2016-02-03 / Home

Kellman Brown Academy announces change in its status

By DAVID PORTNOE
Voice Editor


At Kellman Brown Academy’s community meeting celebrating its new status as a Jewish Community Day School were (from left), Randy Friedman, KBA board member; Dr. Cindi Hasit, KBA president; Emily Cook, principal and acting head of school; and Rabbi Michah Liben, director of Jewish life and learning. At Kellman Brown Academy’s community meeting celebrating its new status as a Jewish Community Day School were (from left), Randy Friedman, KBA board member; Dr. Cindi Hasit, KBA president; Emily Cook, principal and acting head of school; and Rabbi Michah Liben, director of Jewish life and learning. The leadership of Kellman Brown Academy has announced that the day school in Voorhees will be shifting its status from a Solomon Schechter Day School affiliated with the Conservative movement to a Jewish Community Day School. The change, announced at a gathering of leadership, parents, and staff on Jan. 26 at the school, will better position the school to boost enrollment, which currently stands at 190 in pre-school through eighth grade.

Principal and Acting Head of School Emily Cook, interviewed prior to the community meeting, said that the school has always had a diverse Jewish population reflective of the Southern New Jersey Jewish community. She noted that there are students from every local synagogue—as well as from unaffiliated families— and from every denomination on the Jewish religious spectrum. “This will broaden our tent and let the community know more precisely and recognize us as a community day school for all Jewish families,” said Cook, who noted that it is an exciting time for KBA. She added that everything that people know and love about KBA would continue, including its warm and welcoming environment and its high level of Judaic and general studies.

Dr. Cindi Hasit, KBA board president, said that the process of becoming a Jewish Community Day School began in 2014. She expressed gratitude to the KBA leadership, donors, the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, teachers, the Tri-County Board of Rabbis, and others for supporting the school. “We are strengthened by our community and KBA strengthens our community,” she said. Hasit noted that KBA is open to all students of all backgrounds with at least one Jewish parent.

The change in status for Kellman Brown comes at a time of change in the day school movement nationally. Recently, five North American Jewish day school organizations representing Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and communal schools announced that they would be merging. The Jewish Community Day School Network, or RAVSAK, the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, or PEJE, Yeshiva University School Partnership, the Schechter Day School Network, and Day Schools of Reform Judaism, or PARDES, said in a news release that they have agreed to “move forward towards the formation of a new, integrated North American Jewish day school organization.”

Steven Sietz, a KBA parent and member of Temple Beth Sholom, said that he thought KBA’s plan was a good one. “It is getting out the message of how inclusive we are,” said the Mount Laurel resident. He added that if you can get someone to walk into the school, they would be won over.

Rabbi Michah Liben, KBA’s director of Jewish life and learning, addressed some of the curricular and other concerns parents might have. He said that the school calendar will stay the same, with two days observed for all holidays that currently observe two days, and that davening will continue to talk place every day with a school-wide liturgy. Students will be free to daven from a Siddur of their choosing. Different liturgies will be explored in-depth in the classroom and more community rabbis would visit for Kabbalat Shabbat and classroom studies. Kosher food will continue to be served at an approved level of certification. “Teachers will continue to present Jewish practice and customs in a way that acknowledges and respects a range of practices,” said Liben.

During a question-and-answer session at the conclusion of the event, Randy Friedman, a board member who moderated the Q&A, noted that what KBA was undertaking would be “a living, breathing process that will evolve.” .

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