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What


What is it

Chanoch LaNa'ar will be a Torah-based learning experience, synthesizing the secular and the holy, the experiential and the conceptual.

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What


What is it

Chanoch LaNa'ar will be a Torah-based learning experience, synthesizing the secular and the holy, the experiential and the conceptual.

 

We learn best when we are active participants in ideas and activities that excite us. Chanoch LaNa'ar will be focused on experiential learning, with an understanding that every child learns differently, at their own pace, and through ideas that excite them.


 
Educate a child according to his way; even when he grows old, he will not turn away from it.
— King Solomon, Proverbs, 22;6
 

Our Mission

Education needs to be addressed in a holistic way, balancing the mind-body-soul connection. Children grow at their own pace and it is the job of the parents and educators to support this growth. Children need to be shown patience, feel respected and given the freedom to allow this natural flow to occur. Children are naturally motivated to understand and explore the world around them, and it is the adult’s job to provide and guide a safe environment for them. 

Chanoch LaNa'ar will be a Torah-based learning experience, synthesizing the secular and the holy, the experiential and the conceptual. We will utilize the huge advances in technology to create a unique atmosphere of auto didacticism as well as fostering (and not G-d forbid smothering!) a child’s natural passion for learning and discovering. Exploring the world on the child’s own terms is crucial to the developing of a healthy foundation from which to view the world, and we plan on allowing space and time for that exploration to occur, while providing guidance and materials for them to follow their passions.

We use the term “holistic” because a child’s education, growth, and development should be about the whole child- not just his mind, but body and spirit as well. Traditional schooling tends to focus on the waist up, praising and rewarding the intellect and punishing the fidgety kids, who are just living according to their nature- the child’s desire to move! That might be worth the trade-off if the sitting-at-a-desk-all-day paradigm worked. But the truth is we all learn better when we are happy, and no child is happy sitting at a desk and following instructions for the majority of the school day.

Throughout our homeschooling years, and especially the past few as our kids are getting older, we have studied, researched and explored different learning methods and ideologies that are embracing the technology advances of the 21st century, while questioning the status quo of the current and common school structure. We have researched and studied the works of (to list a few) John Holt, Alfie Cohn, Sugata Mitra (School in the Cloud- SOLE), Rudolph Steiner, Sudbury Valley School books, Carol Tuttle (Energy psychologist and author of The Child Whisperer) and Ken Robinson (famous for his Ted talks “School Kills Creativity”), amongst many other child-rearing techniques and philosophies. Alongside all this researching, we’ve been reading about education from a Torah perspective and we have come to realize as well, that the concept of individualizing education; allowing children to pursue their passions; and focusing on individual growth and character traits, is not only an additional way, but the way. Almost every time the Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote a letter to a teacher or educator he spoke about how the main point of education is to promote healthy character growth and traits and establishing a school based on good Jewish morals and values.

 

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Why


Why it's needed

Berkeley is one of the most Jewish-dense cities in the US (over 20%!!) and being known for its alternative culture, Berkeley would welcome a more alternative-minded school with a more holistic approach to education. 

Why


Why it's needed

Berkeley is one of the most Jewish-dense cities in the US (over 20%!!) and being known for its alternative culture, Berkeley would welcome a more alternative-minded school with a more holistic approach to education. 

 

There has been a huge resurgence of spirituality in the Bay Area, the Neshama (Jewish Soul) is crying out to connect to Hashem, though many don’t know where or even how to focus that energy. People are thirsty for Torah and true, meaningful spirituality, and the absolute best way to address that need is to have a place of true and meaningful Judaism for the youth.

 

 

We could talk until our faces turned blue (I've never actually seen that happen), but here is what the locals have to say

 

As a Berkeley parent of a 10 year old, it has been a real challenge to be 100% comfortable and satisfied with my son’s education, both religious and secular. Unfortunately there isn’t a “perfect” solution here. I’ve considered homeschooling my son, but with limited time, it’s not really an option.
A Jewish day school in Berkeley, especially the type that the Berkowitzes envision is exactly what I think this town needs. I love their approach to education and their philosophy on how children learn best. I’d be 100% confident dropping my son off everyday and would know that he’d be getting a balanced education, both secularly and religiously by the school that the Berkowitz’s would create. Berkeley is the perfect city to spearhead this type of school because of the values that are important to Berkeley folk and the values that are important to the school’s mission. In most ways, I think it’s a true harmony of ideals and values.
I hope to see the school come to fruition soon, as my son is 10 and seems to be getting older fast. We need this in Berkeley..... yesterday.
— Matisyahu Mack, Berkeley Parent
 
Growing up in Berkeley has always been an eye opening experience. With all the different types of people, and all the different flavors of people, it’s integral to have an understanding of the human experience. When I first met the Berkowitz’s, it struck me as they had this type of love, an all inclusive insight into the human experience. The perfect perspective to help stimulate growth for a better Bezerkeley.
— Yehudah L. Welton, Berkeley Local
 
 
No alternative exists for children whose families want them to attend a frum Jewish school, but who don’t fit the mold. When my son left the local orthodox Jewish school in 4th grade, he lost his whole community as well as his Jewish curriculum. I was never able to find an adequate supplemental Jewish learning program for him. His friends at his new school were not Jewish and after his bar mitzvah he never returned to shul again. Sadly, over the years, I have seen numerous Shabbos-observant families pull their children from the orthodox day school but had no other kosher-keeping Jewish school to consider. Now, my younger children want to break out of their restrictive learning environment. There is a clear need and interest in the community for a Jewish school which follows halacha, fosters tzniut and leadership, and nurtures the children’s natural passion for learning as well as their physical and emotional health.
— Wendy Kenin, Berkeley Parent
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How


How we will do it

Now we are talking! This is the fun part.
Hint: we need you. And we love you.

How


How we will do it

Now we are talking! This is the fun part.
Hint: we need you. And we love you.

 

Yeah! This is the fun part!

In short, we will work our bottoms off and raise money. From people like you. Down the line a large part of the budget will be covered by tuition but that will take a few years.

While putting together a budget we found that it's incredibly hard to know what it will take to run a school (the variables are many). What we do know is that we will be thrifty, crafty (good crafty), and imaginative when it comes to making whatever money we do have go a long way. 

The number we have come up with to start (now) and to run for the first year (starting this coming September 2016), is $343,000. (For an itemized budget please contact us.)

Here's the deal. We are starting a school in Berkeley. It’s happening. If we get $50,000 we are starting a school, if we get $1,000,000 we are starting a school. What the money will decide (to an extent of course) is how quickly we can grow and how many children we can serve. On a scale of amazingly low-budget, to amazingly high budget, this here presented budget is somewhere on that scale. It’s hopeful, yet not overly optimistic.

If you want to know how much it will take to start the school, well, as long as our rent is paid for, the school is going to start. But the amount of time we could invest in it and the resources we could gather are greatly dependent on getting much more than that..

 
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Who


Who Are We

Hopefully soon (very soon, please G-d!) this part will be all about our wonderful staff, as for now, we realize that you need to know about us in order to know why we are doing this and that we CAN do it.

 

Who


Who Are We

Hopefully soon (very soon, please G-d!) this part will be all about our wonderful staff, as for now, we realize that you need to know about us in order to know why we are doing this and that we CAN do it.

 

 

We (Zalmy & Estee Berkowitz) just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and have five beautiful children between the ages of 2 and 9. We have been homeschooling (or rather some sort of combination of homeschooling and unschooling) our children since our oldest was little and passionately dove into many different education philosophies through trial and error (and a crazy amount of reading and studying) with our children.

We both felt that our own schooling (Zalmy in the Jewish Private Day School and then Yeshiva system, Estee in the Public School, college system) didn’t address us as individuals (to put it mildly) and knew that there had to be something better. A place where children can be excited about learning, and maybe even be in control a bit (gasp!) of what they learn, how they learn it, and when they learn it. And a place where knowledge and learning (both in the secular and the Jewish) have a direct connection with the real world.

In 2006 we moved to Long Beach, CA to start high school teen programs for public high school students in the Los Angeles and Orange County school districts, along with teaching in hebrew high programs. Later on we taught in and ran various high school programs, as well as teaching in the local Jewish day school.  Our oldest four kids were pretty close in age and after baby three was born, Estee committed to completely being home with the kids while Zalmy worked as a mashgiach (Kosher-supervisor), part time teacher, and started his graphic design business, which eventually led to his photography business.  Our oldest son was always so busy playing, and soon after the others joined him, that it never made sense to interrupt what he was doing to send him to school. After baby number four was born we moved into this house with a big forest like backyard (very unusual and unique for Long Beach, CA), and we got our hands dirty with raising our kids in a very holistic, nature based environment. It allowed our kids plenty of time outdoors, barefoot, muddy and messy, gardening, tree climbing, hole digging, and anything else their imagination cooked up. Estee embraced a more holistic, traditional style of cooking and food preparations and the kids were more than happy to get involved. They were content playing pretty much all day. We had playdates with other homeschooling families in the area and even the neighbors kids would come over and join in our adventures. They would read books, color, draw, paint, run around, ride bikes, invent bike ramps or build a ladder out of nails and wood. There’s always something to do, and if the kids said they were bored we’d offer them a cleaning job. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, dishes, etc are all part of life and we really wanted our kids to be involved with all that, to understand what it takes to run and maintain a clean and functioning home, not to mention how fascinating it all is from a scientific perspective! We really want our own kids to get along with each other, to be friends with each other or at least respect each other. To this day this is an ongoing struggle, but it's something important to us and we know this will be what shapes their emotional core and will be a huge factor in their relationships outside of the family.

Zalmy still does photography and Estee continues to be a homemaker/radical homeschooling mom but we are ready to dial it up a notch and dive into the next level. Writing this proposal (on late nights while the kids are sleeping and Estee’s parent’s and brother ever so graciously babysit) has been a wonderful, mind blowing journey within itself, reminding us of our talents and experience and giving us the confidence, and craziness, to say “hey, we can do this!”

If you want to know more you could view Zalmy's photography site, say hi on facebook (Estee, Zalmy), or just ask!

 
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timeline


Timeline

Everything that led to starting this school, and where we can go from here. 

timeline


Timeline

Everything that led to starting this school, and where we can go from here. 

 

Sometime in the near past, we had the honor and privilege of spending a few months in the holy city of Berkeley. While we were there we met many wonderful families who saw how passionate we were about education (and our tendency to buck the status quo). Within that time period four different families told us that we should start a Jewish day school in Berkeley. At the time we just laughed it off since we were so passionate about homeschooling. Originally we had come to Berkeley with the intention of continuing our current line of work (a motley mix of photography, Kosher Supervision and Teaching) and our homeschooling, but G-d had other plans. A few months after we came back to SoCal (we had left with the intention of coming back to Berkeley, this time permanently), Rabbi Romano called us and asked if we were interested in starting a school there as several Jewish families had approached him about a new Jewish school in the area. We liked the concept at that point but still felt unsure about our abilities (and frankly, our desire) in regards to taking on such a responsibility. We had a good thing going with the photography, and, well, running a photography business is much less stressful than starting a school... As time went on and we talked and thought about it more, it went from “meh”, to “maybe this isn’t too crazy”, to “seriously, there is no way we are not going to make this happen”. As Chassidim of the Lubavitcher Rebbe we often write letters, and see what answers we get by opening to one of his many books of letters addressing all sorts of topics. We received many letters talking about education in general, and in particular about the importance (over everything else) of an education that is focused on and fosters good Jewish morals and values. So our mission started.

In the past year we have visited many local alternative schools and spoke at length with the founders and educators at the less local ones to get a more solid feel for what an alternative school looks like, what its challenges are, and general tips on “how we can take what we’re doing in our home and turn it outward.” (to paraphrase the Rebbe’s advice to women on how they can juggle the world of motherhood and the world of outreach.)


For the first couple of years starting the school, we envision having anywhere between ten and twenty five students (four or five of which will be ours…). Small classroom sizes, mixed age groups and a small student to staff ratio. (The first year will be like the first pancake.) Starting a new school away from the traditional school model will take a lot of patience, much trial and error, spontaneity, creativity, and the ability to adapt and quickly implement new ideas. We have very strong ideas of what a school shouldn’t look like, and a pretty good idea of what it should. Honestly we don’t really think there is one “perfect” model of what a school looks like, and we’ll be constantly tweaking things along the way. As long as things fit with our core ideas of what school should be like (free of fear, a focus on values, integration of learning materials, students feeling comfortable and happy and freedom to choose what and how to learn etc., a stress on “how to learn”, and a fostering of the passion to learn) we’re pretty much okay with anything (that works).

Eventually as the school grows (and the students grow older) we’ll figure out how to properly separate the genders, either by having separate classes, separate facilities, or something else. As with everything else, we’ll work on it as we go along. It’s easy to conjecture but until we see how things are coming along, it doesn’t really make sense to spend too much time thinking how it might be.


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