When the fall term begins at Ottawa Talmud Torah in September, the twice-weekly supplementary school will have completed a huge makeover thanks to new leadership, a new curriculum, a new location and a completely new vision.
The Ottawa Talmud Torah board has appointed Eliana Mandel-Carsen as the new school director and has formed an informal partnership with Congregation Machzikei Hadas. The school’s Sunday afternoon classes will take place at the Alta Vista synagogue, while Tuesday afternoon classes will take place at the Ottawa Jewish Community School building.
Students will have the option of attending classes once or twice per week.
Machzikei Hadas Executive Director Rabbi Michael Goldstein sees the new partnership as “a way to breathe new life into the school” as well as facilitate greater community involvement.
Last year, Ottawa Talmud Torah had just 17 students enrolled, but Rabbi Goldstein says he hopes the school’s changes will help attract many of the families whose children are not enrolled in any form of Jewish education.
Rabbi Goldstein called attention to the “dynamic new leadership,” at Ottawa Talmud Torah.
One of the new leaders is board member David Segal, who says he is extremely excited about the changes at Ottawa Talmud Torah.
“We want to be the best and we want to set a standard of excellence. This isn’t just about providing the basics; we want to go above and beyond that,” said Segal, the founder of DAVIDsTEA. “The vision itself is clear, and you have a group of committed, young, energetic people who want to make this happen.”
Segal sees Ottawa Talmud Torah growing into a school with more than 100 students within five years.
Mandel-Carsen also predicted growing enrolment and said that 100 students within three years is “incredibly realistic.”
Mandel-Carsen, who has several years of teaching experience in both Montreal and Ottawa, says the changes in the curriculum are what will really set Ottawa Talmud Torah apart.
The curriculum, she said, will be both “theme-based and cross-curricular,” meaning that each month will revolve around a subject and that subject will then be integrated into different aspects of the coursework for that month.
“We want to make sure that students have a voice and that we’re encouraging critical thinking,” said Mandel-Carson.
“We really want to develop future leaders able to shape their environment while being confident in their Jewish identity.”
Rabbi Idan Scher of Congregation Machzikei Hadas helped design the new curriculum with Mandel-Carsen and said the curriculum is something new and invigorating to Ottawa’s supplementary school scene because it goes beyond the surface level of Jewish practices.
“As a rabbi, my mission is to share a Judaism that will speak to and inspire a new generation of Jews living in the globalized and diverse 21st century,” he said.
“Our goal is to bring a new model of supplementary school to Ottawa based on a thoughtful and relevant curriculum delivered by select teachers who will bring the depth of Judaism to life for the child of today.”
Mandel-Carson stressed that Ottawa Talmud Torah is entirely non-denominational and that she wants the school to be as open and inclusive as possible to families.
“We’re trying to create an integrated, dynamic approach to Jewish education,” she said. “We want everyone to feel welcomed and excited and energized by their Jewish education.”
For more information, visit www.ottas.ca or contact Ottawa Talmud Torah at 343-925-0111.