Back to School | Local

With new programs and staff, local Jewish schools ready to kick off a new year

School days are right around the corner, and community students have much to look forward to in the new school year.

Tucson Hebrew Academy students will notice physical changes from the outside to the inside for the school’s 45th anniversary. Refreshing the building exterior, water fountains and restrooms is just the beginning. Solar energy is a new addition, bringing green energy to the school and community. An overhaul of the stage is under way. Teachers and staff have taken advantage of professional development opportunities as they prepare to welcome new faculty members (look for details on new staff in the Aug. 17 issue). (Phone: 529-3888)

Congregation Chaverim will begin the new school year with a new education director, Elysa Ginsburg, and an updated curriculum. Ginsburg served as principal for Tucson Hebrew High for close to seven years. She is also involved in teaching equine-facilitated experiential work, which focuses on being fully present in the moment, learning healthy boundaries, and non-predatory, more conscious ways of interacting with others. She looks forward to sharing these insights with students and staff. Beit midrash classes are held every other Sunday, beginning Aug. 12, for preschool through eighth grade, with weekly Monday Hebrew classes beginning Aug. 13 for first through eighth grade. (Phone: 320-1015)

Temple Emanu-El’s Strauss ECE and Kindergarten begins its fall session Thursday, Aug. 2 with an additional pre-kindergarten class. Temple’s Kurn Religious School will celebrate the return to Hebrew studies with a Hebrew Carnival and light breakfast for grades 4 -7 on Sunday, Aug. 12. The expanded Hebrew@Home program allows those students unable to come to Hebrew school on Tuesdays to join their classmates virtually. Hands-on learning on Sundays will include creating special foods for Jewish holidays, along with Israeli dance, music and art. (Phone: 327-4501)

Congregation Or Chadash Religious School and Temple Emanu-El will collaborate this year for a joint eighth-grade program, including social action activities and field trips to various religious worship locations. The shinshiniyot (teen volunteers from Israel) will teach conversational Modern Hebrew, focusing on topics interesting to teenagers. At the end of May 2019, the program will culminate with a trip to “Jewish” Los Angeles. Additionally, Or Chadash middle- and high school-aged students can now participate in Temple Emanu-El’s JCTEY youth group. (Contact Rina Liebeskind at, phone: 900-7030.)

Congregation Bet Shalom will offer free virtual religious school on Wednesdays, from Aug. 15. The remote sessions for children, facilitated by Rabbi Avraham Alpert, will focus on Hebrew reading and comprehension, delving into Jewish history, heritage, mitzvot and customs.
Registration is open at (Phone: 577-1171)

Congregation Anshei Israel’s Preschool/Kindergarten welcomes incoming director Nancy Auslander, who replaces Lynne Falkow-Strauss after 47 years. Auslander, who was a part of the preschool/kindergarten staff from 2001-2009, starting as part-time teacher assistant and later serving as education assistant, returns to CAI after holding positions in marketing, sales and customer service. CAI will hold a welcome back event for the preschool Sunday, Aug. 19, 5-6:30 p.m.

Madrichim (student leaders) in CAI’s Religious School will continue internships throughout the synagogue, and a new program will offer a professional development track for four senior madrichim. Kim Spitzer, kindergarten and first grade teacher, is back from the school twinning fellowship trip to Israel,  where she visited the teacher and students with whom CAI is twinned — a relationship that will allow deeper connections between students. Milena Starobinskaya, second and third grade teacher, will attend the New CAJE conference in Connecticut this summer, and Alexa Schnaid, a senior at the University of Arizona majoring in education and Jewish studies, will be the new fourth grade teacher. The religious school will welcome parents and students in classes K-6 at 9 a.m., Sunday, Aug. 12. (Phone: 745-5550)

Chabad Oro Valley has renamed its Hebrew school The Pinchas ben Naftali HaLevi Hebrew School, honoring the memory of a congregant’s father who was a Hebrew teacher in Germany. Hebrew school is held on Sundays for children ages 4-12, focusing on Hebrew reading, Jewish history, prayer skills, Jewish holidays and Jewish values.  (Phone: 477-8672)

The Tucson Jewish Community Center’s Early Childhood Education has extended its successful Spanish-language immersion program to include 3-year-olds. Students in the program will get seven hours of Spanish language exposure each day, giving them the opportunity to learn a second language in a way similar to how they learned their first. (Phone: 299-3000)

Tucson Hebrew High Director Rabbi Ruven Barkan took the reins in March, while continuing his position as education and youth director at Congregation Anshei Israel. Hebrew High ninth-grade students will have the privilege of studying with their synagogue rabbi or educator and Rabbi Billy Lewkowicz as they integrate into Hebrew High. Abby Limmer, Ph.D., the new Hebrew coordinator, will implement a new Hebrew curriculum, Ulpan Or. Sarah Artzi and Rabbi Stephanie Aaron will co-teach the Senior Seminar. Jami Gan will support students in how to build a personal relationship with Israel in the face of conflict. Oren Riback will utilize a class to launch an inter-faith/race dialogue. Todd Rockoff, director of the Tucson J, will work with a newly established Va’ad (Hebrew High student leadership council). Hebrew High is forming a new board of directors that includes the synagogues, THA, the U Hillel Foundation, and the Tucson J, which will evaluate the current Hebrew High model. (Phone: 577-9393)

AJP Executive Editor Phyllis Braun contributed to this report.