I am very pleased and honored to share some of the highlights of my first year as Education Director at TBS.
Our enrollment has held steady at approximately 20 families with 40 children in grades preK-8. We have welcomed some new faces, and said goodbye to a couple of families this year, as is typical in our mobile society. Our fees were unchanged from previous years.
We welcomed a new teacher, and one returning after several years, this year. Madison Kalson is a student at Kent State University. She is from Pittsburgh, where she was an assistant teacher in her home congregation. She has been a "floater" this year: covering absences and working with Ms. Jean in the Mechina class so that we can provide more differentiated instruction in grades K-2.
Oudi Singer has returned to TBS in several roles: he taught midweek beginner Hebrew this year, and also worked with Stefani to develop our new "Gesher" (bridge, in Hebrew) lunch-and-learn class for post-b'nai mitzvah middle school students. Students in grades 7-8 studied modern conversational Hebrew and issues in Jewish Identity, including attending the citywide "Members of the Tribe" retreat this fall.
Which brings us to perhaps our most exciting news of the year: we now have an official NFTY-affiliated youth group! We received a Youth Subvention Grant from the JECC to re-hire Oudi as Youth Advisor, and HuBSTY (Hudson Beth Shalom Temple Youth) was launched this fall with 8 members in grades 7-8 and two 12th-grade assistant advisors. Oudi has been working closely with other NFTY leaders in our region, as well as with Amnon Ophir from @Akiva and the Israel ShinShin program, in order to connect our teens to others in Cleveland, NEL (our NFTY region, which encompasses Northeastern Ohio, Northwestern Pennsylvania and New York, and Southern Ontario), and beyond. We sent 6 students to NFTY-NEL Winter Camp this year, held our own overnight Shabbaton this spring, and look forward to building and strengthening our bonds with other Jewish teens.
We also received a grant from Federation to expand programming on the other end of the school age spectrum: a "Shoresh" early childhood grant enabled us to enhance our Tot Shabbat programs with family dinners twice this year: one in the winter, and one at Purim. We have also received a Shoresh grant to initiate a new "TBS Tots Around Town" playgroup-style program, in partnership with PJ Library, which will meet approximately bi-monthly in the coming year. At our first event, "Pre-Pesach PJ Library Party at Pump it Up," we had 7 families with Jewish children ages 5 and under attend, including 4 new families! We look forward to making lots of new Jewish friends with these free, low-barrier, community-based events.
Lest we think that the kids in the middle were left out, we had two great Retreat Institute partnership programs this year for our school: a fall field trip to the Akron Zoo, where we learned about the story of Noah and the mitzvah of taking care of animals; and a winter Tu B'Shevat Seder, where we created a beautiful wall hanging for our social hall, and raised funds to plant a ring of 18 trees in Israel in honor of TBS' 36th Anniversary, while learning about the New Year for the Trees. We also had a very special family program with The Bible Players, a Torah Comedy Duo from New York, thanks to the JECC's Congregational Enrichment Fund.
Even apart from grant-funded programming, we have had a full and rich year of learning. Our students have studied Hebrew, T'fillah (which, thanks to a donation from Robin & Jonathan Selinger, we now project onto a screen for ease in following along), Holidays, Life Cycle, Ethics, and many other important topics. We have had special workshops with Rabbi Shmuli from Living Legacy about Hanukkah, Havdallah and Torah Writing. We have celebrated Sukkot, Hannukkah ("Thanksgivukkah" this year), Purim, and Pesach with school-wide programs. We have made challah and matzoh ball soup while learning about Shabbat with special guest Ms. Ilene. And we have sung, learned, prayed -- and played -- together. Perhaps most importantly, our students -- and their families -- have made Jewish friends and built strong Jewish identities. Many of our students will attend Jewish summer camp this year, about which we are very excited.
We are looking forward to another great year. The new year will bring some more changes and growth, as we move from strength to strength. We are pleased about our progress and excited about the future!