Very few schools in the western United States can boast of receiving the National Blue Ribbon award twice. Fortunately for many Jewish families, the Hebrew Academy in Huntington Beach can make such a claim.
“We’ve been here for four decades,” said Dean of the School Rabbi Yitzchok Newman. “We keep the atmosphere warm, inviting, and encouraging for the children to reach their highest potential.”
With fall approaching rapidly, the Academy is once again readying its program schedule, a list of activities long enough to occupy the attention of the entire K-12 age groups the Academy accommodates, and then some.
“We have a spelling bee every year for the younger children, we have a debate club, we have a math marathon,” Newman said. “We have art, music, and a choir we send around to the community. We also have a Jewish Knowledge Bee; the children learn a tremendous amount of knowledge and then apply it in a competition.”
The Hebrew Academy thrives on its sense of community, and as such, has become the hub of a larger Jewish community due in no small part to the programs and celebrations it holds year-round. Each month, the school holds a Rosh Hodesh assembly in which children are awarded for exemplifying academic progress, good citizenship, and, as Rabbi Newman puts it, “other core values that spiral through [our program].”
The Hebrew Academy is also home to a large Judaica library. Indeed, the school is focusing this year on writing skills in its program; it’s adopted a new language program for the Academy that the rabbi hopes will “greatly enhance the language and writing skills of the children.”
“We individualize. We give attention to each and every child in a way to foster and nurture his or her growth in the school,” Newman explained. “We strive to maintain a family atmosphere.”
For proof, parents need look no further than the Academy’s annual Shabboton, an event where the teachers invite the students to their houses for Shabbat dinner. The school also holds a larger Shabboton on its campus; last year, over 300 people attended and spent the weekend at the Academy.
“We have Sukkot not only for our school but for people in the community,” Newman went on to say. “Then there’s Chanukah, when we have a big party for the children; Purim, we have a carnival; and for Lag B’Omer we have a late-night bonfire.”
The Academy’s teachers are all fluent in Hebrew, so that their students have the best of chances to become just as knowledgeable. The school’s teachers also use a new classroom technology called SmartBoard to capture news from Israel in order to make lessons out of it; be it political or about daily life in Israeli society, the aim of the lessons is to help children learn about Israel and develop an affinity for it.
“We’re very pleased we’re growing in the lower grades,” Newman says. “We’re working toward a more successful future for the children. They make lifelong friends [not just in school] but in the larger community as well.”
Readers interested in the Hebrew Academy can find more information at www.HebrewAcademyHB.com.