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KIDS EDUCATION

THE JEWISH ADVOCATE JUNE 21, 2013

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MetroWest Jewish Day School enjoys a major first Institution celebrates 10th anniversary of its founding with its initial graduation ceremony By Judy Bolton-Fasman grown to 57 students who are en-

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Meaningful Jewish life with academic excellence in a pluralistic community. Visit www.gannacademy.org to learn more.

WHO WILL YOU BECOME?

WHO WILL YOU BECOME? An independent Jewish high school in Greater Boston. Co-ed, Grades 9-12 e:info@gannacademy.org

INTERGENERATIONAL PROGRAMMING • MUSIC • READING

day o t l l a C ur! o t a r fo

CERTIFIED TEACHERS • HIGH TEACHER/CHILD RATIO

June 17 was a very special day for MetroWest Jewish Day School (MWJDS), which celebrated the 10th anniversary of its establishment with a graduation ceremony. It was not only a milestone for the school, but also for the MetroWest Jewish population. “The first graduating class of a new day school is a great moment for our Jewish community and for every graduate,” said Barry Shrage, President of Combined Jewish Philanthropies. The six graduates are Matthew Heaps of Ashland, Adrin Levy of Natick, Samuel Rothkopf of Ashland, and Talia Schnur, Rebecca Schwartz and Seth Wulf, all of Framingham. MWJDS opened its doors in 2003, giving the MetroWest area its first local day school. “Boston had its own set of day schools, but there was nothing west of the Route 128 line addressing the Jewish population,” said MWJDS Head of School Behzad Dayanim. “People interested in day school had to make the trek to the Boston area or to Worcester.” In those early days, Dayanim was on the MWJDS faculty as the arts and music teacher. He left MWJDS to become Head of School at Solomon Schechter in West Hartford, Conn., and returned in 2011 to head MWJDS. Dayanim recalled that during its first year of operation, MWJDS enrolled six children who made up a combined class of kindergarten and first grade: “From the beginning, we were very interested in having creativity as part of the school’s core curriculum and overall policy. Our goal was to create confident learners and to have them think critically.” The school also set out to become a community day school in keeping with the outreach focus of its mission. “One of the school’s goals has always been to be a resource in the community and to reach out to families of varying levels of affiliation, as well as those who are unaffiliated,” said Dayanim. Carolyn Keller, Dayanim’s predecessor and founding head of the school, recalled, “We certainly felt at the beginning we were on a promising growth path. But like all day schools, we felt the economic pinch.” For a time, the school had to suspend plans for a middle school and lost its original six students. The school eventually rallied and put 4th-, 5th- and 6th-grade classes into place. Today, MWJDS has

rolled in kindergarten through 8th grade and has purchased land for a future permanent building. “In some ways, we made our public debut in the spring of 2004 at the Kol Hanishama concert,” Keller recalled. The concert, which brought together a number of day school choirs in the Greater Boston area, featured MWJDS’s fledgling chorus of kindergartners and 1st-graders. “Our kids were the youngest participants in that concert. I remember they wore brightly colored T-shirts that we called ‘lollipop shirts,’” Keller said. “We really felt that we took our place in the community that day and that we were joining a strong tradition of Jewish day schools.” Keller’s involvement with the school extends back to her time as CJP’s Director of the Commission for Jewish Continuity and Education. She was responsible for the establishment of Me’ah, CJP’s signature adult learning program that covers text study and Jewish history in one hundred hours of class time. MWJDS founder and visionary Renée Finn was an early student of Me’ah. A chance encounter with a fellow Me’ah student led Finn and her husband Steven to realize the importance of founding a Jewish day school for the MetroWest Jewish population. After discovering that the woman had bought a home in Newton to avoid a long commute to day school from Framingham, the Finns decided it was time to bring a Jewish day school to MetroWest. Finn further credits her Me’ah learning experience as an inspiration for starting the school. “Me’ah was certainly transformative for me. MWJDS started with a visualization of the destruction of the Temple. Something compelled people at the time to pick up the shards of Judaism and bring them to the Diaspora to form rabbinic Judaism. Having seen that played out time after time in Jewish history, I realized that we had the holy opportunity to help shape and grow a new Jewish community in MetroWest.” Francine Ferraro Rothkopf, who was in the Me’ah class with the Finns, recalled those first meetings to lay the groundwork for the school. Rothkopf was on the original board of directors and is the mother of one of the new MWJDS graduates. She said she and her husband “recognized the value of a Jewish education. But living in Ashland, the shlep

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