(Photo: Noah Kalter, Head of School at Rockland Jewish Academy in West Nyack)
Rockland Jewish Academy opened its doors to another school year on September 7, marking the fifth year of operation for the community day school located in West Nyack, NY. According to Head of School Noah Kalter, RJA serves students from diverse Jewish backgrounds – Reform, Conservative, Modern Orthodox as well as secular Israeli – and 50% of students receive some form of financial aid.
The Jewish Federation & Foundation of Rockland County is a provider of scholarship funds to RJA, as is the Gittelman Education Fund, among other sources. According to Federation CEO Gary Siepser, “Teaching our children a Jewish way of life is a sacred personal and community responsibility and privilege. Jewish Federation & Foundation of Rockland is honored to help families educate their children through scholarship assistance.”
In a recent interview with FedConnect editor Jen Gilbart, Mr. Kalter spoke about his experience at and plans for Rockland’s “independent, inclusive and welcoming” Jewish school.
How would you describe the 2015-2016 school year (your first year at RJA), if you had to sum it up in a sentence or two?
The 2015-2016 school year was an amazing year filled with lots of excitement, personal and professional growth and new opportunities for teaching and learning, for myself, for our faculty and staff and our students. I grew up in Rockland County, and it was rewarding to return and contribute to our community and the Jewish education of a new generation of Rocklanders.
Was there a particular challenge during your first year or something unexpected you had to overcome?
One of the bigger challenges that we faced is one that we all face: the changing demographics of our Jewish community. Between the growth of the ultra-Orthodox community and the decrease in the number of non-Orthodox Jewish families enrolling in day school, Rockland County continues to go through a transition. RJA is no different than other Jewish organizations, and we are adapting and evolving with the changing times.
What can RJA families expect during the upcoming school year?
RJA families can expect a lot of opportunities to see and experience what their children learn at school. The way we teach today, particularly math and science, is very hands-on. At RJA, we take this a step further because we are not only utilizing the latest teaching methodologies, but we are fusing our lessons with Jewish themes and values in innovative ways. At last year’s Grandparents and Special Persons Day, the students and their families completed a multi-generational S.T.E.A.M. challenge, and it was hard to tell who was more excited – the students or their guests! During the upcoming school year, RJA families will have a number of opportunities to learn alongside their children through various programs, S.T.E.A.M. challenges and activities.
What do you like best about your job at RJA?
I love so many things about my job, so it is hard to say what I like best. One of my favorite aspects of the job is that I get to help guide the direction of the school. I really enjoy collaborating with my teachers, staff, parents, and Board in shaping young Jewish minds and building tomorrow’s leaders.