Three years ago, Ury and Olga Glozshtein enrolled their son, Matanel in Torah High because of the affordable course prices and the opportunity to earn an extra high school credit. Last year, they enrolled their daughter Sandra-Gabi as well. However, as the program began, the Glozshteins realized that Torah High offered something much more to their children than what they initially anticipated.
“Once the courses started, we learned that our kids enjoyed being in a Jewish environment. They made new friends and, at some point, started planning trips to Israel. Back then, this was scary for us because they hadn’t traveled without family yet,” said Olga Glozshtein.
She said that her children’s involvement in Torah High sparked their interest in Jewish culture without any of their influence. Their daughter is currently on The Jerusalem Journey (TJJ) trip, which is a program that often collaborates with Torah High.
“We don’t know much about other programs but it seems that Torah High meets teenagers’ expectations about Jewish studies, which is not easy since they are more mature than younger children,” she said.
The Glozshteins’ situation is not unique. For many Jewish families in the Greater Toronto Area, sending their children to Jewish day schools is often not financially attainable. Due to hefty tuition fees that increase every year, many families are opting to enroll their kids into supplementary Jewish programs, which are often a fraction of the cost of regular Jewish days schools.
Torah High, an after-school Jewish supplementary program for students in grades 8-12, is growing in numbers every single year, with four campuses throughout the GTA.
The popularity of this program is largely due to the fact that many families are not able to send their kids to daily Jewish schools, causing many of them to close, including the north campus of Tanenbaum CHAT as well as Associated Hebrew Schools Kamin campus.
These schools, which had been rapidly decreasing in enrolment rates for several years, are schools that are moderately religious, and generally attract Jewish families who do not identify as Orthodox. In these schools, students are exposed to both a Jewish education as well as what is taught in standard Ontario public schools.
However, attending a Jewish day school is not the only way to receive a Jewish education. Torah High offers students a unique chance to make connections and learn about Judaism in an interesting environment, and they are able to use their Jewish subjects for their high school credits.
Einat Enbar, the director of marketing and communications at Torah High, says that the program is a much more affordable way for Jewish teens to connect with their heritage and meet other Jews in their community.
“The impact of this program is really significant because a lot of the kids that are growing up in Jewish families have no tie to Jewish education,” she says.
Enbar explains that Torah High is beneficial for both the children and the parents. “It’s beneficial for the parents and kids. For the parents, the kids are getting Jewish education which is hard for the parents to give at home. For the kids, they learn about their identity and their heritage and at the same time they get a high school credit.”.
Children enrolled in Torah High start their program around 3 p.m. after they finish regular school. The program runs for a few hours with a break and dinner included.
Across Torah High’s four campuses, more than 400 teens are enrolled in the program, and recently, there has been a rise in enrolment from the Russian Jewish community like the Glozshteins.
“As a parent, I think that every Jewish study, even at the youngest age, should include our history, practical elements of Jewish religious traditions, and learning about our rich spiritual and material culture,” said Olga Glozshtein.