In an previous brick constructing, on a quiet avenue in Greece, stands a non-public Okay-8 college that the majority locals have by no means heard of, however that through the years has enabled dozens of younger households to maneuver right here and make Rochester their dwelling.
Derech HaTorah of Rochester serves Orthodox Jewish college students by offering a Torah-based schooling in addition to normal research in English language arts, social research, science and math. Based in 2004 with simply 31 college students, the college’s enrollment has grown steadily to 115.
“With out Derech HaTorah, most Orthodox Jewish households wouldn’t transfer right here,” observes Lea Goldstein, principal and founder.
Orthodox Jews adhere strictly to conventional practices similar to kosher dietary legal guidelines, in-depth examine of the Torah, day by day prayers, and gender segregation in lots of settings. They restrict their publicity to standard tradition, so lots of them don’t personal televisions, take heed to mainstream music, or interact in modern-day social occasions. Secular faculties, weekend Hebrew faculties, and even some American Jewish day faculties can’t present the cultural surroundings and non secular schooling that they require.
DHR actively recruits college students by offering tuition reductions for households who transfer right here from different areas, in addition to providing incentives for present households who refer others. Full tuition is $10,000, however households who transfer right here from different areas pay solely $1,000 for the primary two years that their kids attend any of the college’s Okay-3 lessons. At full value, tuition at DHR is about half of what dad and mom pay for related faculties in greater cities.
“We’re wagering,” says Goldstein, “that they’ll actually adore it right here and can put roots down and keep, and that long run will probably be worthwhile—each for the college and for the Larger Rochester group.
When Isaac Kuyunov determined to additional his coaching in dentistry, he “regarded solely at locations that had a stable Jewish group with Jewish faculties. If the DHR college didn’t exist, we’d have most likely not moved right here.”
Kuyunov and his spouse moved right here in 2016 from New York Metropolis. They’ve two kids on the college, and by no means thought of sending them to some other college within the space. Kuyunov is a prosthodontist who treats complicated dental points.
Many DHR households have relocated to Rochester for careers in well being care, however there are additionally artists, writers, lecturers, rabbis, accountants, and enterprise homeowners. Rifka “Emily” Chilungu moved to Rochester from Cleveland, in order that her husband might do a fellowship in scientific neurophysiology right here. After his fellowship, that they had deliberate to return to Cleveland, to a big Orthodox Jewish group, the place that they had many shut associates.
“It didn’t take us lengthy to fall in love with the Rochester group and the area,” Chilungu says.
For the Chilungus, DHR is an integral a part of life. Two of their 4 kids attend the college, and Chilungu helps DHR keep its vegetable and butterfly gardens.
“At DHR, I do know our youngsters are getting not solely a stable Judaic schooling but in addition a top quality secular schooling,” she says. “They’ll thrive within the non secular group and be capable to navigate the secular world as effectively. There’s a superb steadiness.”
Goldstein helped begin Derech HaTorah after educating at Rochester’s Hillel college for 17 years. The Hillel college is a pluralistic Jewish college, catering to households with numerous non secular affiliations and ranges of observance. Goldstein attended the Hillel college herself, and has sturdy connections with the employees. Nonetheless, once they couldn’t adequately serve the Orthodox Jewish households’ wants, she left her place to tackle the position of principal at DHR.
Along with tuition revenue, the college secures donations and leads fundraising campaigns, to make sure that no household is turned away for monetary want.
DHR college students spend half of their day generally research primarily based on New York’s Subsequent Era and Frequent Core requirements. Regardless of the shorter classes, college students at DHR are assembly or exceeding New York State requirements.
“Earlier than the pandemic, our seventh and eighth graders had been taking the highschool Regents exams,” Goldstein says. “Two years in the past, our eighth graders approached me and mentioned that they wished to take the eleventh grade American historical past examination. Their trainer mentioned that they had been prepared. A lot of the college students scored within the mid to excessive 90s.”
Goldstein attributes DHR college students’ success to tradition of scholarship, assist from dad and mom, an absence media distractions at dwelling, and the analytical abilities that the scholars study from their non secular schooling.
“The opposite half of the day, they’re studying the best way to suppose,” she says. “There’s an enormous emphasis in Have interaction New York and Frequent Core on shut studying, which is strictly the ability they use of their Judaic research lessons.”
By fourth or fifth grade, the scholars begin studying the Talmud, a posh textual content of Jewish civil and ritual legislation. In kindergarten, they learn and write in each Hebrew and English.
Goldstein additionally attributes the college’s success to the engagement and enthusiasm of her employees. As a non-public college, DHR has the flexibleness to rent lecturers from everywhere in the nation. Academics have a wide range of backgrounds and credentials, and keep updated with the colleges’ wants with employees improvement coaching. DHR employs a complete of 16 lecturers.
Kathy Clarke began educating at DHR firstly of this college 12 months after a 30-year profession within the Rochester Metropolis College District.
“A number of faculties districts have very prescribed, scripted packages,” Clarke says. “Once I got here right here, it was very open. They instructed me that Iwas the skilled, and that I simply wanted to show my means. Coming to this place made me notice that this is what I used to be meant to do. I’m thrilled each time I are available in. I simply need to be right here.”
Clarke is one of some non-Jewish lecturers on the college, however she feels very a lot part of the heat, household surroundings. Clarke praises her Jewish colleagues; she says they exit of their strategy to make her really feel welcome and clarify customs and celebrations which are unfamiliar to her.
The fee and ease of residing in Rochester prompted Rabbi Yitzi Shulman and his household to contemplate transferring right here from Westchester, but it surely was Derech HaTorah that gave them the means to do it. Shulman’s spouse, who’s licensed in each normal and particular schooling, bought a educating place at DHR. Shulman additionally accepted a job on the college educating Judaic research and math.
The employees at DHR present a nurturing surroundings that caters to every particular person youngster’s wants. Writer Naomi Shulman, the mother or father of a kindergartener at DHR, lived in Florida and Ohio earlier than transferring to New York. She has noticed that in faculties in different communities, kids are anticipated to suit right into a sure position.
“(At DHR) each child is their very own particular person,” she says. “The employees work with dad and mom to search out what works for his or her youngster.”
For her son, that meant having a fidget toy to assist his focus, and further assist in handwriting. For different college students who want further assist, DHR gives occupational remedy, bodily remedy, and speech and language counseling by Catapult, a third-party company that gives Title 1 companies. Catapult additionally offers a faculty counselor for social and emotional assist for the scholars.
Naomi Shulman says the standard of normal schooling, assist companies and non secular schooling has earned Derech HaTorah a popularity amongst Orthodox Jewish communities because the “prime of the highest of the highest.”
When requested why she thought Derech HaTorah is so profitable, Shulman instantly solutions, “Lea Goldstein is presented past gifted. She leads the place with coronary heart and soul.”
Nipa Armbruster has been a designer, martial arts teacher and an lively volunteer in her children’ faculties. She presently writes the weblog https://fashionipa.com.