi Lebovic said.
Pardes is attracting students from Orthodox elementary schools across the spectrum.
Like other schools that have arisen to fill in gaps -- whether on the Orthodox spectrum, or among community schools -- Pardes is pushing aside long-held denominational boundaries in favor of a clearly defined educational approach that appeals to specific student needs.
And that, says Elkin of the umbrella organization PEJE, is how competition leads to a more robust community of students.
"Schools have to find what they are, and they have to embrace a mission and promulgate that mission, making sure they are getting their message out very clearly," Elkin said. "Having options encourages -- and in some cases forces -- everyone to sharpen their blades.
For more information on any of these schools contact the Bureau of Jewish Education's Concierges for Jewish Education at (323) 761-8616 or (818) 464-3391.