NCSY’s Torah High, an after-school high school program that offers Jewish students a number of courses accredited by the Ontario Ministry of Education, continues to enjoy a steady increase in enrolment.
Einat Enbar, director of marketing and communications, who was brought on two years ago to help with recruitment, said that last year, enrolment for the program jumped by about 25 per cent to 400 students, and this year, enrolment jumped once again to about 450, with students still signing up for the weekly classes that began Sept. 6.
“We haven’t capped the year yet. We still have a few weeks to go until the end of the October, so students are still coming in,” Enbar said.
She said the supplementary school, targeting Jewish students who are in the public school system, serves students at four locations in the GTA: the Promenade Mall, the Village Shul, the Schwartz/Reisman Centre and the Prosserman JCC.
She said a program like Torah High is seen as a “default” for those who come from the Jewish day school system, but enrol in public high school instead of Jewish high schools, such as the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto, and still want to continue their Jewish education.
In March 2015, TanenbaumCHAT’s head of school Rabbi Lee Buckman told The CJN that enrolment at both campuses was at 1,116, and last May, he reported that combined enrolment was 1,035. This year, it stands at 966.
“When they come to Torah High, they get a great credit, you meet new Jewish friends, parents encourage their kids to come because it helps them keep their Jewish identity, and because at the end of the day, it’s more affordable,” Enbar said.
She said the location at the Thornhill mall has attracted many students from the nearby Westmount Collegiate Institute, which has a large Jewish population, and acts as a feeder school to Torah High’s Promenade location.
“It makes it a very accessible situation for students. They finish school and they walk over to the Promenade and they take their classes there,” she said.
“The fact that we added new courses contributed a lot to higher enrolment,” she said.
She explained that when she joined the Torah High team two years ago, she ran focus groups and conducted market research before coming to the conclusion that it wasn’t enough to offer Jewish studies courses, each of which costs $599.
“We started last year to offer leadership courses, business courses, biology, Israel advocacy, and of course we still kept the track of Jewish studies. We also added sociology, anthropology and psychology courses for Grade 11,” Enbar said.
“We have a business class and they participate in the Jewish Professionals Alliance, which is where kids from different schools across the city meet with Jewish CEOs and are exposed to business networking in Toronto. It’s win-win. They learn about business ethics and how Judaism views ethics.”
Enbar said Torah High combines education with “Jewish identity and being part of a kind of Jewish club. They don’t only come for the Torah High classes. They participate in Shabbatons as well.”
During the weekend before Yom Kippur, Torah High and NCSY organized a Shabbaton in Niagara Falls with a “#sorrynotsorry” theme.
Almost 170 Jewish teens from Thornhill, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa explored “what it really means to ask for forgiveness and the power of the words ‘I’m sorry’” and heard from keynote speaker Saul Blinkoff, an animator and director who has worked on films including Disney’s Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Mulan.
She said Torah High students are also offered a subsidized four-week trip to Israel, which costs about $3,000.