September 20, 2007
Hebrew at Florida charter school approved, challenges remain
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Anat Solarzano, a Hallandale Beach mother of two whose 6-year-old daughter, Liv Naomi, is a first-grader at Ben Gamla, said she literally had tears in her eyes when she heard about the school.
"I believe in the public school system," said Solarzano, who was born and raised in the Israeli resort town of Netanya. She is married to a Spanish-speaking, non-Jewish man from Cuba. At home, however, the couple speaks only English with the children.
"I'm Israeli, but I never really wanted to put my kids in a religious school," she said. "That's what I like about Ben Gamla. It's not a Jewish school, though I want my daughter to speak Hebrew. The fact she can learn Hebrew here makes it the best of both worlds."
Not according to some day-school boosters.
Nancy Pryzant Picus, president of the Progressive Association of Reform Day Schools, told The Jewish Week of New York that she has "tremendous concerns" about charter schools like Ben Gamla, which is using exclusively public money.
"Since these schools are free, they will affect all of our day schools, and we have four in South Florida," she told the newspaper.
Tuffs says that his church-state concerns regarding the school are being addressed, but he still thinks Ben Gamla's creation is unfortunate.
"What's really a shame here is that about 200 children have left area day schools for Ben Gamla. What they are going to receive at Ben Gamla is a Hebrew education devoid of Judaism," he said. "I think that's a net loss because the Jewish day schools are designed to give Jewish children a foundation in both Hebrew and Judaism."
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