The motto of the Rachela Silber Perutz Etz Jacob Hebrew Academy is, “where no Jewish child is left behind.” The teachers and staff at Etz Jacob get to know the child, determine their strengths and weaknesses, and use their unique talents to their advantage. “We channel the child’s difficulties to utilize their potential to the fullest,” says Rabbi Harrosh.
The school has many successful stories as evidenced by the praise showered upon the school by the grateful parents. “It’s been a wonderful experience,” says Chana Bemel. “Smaller classes enable the school to tailor educational curriculum to address my daughter’s needs and to nurture her artistic and creative side.” The school strives to give each child individual attention, providing extra tutoring for children who are either above or below their grade level. Chana Bemel says that when her daughter felt she wasn’t adequately challenged the teachers would take her out of class and work with her individually. “She was learning, but she thought she was having fun,” says Bemel.
Children with some challenges are given the support they need in order to succeed at school. Danielle M.’s son has a medical condition that causes him to use the bathroom frequently and urgently. Danielle brought a letter from his doctor to his previous school, asking them to accommodate her child. The previous school was unable to handle the situation, and her son was stressed and anxious. Danielle felt she had no choice but to take him out of that school. When she approached Rabbi Harrosh with the doctor’s letter his immediate response was, “To alleviate his anxiety we will give him his own restroom” He suggested that the boy decorate the bathroom the way he likes and keep his things there so he’d feel at home. “I had tears in my eyes,” says Danielle. “He healed my child. It was exactly what the doctor prescribed.”
The mother of an autistic child says that they had no expectations from Etz Jacob other than providing their son with a frum environment. “He had an amazing teacher,” she says, “who understood him and knew how to deal with him. He learned how to read, both Hebrew and English. Every day she spent at least an hour with him one on one. He loved her.”
The teachers at Etz Jacob are experienced and very dedicated. “They go above and beyond the call of duty,” says Rabbi Harrosh. “It takes a lot of work. It’s avodat kodesh.” Bemel adds, “I am impressed with how they do so much with so little resources.”
The school is known for its inclusive and warm atmosphere. “Rabbi Harrosh sees every Jew as a Jew, period,” says Danielle. “There is no division. He treats every neshama with love and tremendous compassion.”
Never one to rest on its laurels, Etz Jacob seeks to provide even more to its students. This year, the school hired a new Resource Room Director, Michele A. Bennett, who has thirty five years of experience working with students with different learning styles. In the beginning of the year, Ms. Bennett tested every single child in the school to determine their strengths and weaknesses and to put together an individualized educational plan for every student.
Ms. Bennett explains that while the curriculum at Etz Jacob is based on the Common Core standards, there are many ways to teach the same material that address various learning styles.
Ms. Bennet is also trained in the latest educational techniques based on the principles of plasticity of the brain. She explains that sometimes, due to their circumstances, a child is not able to acquire the foundation necessary for learning in their early years. With the newest techniques, Ms. Bennett helps the child fill the holes by developing new neural pathways in the brain. “When we repair the foundation we build a taller wall, a much more ornate building,” says Ms. Bennett.