When I attended Associated Hebrew School, it was discovered that I had a learning disability. The staff at Associated and my parents felt that the only solution would be for me to enrol at She’arim Hebrew Day School (“She’arim parents fear school will close if funding ends,” CJN, Dec. 20). I completed grades 6 and 7 in 1988 and 1989 at She’arim. I was retaught how to learn using cutting-edge strategies that are not used at mainstream schools.
It is often difficult for teachers to identify students who might require a “different” type of instruction in a large class. The She’arim staff was amazing at catering to my personal needs and helping me grow. They helped me to strengthen my ability to learn and to retain information being communicated to me. I returned to the mainstream school system and was very successful in keeping up with the rest of the students. I then attended the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto and graduated with the rest of my classmates.
I have a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from York University and a diploma in human resource management from the Seneca College Business School, and I am now a sales manager at IBM Canada. I have always felt that if it were not for those two years at She’arim, I might not have been able to reach my current level of success.
I would hope that if my one-year-old daughter grows up with similar challenges that she would have the same opportunities available to her as I had. I urge the Toronto community and Mercaz (formerly the Board of Jewish Education) to take action to ensure She’arim receives the funding it requires. Our children’s future education and future careers might depend on it.
From a former She’arim student (2)
Before I was enrolled at She’arim Hebrew Day School, I was having academic difficulty (“She’arim parents fear school will close if funding ends,” CJN, Dec. 20). Taking me out of my classroom for remedial tutoring didn’t accomplish much other than demoralize me and single me out from my peers. My parents hired tutors for me, but that didn’t help, either. My parents asked administrators at the school I was attending for advice, and they were told that I should stay in the school, struggling, and hopefully be able to pull off a pass. At She’arim, however, they saw that I had potential, and in only a little while, I began to see the same thing.
At She’arim, my classmates and I received the individual attention we needed. The teachers at She’arim introduced me to new ways to study and new ways to think. After two years at She’arim, I was accepted in a challenging high school. In my final year, I achieved an average of above 90 per cent in my program, which included three math courses and two science courses – the very subjects that I was failing before attending She’arim. At my high school graduation, I received an award for the highest grades in sciences.
I was offered scholarships at several universities. I chose to study sciences at York University, but after one year, I was accepted into the chiropody program at the Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences. When I graduated, I received a letter from the Michener Institute congratulating me – I had the highest grade point average in my class.
Currently, I operate a business providing chiropody services to nursing and retirement homes.
I have received two old photographs taken in Burzenin, Poland. One picture shows three girls in a garden, one of whom has a Star of David on her dress. Her last name was Galbart. The photograph was reportedly taken during the early stages of the German Nazi occupation of Poland. Ms. Galbart lived on Burzenin’s main street, Koscielna. The other picture, an aerial view of Burzenin, includes the Galbarts’ house, a white-walled building on the right side of the street. A Jewish family by the name of Majloch lived next door to the Galbarts.
Ms. Galbart survived the war and later lived in Toronto. She would be about 80 years old now. If you have any information about her or any relatives who might want to have these photographs, please let me know.
Jewish Earth Day
Many contemporary Jews look on Tu b’Shvat (Jan. 21-22 this year) as a Jewish Earth Day, and use Tu b’Shvat seders as occasions to discuss how Jewish values can be applied to reduce many of today’s environmental threats.
While Judaism teaches that “the Earth is the Lord’s” (Psalms 24:1), and that we are to be partners with God in preserving the environment, there are daily news reports about global warming, water shortages, air and water pollution, rapid extinction of species, and other environmental threats. Tu b’Shvat is the New Year for trees, the date on which the fate of trees is decided for the coming year. Hence, it is an ideal time to consider the rapid destruction of tropical rainforests and other environmental problems.
I urge Jews to use Tu b’Shvat to start making tikkun olam a central focus in Jewish life today. Tu b’Shvat can be a great opportunity for education about environmental crises locally, nationally, in Israel and internationally. This can also help energize our congregations, show the relevance of our eternal values and bring many Jews back to greater Jewish involvement.
For a complimentary copy of our new documentary, A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values To Help Heal the World, for possible use for an environmental program, please contact me at president@JewishVeg.com.
Richard H. Schwartz
Staten Island, N.Y.
Tensions in Outremont
Alex Werzberger, president of the Coalition of Outremont Chassidic Organizations, has claimed that the complaints addressed to the Bouchard-Taylor commission by a group of Outremont citizens was a tissue of lies put together by me (“Chassidim dismiss complaints against them at hearings,” CJN, Dec. 6). According to him, I’ve been afflicted by a fixation to tarnish the reputation of his community. He also implies that the 158 signatures on our petition to the commission are from people who don’t exist.
The commissioner Gérard Bouchard had nothing but praise for our 80-page submission, which he considered very well documented. As for the signatures backing our submission, Bouchard had full opportunity to verify the authenticity of the whole 158, and he was manifestly satisfied.
There are indeed tensions between the two communities. It is surprising to hear Mr. Werzberger say that the litany of problems enumerated in our submission to the commission were nothing but the fruit of my narrow-minded imagination.
For hundreds of years, Ashkenazi Jews were part of a diverse tapestry of ethnic communities in eastern and central Europe. Dance, particularly during wedding festivities, was an important means of cultural expression and community cohesion for Jews living in cities and shtels alike. These old eastern European Jewish folk dances are now known as Yiddish dances. Examples include the freylech, bulgar and sher. To find out more about the dances, visit www.yiddishdance.com.
A variety of factors caused most traditional Yiddish dance and its associated klezmer repertoire to fall almost completely out of practice by the 1960s. While remnants of a limited number of dance forms and gestures are retained in chassidic communities, today there are but a few elderly immigrant, second-generation Jews left who still perform, or can even recall traditional dance from either Europe or America.
The Yiddish Dance Action Network is a non-profit association of musicians, dancers, ethnographers and others who strive to document and continue the traditions of Yiddish dance. If you have information about the dances that you would like to share with the network, please contact me.
Examples of useful documentation include Yiddish dancing in home movies or photographs, descriptions from books or personal accounts of the dances from memoirs.