As TVT opens its doors widely and welcomes a more diverse student body onto its grounds, it is tempting to wonder if the school as a whole has begun a process of abandoning, or watering down its Jewish mission. Dr. Jeff Davis recently sat down with me to address this question head on—and after hearing him speak and seeing firsthand all the incredible innovations happening there, it’s safe to say nothing about this school is Jewish-lite. “Our Jewish Studies program is better than ever,” said Irving Gelman, TVT Founder.
Three years ago, Dr. Davis hired Rabbi Stuart Light with the crystal clear directive to revamp, refresh, and retool the Jewish and Hebrew studies program at TVT. He marshalled the experience and wisdom of Avi Chelouche in a new role as Director of Jewish Life, placed him beside Rabbi Light as coworker, confidant, and friend, and then stepped back to allow the two of them to get to work. And work they did. They talked with parents, students, community Rabbis, and alumni. “We experimented with new programming and re-packaged what had become tired and stale. We rewrote curriculum for just about every grade in the school, and we re-engaged students and teachers to think deeply about what meaningful tefillah and Hebrew learning might look like,” said Rabbi Light.
The journey to new levels of excellence in Jewish Studies and Jewish life programs at TVT has been intense, and the rewards have been great. To help in this endeavor, Dr. Davis connected with the Samson family and, due to their unbounding generosity, the Samson Advanced Institute of Jewish Studies was born. What a gift this Institute has been for the students and our community, allowing them to offer a higher level Jewish studies class in each and every middle and upper school grade.
But don’t take our word for it. Just ask any parent who was present at the March 10th Limmud TVT, the annual student showcase of the Samson Advanced Institute of Jewish Studies. They saw students debating the most sophisticated of topics, invoking Talmudic dictums and Torah truths. They heard heated debates and thoughtful discussions ranging from the Jewish perspective on war to the Torah’s take on vegetarianism. They also saw a rich and relevant Judaism blossoming in the hearts and minds of our most motivated students.
There is a fairly simple set of ingredients that is required to create a vibrant, spiritually meaningful, and intellectually fearless TVT for all of its students:
• Master teachers that connect learning to life
• Curricula that is unafraid to engage students in the questions that really matter
• Authentic opportunities to experience, practice, and participate in the power and potential of “doing Jewish”
• A growth mindset that creates space for honest reflection and bold risk taking
“How blessed I am to be part of a group of teachers, staff, and administrators that have worked tirelessly to push us forward in each of these areas, so that the only “Jewish-lite” that can be found at TVT sits in an office that bears my name,” says Rabbi Stuart Light, Director of Jewish Life Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School. Α