There is much to celebrate as Irvine Hebrew Day School purchases a new school campus, encompassing a prime 5-acre site with three buildings in the City of Santa Ana. The campus will create expanded opportunities and unlimited potential, beginning with the upcoming 2019-2020 school year.
“We are overwhelmed by the sincere interest in our educational model and our success. I believe it is because the community sees that our students are achieving the academic and spiritual goals necessary to lead us into the future,” stated Karin Hepner, Co-founder of the school. “We are thrilled to announce an anonymous $1 million lead gift to kick off our Capital Campaign for our new campus. And, we recently held the first of many informational ‘New Campus Initiative’ events, to talk about the school’s history, vision, and to share news about the new campus, as well as highlight the essential role Irvine Hebrew Day School plays in the future of the Orange County Jewish community. At this first event in early May, we received another lead gift of $100,000, and we are deeply moved by this incredible generosity, as we recognize the active commitment necessary to make this beautiful vision become a reality,” Hepner continued.
Community is a group of people bonded together for the betterment of each member; it means connection, continuity, preserving and celebrating culture. For more than 100,000 Jewish residents of Orange County, community means staying connected with each other while being active participants in the greater community, supporting each other while playing key roles in the larger society, and living Jewish lives while finding fulfillment in the many gifts of the general culture. Woven into this beautiful social tapestry in 2014, Irvine Hebrew Day School was created to serve as an innovative, progressive and welcoming learning environment, initially for elementary school students, with a plan to expand beyond elementary school.
The school’s purpose is to provide an innovative, rigorous and progressive Jewish and academic education, rooted in educational best practices and the latest educational research. IHDS is unique in its approach. Co-founder Karin Hepner describes it “as a design that has never before been drawn.” She explains “We aim to model ourselves after our forefathers and foremothers who joined us in one ever-expanding, inclusive community tent, where the details that distinguish us from each other are eclipsed by all that unite us.” To that end, IHDS prides itself on inviting students and families from all walks of Jewish life, with diverse geographic and socio-economic backgrounds, and those who have yet to find their place in any synagogue or community.
“Irvine Hebrew Day School represents the Jewish future,” stated Head of School Tammy Keces. “We are becoming a hub of Jewish life and learning. This extraordinary opportunity to put another Jewish institution on the Orange County map is a chance for us to join together and build our collective legacy. This extends far beyond anything we have experienced in decades. This is the Jewish future, and it’s in our hands,” Keces continued.
Irvine Hebrew Day School embraces all the elements that unify the Jewish people. This approach means discovering the texts and history of the people, and developing a spiritual relationship not just with God, but within each child and with the Jewish community at large. As Hepner so aptly says it, “our heritage, our history, Israel, and our Torah belong to each and every one of us.” The IHDS educational approach is one of empowerment, providing its students with skills that will enrich the next generation.
The school is committed to the synthesis of academic rigor and social emotional learning. Through the principles of Positive Discipline, Irvine Hebrew Day School’s educational approach includes a social-emotional method known as “Positive Discipline”, in which students are equipped with necessary skills, such a collaboration, effective communication, perseverance and grit, for the greatest achievement and fulfillment in life. As part of the social emotional learning curriculum, students take part in “classroom meetings”, where they practice effective communication skills and solve problems in a communal setting. IHDS students enjoy a learning environment full of collaboration, wonderment, and passion for knowledge. So successful has been the integration of Positive Discipline into classroom learning that the Head of School, Tammy Keces, was invited by the Jewish Day School Collaborative and AVI CHAI Foundation to lead a national cohort of Jewish Day Schools to train others in this model. Positive Discipline has been called the “missing link” in Jewish day schools.
The school inspires young scholars through reputable, innovative curricula that sup
port the greatest achievement, including Lucy Calkins Readers and Writers Workshops, Singapore Math and FOSS Science, developed at University of California, Berkeley. These curricula teach students the skills to think critically and creatively, bridging research and practice in a way that bolsters their understanding of both natural and designed worlds. The proof of IHDS’s educational success is found in recent standardized test results, using CogAt and MAP Growth. At Irvine Hebrew Day School 62% of its students are identified as Gifted or Highly Gifted. In comparison, the Irvine Unified School District, widely respected for its excellence, has 20% of its students identified as GATE, with CA average at 8% and national average at 6%.
The list of cultural education opportunities at IHDS are unparalleled. The school’s Israel STEAM program allows students to study the innovations of different regions of Israel through hands-on STEAM activities, and its Israeli Art Masters Program is a fine arts program centered around prominent Israeli artists and their techniques. Additionally, the school takes pride in its Jewish themed music program, Tzlilim Mesaprim: Sounds Tell Stories.
IHDS’s commitment to building Jewish community is reflected in its blossoming relationship with Heritage Pointe, a Jewish senior living institution. Together, these two organizations along with support from the Jewish Community Foundation of Orange County, created Project Elef Dor, a program designed to build community across the Jewish generations, inspire hope among the elder generation about the Jewish future, and to connect the children with our history and culture in a way that extends beyond classroom learning.
Because of the strong interest and overwhelming support the school has received from the Jewish community at large, Irvine Hebrew Day School is expanding its grade levels offered, and for the 2019-2020 school year, will be opening up a 6th grade class, with plans for a junior high school (7th and 8th grades) close behind.
Irvine Hebrew Day School is unique in its approach and values. It truly IS an open tent, welcoming all who enter with open minds and hearts. Through impressive academic, spiritual, and cultural education, its students will become the future leaders in their community. And the community that they lead will be blessed because of the unique skills, talents and passions that drive them.
IHDS has earned accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). To learn more about the exciting plans for the new Irvine Hebrew Day School Campus, please call 949-478-6818 or visit www.irvinehebrewday.org.
MADELINE ZUCKERMAN IS A CONTRIBUTING WRITER TO JLIFE MAGAZINE.