Saturday, September 21, 2019

Ramat Gan—Five New York and New Jersey Jewish day schools are implementing Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy’s (LVJA) courses to connect middle and high school students to substantive Jewish learning beyond the classroom walls. With LVJA, these schools are differentiating and individualizing instruction, offering a greatly expanded Judaic studies course catalog and allocating resources responsibly. Today, LVJA, a project of Bar Ilan University’s Lookstein Center for Jewish Education, was named one of North America’s top 50 innovative Jewish organizations in the 11th annual Slingshot Guide.

The five schools currently on board are Magen David Yeshivah High School (Brooklyn, New York), Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School (Livingston, New Jersey), Westchester Day School (Mamaroneck, New York), Yavneh Academy (Paramus, New Jersey) and Yeshivat Noam (Paramus, New Jersey).

“Magen David Yeshivah High School is proud to have partnered with LVJA for the last three years. The curriculum is challenging, the study guide is interesting and our students are motivated. But, it’s the 21st-century skills that drew us in. My students develop concise ideas to post on an online discussion board, they collaborate to create powerpoint presentations on major events in Jewish history and they meet with peers who are scattered across the country during the live sessions. Plus, learning with Mrs. Zudick, who is based in Israel, has provided my students with a greater connection to the Jewish state. Despite the distance, my students really built a bond with her. They appreciate her feedback on their work, they are motivated to improve their writing and they are proud when she acknowledges their efforts,” said Audrey Abade, Jewish History Department Chair. “Overall, I have seen major improvements in their writing, their critical thinking and their self-reflection. But, most importantly, through learning the history of our people in an interesting and collaborative way, my students are becoming more connected to the Jewish past and more committed to the Jewish future,” she added.

“Westchester Day School has found a wonderful partner in the LVJA in making long distance learning for Judaic studies a reality. Whether it be piloting full grade-level courses or providing enrichment opportunities for students who yearn for extra learning, the educators at the LVJA have been there every step of the way to support our needs. The professional team has designed captivating lessons and curricula. They have hired dynamic teachers and follow through to ensure that every student is successful. Our students are learning how to harness the power of the Internet to master Torah concepts and are making friends throughout the country through the carefully constructed cohorts. And all of this has been made available within our budget. Long-distance learning is now a cogent educational option,” said Rabbi Stephen Knapp, Assistant Principal.​

The online curriculum is designed to support both community and Orthodox schools, as well as the multiple academic levels of students. LVJA has already worked with 700 students in 50 schools in Toronto, California, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and many other states across North America in grades 6-12. Participants span multiple locations across the country and work in synchronicity (or not), independently or collaboratively. Whatever a student’s course of study, LVJA works closely with schools to ensure that their needs are being met and to support them through their instruction.

Selected from among hundreds of finalists reviewed by 93 professionals with expertise in grant-making and Jewish communal life, the guide called Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy “a leader in educational circles,” and continued, “it is using technology in the best way possible: to ignite positive educational change that is widely accessible.” Organizations included in this year’s guide were evaluated on their innovative approach, the impact they have in their work, the leadership they have in their sector and their effectiveness at achieving results.

“Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy is honored and inspired to be selected for this year’s Slingshot Guide and recognized as one of the most innovative Jewish organizations in America today,” said Chana German, director of Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy. “Our team has demonstrated that innovation, passion and perseverance can be transformative in the Jewish educational landscape. We are thankful to Slingshot, and thrilled to be joining a growing network of organizations that are deeply committed to innovation and bettering the Jewish community.

LVJA is supported by The Avi Chai Foundation, The Kohelet Foundation and The William Davidson Foundation, with additional support from The Joshua Venture Group.

About the Slingshot Guide

The Slingshot Guide, now in its 11th year, was created by a team of young funders as a guidebook to help funders of all ages diversify their giving portfolios to include the most innovative and effective organizations, programs and projects in North America. The guide contains information about each organization’s origin, mission, strategy, impact and budget, as well as details about its unique character. The Slingshot Guide has become a go-to resource for volunteers, activists and donors looking for new opportunities and projects that, through their innovative nature, will ensure the Jewish community remains relevant and thriving. The book, published annually, is available in hard copy and as a free download at http://www.slingshotfund.org.

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