Behind the walls of an unassuming single-story building on Robertson Blvd, you will find dozens of smiling faces and hear the sounds of young children engrossed in learning. Listen a little closer and you will uncover a world filled with Hebrew alphabet, davening and Torah study. It is the new Nagel Jewish Academy, NJA, a unique Jewish educational program based on the philosophy “Jewish education for every Jewish child.”
The afternoon program opened its doors for the first time this month, offering after-school classes for Jewish children, between the ages of 5 and 10, who do not currently attend a Jewish day school. It began with a mere twenty students enrolled, but the popularity of the program has seen it grow to more than eighty students in a matter of weeks. Director of NJA, Mrs. Chana Leah Margolis, believes that the school will continue to grow, “Private school tuition in Los Angeles has skyrocketed out of control. It is only a matter of time before the majority of students in the local public school system are Jewish, creating an even greater need for a Jewish after-school program.”
NJA, which is free of charge and accepts all Jewish children regardless of religious affiliation or background, is making Jewish education easily accessible to all. The teaching staff at NJA aims to cater to each student’s individual needs and abilities, ensuring that each child receives a Jewish education equal to that of Jewish day schools.
A teacher at the school recalls that one particular student had been having a hard time settling down, so she had taken him out of class for a one-on-one davening session. The student, despite growing up in a religious home, was only able to remember the tune to the Aleinu prayer but he was unfamiliar with the actual words. After a few days of tutoring the student had grasped all the words and in his excitement he exclaimed, “I can’t wait to go to Shul on Shabbos and say Aleinu!”
Although the school year has just begun and classes have not been in session for long, teachers have worked hard to provide students with a complete High Holiday learning experience. Over the past few weeks, students have delighted in learning about the Jewish month of Elul, while creating and designing their own crowns in keeping with the theme, “the king is in the field.” In the lead up to Rosh Hashanah, students enjoyed baking their own holiday delicacies and were given the opportunity to take home their own shofar created by the visiting shofar factory.
One of the goals of NJA is to make Jewish learning fun. It is imperative that in this day and age children are presented with a positive experience and encouraged to have a positive attitude towards Judaism. Mrs. Margolis describes how a young student approached her after class one afternoon asking if he could possibly have his own pair of tzitzit. It is this enthusiasm that is spreading throughout the Los Angeles Jewish community and encouraging other parents to send their children to NJA. Parents are rearranging schedules and driving an hour from the valley to ensure their child attends NJA. Although the school year has already begun, the school has been inundated with applications and calls from interested parents. It has therefore become evident that additional locations are needed to cater for all the extra students. The current location is fully sponsored, but the NJA administration is looking for further sponsorship that will allow them to open at other locations.
For more information or to register, Mrs. Margolis can be contacted at 310-883-4490 or firstname.lastname@example.org.