This past Sunday, the Hebrew Academy High School held its annual Open House. Parents and students filled the cafeteria eager to hear about what our school has to offer. Some of those parents were unfamiliar, while others came with their second, third, or even fourth child. We started the morning with a short video featuring Hebrew Academy alumni from years past. Three of the former graduates spoke from their Ivy League colleges/universities, while another recent graduate spoke in full uniform, serving in the Israeli army. All the students echoed a similar message of gratitude toward the Hebrew Academy and to the faculty who helped them reach their goals. Each student believed that their time at Hebrew Academy shaped them into who they are today. This proved to be a strong and powerful message to our upcoming Freshman class and their parents.
Next, students and parents split up and roamed from one class to another, as our incredible faculty showcased their programs and curriculum. The visitors were able to get a glimpse of the educational experience that awaits them here in the High School. For the faculty, it was a time to show off what they do on a day-to-day basis. Afterwards, eighth graders had the chance to ask a panel of ninth to twelfth grade students questions about the High School. The same panel remained for parents to ask questions. This was by far my favorite part of the Open House. The current High School students on the panel gave non-rehearsed, authentic answers to real questions. These students were all picked for specific reasons. The panel included student government leaders, athletes, artists, musicians, and even students who weren’t always sure that they would continue at the Hebrew Academy High School. There were students who drive almost an hour a day to school and students who come from nearby. We wanted to make sure that the appropriate diversity of students was available to answer any question. What really struck me was the students’ answers on the panel. They all seemed to feel that this school is challenging, not too hard, but certainly not easy and that time management is the biggest challenge. They also expressed as a collective unit that they could not imagine being anywhere else. They discussed the strength of student-teacher relationships at the school and how they felt that the teachers wholeheartedly want the students to succeed.
We ended the morning with a faux “Debate Midrash” in which Rabbi Assaraf encouraged the students to ask questions and openly express their opinions about any questions pertaining to Judaism. A lively discussion ensued, as a variety of prospective students and their parents dug into numerous questions about Jewish law and practice.
After the last student and parent left the building that day, I was filled with a tremendous sense of pride. I felt proud of our faculty and staff, and I felt proud of our students. We have a terrific high school, and the students currently here, as well as those who have graduated, make us all look so good. I would ask both our parent body and students to echo the message of our students on the panel and shout from the rooftops that the Hebrew Academy High School is like no other, and the final product (your children) come out better, stronger, and wiser.
Dr. Dara Lieber
High School Co-Assistant Principal