http://paloaltoonline.com/print/story/print/2011/08/05/orthodox-jewish-girls-school-opens-in-palo-alto


Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 5, 2011

Orthodox Jewish girls school opens in Palo Alto

Inaugural ninth-grade class will study Jewish texts along with math, science, humanities

by Chris Kenrick

The opening of a small high school for Orthodox Jewish girls in Palo Alto this fall reflects the growth of the Orthodox community in Silicon Valley, school founders say.

Meira Academy named for the Hebrew word "light" will open its doors on Middlefield Road with eight ninth-graders later this month.

Dressed in navy pleated skirts and blue, white or blue and white striped blouses, girls will spend mornings studying Jewish texts, Hebrew, Jewish history, ethics and the role of women in Judaism.

Afternoons stretching until 5:30 p.m. will bring classes in math, science, history, language arts, computer science, visual and performing arts and gym.

The new school aims to produce graduates qualified for admission to any U.S. college or for postsecondary Jewish education, typically in Israel, said Principal Penina Noy, herself the product of an Israeli education.

The school has no formal link to any local synagogue, but caters to families seeking a "rigorous Jewish education" for their daughters, said Rabbi Joey Felsen, president of the school's board and executive director of the Palo Alto-based Jewish Study Network.

Until now, such families would have to move, or send their daughters away to board at small schools in places like Los Angeles or Denver, said Felsen, whose oldest daughter boards at a girls school in Denver.

Felsen's second daughter will be in the first class at Meira, along with girls coming from the South Peninsula Hebrew Day School in Sunnyvale, San Mateo, Davis, Seattle and Las Vegas. The out-of-town girls will board with a local family.

The amount of time reserved for Jewish education sets Meira apart from other Jewish high schools in the Bay Area, he said.

"Judaism is so vastly deep and rich you have to have a tremendous number of hours of instruction to access the wisdom and to become self-sufficient in Jewish texts," he said.

Meira Academy's math, science, humanities, arts and P.E. classes will be taught by non-religious faculty members with a range of teaching experience.

Noy, Felsen and the school's operations director, Rachel Gedalius, were occupied Monday setting up the school for occupancy later this month.

Rooms some with art already hung on the walls were freshly painted in greens, yellows and blues, reflecting the eye of local fiber artist Wo Schiffman, a major backer of Meira.

There are separate classrooms for humanities, math/science, Jewish studies, counseling and gym, as well as a teachers' lounge.

Felsen said the idea for the school sprung from a conversation his wife had with Schiffman more than a year ago.

"The idea came out that we really need to figure out how to make a high school here so the kids don't have to go away," he said.

Palo Alto's Orthodox community, with origins at Stanford University as far back as 1966, has grown to more than 150 families or individuals. The congregation, Emek Beracha, occupies a building on El Camino Real.

"It's general growth," Felsen said. "To live a fully engaged, Orthodox life, there's a certain level of infrastructure people would like to have and see in a community."

"We're much more family-oriented than the world is today," Noy said.

But even in the Orthodox world especially with modern technology and more women completing higher education "you see a lot of households with two working parents," said Gedalius, who taught school through Teach for America and recently earned an MBA.

"We see ourselves as an Orthodox school, but not necessarily for Orthodox girls," she said.

"Anyone looking for a rigorous Jewish education, regardless of family background, would be welcome at Meira Academy. We definitely fit a niche it's not like we're stomping on anyone else's turf."

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Question: why is this new school for girls only?


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 2, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Right now it is. The reason is that Orthodox Jews believe in separate education for boys and girls. This is done for a couple of reasons--the desire to prevent intermingling of the sexes which could lead to lusting and also the fact that girls and boys do not receive an equal education in Orthodox schools. Boys are groomed for Torah study and lifelong learning, while woman do learn some Torah and other jewish studies, there are groomed for more traditional woman roles in the Orthodox society. however the article does state: ""We see ourselves as an Orthodox school, but not necessarily for Orthodox girls," she said.".

Even though I am Jewish, I do have to take issue with one quote from the Principal Penina Noy
"Orthodox Jews "are much more family-oriented than the world is today," Foy said.".
I think this is a ridiculous comment, not based on any facts and/or research.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 2, 2011 at 12:49 pm

@svatoid, I think you should get a clearer picture of what this school's curriculum is before you judge it. Based on the article, it sounds like a very well rounded secondary education with an emphasis on Jewish Values.

I also take issue with your statement of "groomed for more traditional woman roles in the Orthodox society". That sounds like a gross generalization to me.

I am very interested to see such a school take root and grow in our community.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 2, 2011 at 12:55 pm

"@svatoid, I think you should get a clearer picture of what this school's curriculum is before you judge it."

You are mistaken, I am not judging the school curriculum--I am giving my opinion on it.

"I also take issue with your statement of "groomed for more traditional woman roles in the Orthodox society". That sounds like a gross generalization to me."
Well, I am familiar with Orthodox Jewish education. If this school is truly Orthodox, which I believe it is based on a perusal of their website, then it is clear that girls will not receive the same kind of Jewish education that boys do at a comparable school.
If that is what the families of these girls want, that is fine. But let's face it, In Orthodox judaism, women do not devote their lives to Torah study.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2011 at 10:33 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Aug 3, 2011 at 8:28 am

I wonder what would be the reaction if a conservative Muslim madrasah was opened in Palo Alto that only admitted males?


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 3, 2011 at 8:36 am

"I wonder what would be the reaction if a conservative Muslim madrasah was opened in Palo Alto that only admitted males?"
Why would that be an issue? There are plenty of schools in other religions where males and females go to separate schools.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Aug 3, 2011 at 9:08 am

I don't see anyone speaking against Catholic girls' schools. We have private schools in this country.

We have freedom of religion is this country. At least for now.


Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 3, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Although this seems like a modern orthodox school, orthodox girls are still raised to believe that their main role is to procreate and be subservient to their husbands. Orthodox men recite the following in their daily prayer:BLESSED ART THOU, O LORD OUR G-D, KING OF THE UNIVERSE, WHO HAST NOT MADE ME A WOMAN."


Posted by unorthodox, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 3, 2011 at 3:28 pm

So...would you agree that freedom to practice the religion of your choice is a constitutional right only if it's YOUR religion (or a religion of which you approve)?

We're talking about a small number of girls attending what sounds like a pretty rigorous school [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 3, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Besides the comment by David Pepperdine which was removed, which comments are anti-Semitic?


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 3, 2011 at 5:40 pm

svatoid, none of the current comments are anti-Semitic. People love to use that term inaccurately if you merely disagree with them. It's the often erroneous assumption that you're being anti-Semitic when you're Jewish and just take issue with a quote.


Posted by Svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 3, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Hmmmm-what you are missing is the context for my last post. Unorthodox had claimed that there were anti-semitic postings on this thread. I asked him which postings were anti, semitic. His comment was deleted, but my response was not. I actually agree with you, I do not think any of the postings that remain are anti-semitic.


Posted by unorthodox, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 3, 2011 at 7:03 pm

I see that I must be very careful about my choice of words here lest my comments be sanitized. Let me put it another way. How is referring to a prayer that men recite at all relevant to the fact that a tiny school for teenaged girls is opening? It's about as meaningful as criticizing Catholic girls' schools because of the behavior of certain priests.

By the way, I am not a "he." So much for stereotyping.


Posted by Svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 3, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Unorthodox- how is mentioning a prayer that we all agree is recited by the very orthodox being anti-semitic?


Posted by Frank, a resident of another community
on Aug 4, 2011 at 2:33 pm

At least up until today I understood we have "freedom of religion" in this country.

As James Madison stated on June 8, 1789, "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed."

The 1st Amendment not only prevents the establishment of a national religion, but it also prohibits government aid to any religion, even on an non-preferential basis, as well as protecting the right of the individual to choose to worship, or not, as he or she sees fit.

So, all those whining about how Orthodox Jews decide to educate their children should just back-off. If it isn't against the law, their right to practice their religion the way they wish is protected by our Constitution.






Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2011 at 7:25 pm

No one's whining, Frank. People are just posting their opinions, which seem to be devoid of whining. We have the right to practice our religion in this country, as well as the right to free speech. The school and its students are practicing theirs, and you, me and everyone else who's posted are practicing our right to free speech (& in the case of this publication, as long as it doesn't violate their rules).

I hope the school makes it in these tough economic times.


Posted by AMRILUSAGUY, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2011 at 10:59 pm

The current trend in Jewish education is for many school to be closing. There are other trends which are looking for ways to lower the extreme tuitions that Jewish Private schools seem to think they deserve.

There are way too many institutions in the Jewish world and they all have their hand out. At 23K per year how does this school intend to survive? Why did this school not try to be come part of the other Jewish high school that already exists - economies of scale?

If this school wants to be able to get state or federal funds I guess they will have to remove the question from their application about if both parents are Jewish I would think that is a form of discrimination.

I know of no private school Jewish or Otherwise that exists without external donations. At the end of the day This school will be just another jewish institution with its hand out begging for money to survive.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 7, 2011 at 4:32 pm

AMRILUSAGUY -

Palo Alto is very rich in Jewish traditions and community (hence the new JCC). Meira is a lot less expense than the other local private schools. Kehillah is 31K, Castilleja and Menlo around 34K a year. The intent of this school is different than Kehillah's, hence the separate schools.


Posted by AMRILUSAGUY, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 8, 2011 at 9:09 am

The intent of a school is to educate
the cost of Kehila is also way out of line

How long will the mystery donor who support meira be able to support it? why are you telling me about palo alto jewish traditions that has little to nothing to do what I said.

The trend to day is for less institutions and many institutions are failing.

Jewish education at 23 or 34K per yer is a nice to have but is not sustainable and unless the paradigm changes people will en mass realize that home schooling is much cheaper, public school even less so.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 8, 2011 at 9:31 am

AMRILUSAGUY - our local private high schools have been thriving for years and receive more applicants then they need, so 34K must be sustainable.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 8, 2011 at 9:39 am

AMRILUSAGUY:

"the cost of Kehila is also way out of line"
For who?
Obviously before that school was opened inquiries must have been sent out to see if there was a desire for a school like this and at the cost indicated. There must have been a positive response. Since this is a private school they can charge what they want. If the charge is unreasonable, no one will attend and the school will close--simple as that

"How long will the mystery donor who support meira be able to support it? why are you telling me about palo alto jewish traditions that has little to nothing to do what I said."
Why is that a concern to you? The comment about Jewish traditions says plenty about the reasons for existence of these schools.

"Jewish education at 23 or 34K per yer is a nice to have but is not sustainable and unless the paradigm changes people will en mass realize that home schooling is much cheaper, public school even less so."
How long has Kehila been around? The issue of sustainability should be of no concern to you. There are plenty of other private schools in the area and they seem to be doing okay. Not sure what you are getting so worked over about