RHA Discover - Fall 2022

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Embracing Personalized Learning | 4 RHA ‘On the Road to Dignity’ Character Education | 14 Why We Teach Conversational Hebrew | 6 Character Matters |12 disc ver ROBBINS HEBREW ACADEMY ג”פשת סתיו FALL 2022


OUR VALUES • The only option is excellence in everything we offer. • Who you are is as important as what you achieve. • Hard work makes anything possible. • There is a unique Jewish identity in all of us. • Israel is in our hearts and in our souls. • It is our responsibility to open ourselves to the world around us. • Our close-knit community makes RHA a joyful experience.
As a progressive Jewish learning academy, we equip students with the skills to think critically, the imagination to think beyond, and the discipline that builds character.
To produce the next generation of original thinkers who lead life with courage and compassion.

Claire Sumerlus

Head of School

Like all top-notch schools today, RHA is committed to ensuring that our campus is a diverse, equitable and inclusive place to learn and work. We are creating a school culture where these three principles guide every facet of the educational and social experience that we offer. In practical terms, this means that we will explore all types of Judaism including Ashkenazi, Yemeni and Sephardic cultures and traditions as well as promote the understanding that there are different types of families, including LGBTQ families, in our community and that people have different physical abilities, disabilities and appearances.

We will be encouraging our students to look beyond the RHA bubble to what’s going on in today’s world. There is no doubt that antisemitism is on the rise, even in pop culture. It’s our mandate to prepare our students to deal with this and to understand Israel’s place and challenges in the world today. Of course, as we address religious intolerance towards our own people, we will be providing opportunities for our students to learn about other religions and cultures so that they learn to be tolerant of the beliefs of others.

We continue to keep abreast of the latest research in education. One area that particularly interests us is the growing field of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and its applications in education. Staff writer at the Atlantic, Derek Thompson, says, “You don’t need a wild imagination to see that the future cracked open by those technologies is full of awful and awesome possibilities.” We plan to focus on the future of those awesome possibilities at RHA and we fully expect to have AI enhancing our curriculum by 2023.

I am just so happy to say that the horrors of COVID are behind us and we have come through them better and stronger than ever. RHA is full and thriving and we continue provide support to those students who are having difficulties adjusting after the pandemic.

As you know, it is our goal to encourage every student to think critically and creatively, with open and informed minds. We think that our ever evolving and cutting-edge programs at RHA will achieve that better than ever this year.

RHA Board of Directors In This Issue


Shawn Stern Executive Vice President Lisa Covens Vice President Ronnie Strasser Vice President
4 Embracing Personalized Learning 6 Why We Teach Conversational Hebrew at RHA 8 Why We Chose RHA 9 Parents’ Association @ RHA 10 Spirit of RHA 12 Character Matters 14 RHA ‘On the Road to Dignity’ Character Education 16 RHA Leadership Team
Efram Lebovits Secretary Michael Goldberg Treasurer Sari Goldstein Immediate Past President Jenny Frisch President, Parents’ Association Tamar Mandel
Marcy Abramsky Justine Grossman Posluns Aaron Klug
Porepa Leah Silber
This is a very exciting year at RHA. We are implementing many cutting edge changes to our curriculum, including the teaching of Hebrew through conversation. We now hope our students will be fluent in Hebrew by the time they graduate, and we have new programs in place to ensure that they do.

Personalized Learning @ RHA

Embracing Personalized Learning

In the fall of the school year 2019/2020, Robbins Hebrew Academy excitedly outlined the wonderful ways in which students would excel in their 21st century education at school.

There has been a lot of water, or rather COVID-19, under the bridge since then. Back then, RHA did not foresee that part of a 21st century education would be helping students recover from the pandemic in ways never imagined.

“Now that the pandemic has wound down and we are preparing for our first full year of school, we have had to assess how remote learning through a pandemic would affect our students,” shared Claire Sumerlus, Head of School, RHA. “Following an assessment of the data and consulting top resources and reseach, we have embraced Core Four of Personalized Learning to ensure that every RHA student gets what he or she needs to succeed.”

A disturbing national study, done by the US Department of Education, compared scores of nine year olds in reading and in math from 2020 to scores this year. In reading, the average score dropped 5 points and in math, scores dropped 7 points. These findings, proof of learning loss during the pandemic, have been broadly replicated in studies across the world. An area of major

concern is how students have fared academically since the pandemic and how RHA can help them close the gaps in their learning.

The Core Four of Personalized Learning involves: Targeted Instruction, Reflecting and Goal Setting (with the student), Flexible Learning and Collaboration and Creativity. Some of this may sound like things heard over and over in descriptions of 21st century learning because, of course, despite the pandemic, they remain the tools of a 21st century education. What is different this year is that each student will have a personalized learning program that will use those tools to catch them up, encourage confidence, learn content and to encounter enrichment to push them further, no matter their learning level.

Last February, the Ontario Government published its report on the Right to Read, calling for critical changes in early reading instruction. RHA has always been committed to making sure that every student gets what each needs in order to read, regardless of any disability. This year the school has a new structured reading series that will enable educators to further improve students’ reading success.

“The Personal Learning Plan model enables us to be more intentional with the learning provided to each student as well as to do ongoing assessments and goal settings with them,” adds Ms. Sumerlus. Involving students in their own learning to a greater degree will provide excitement to be back at school and recording achievements. It will also provide motivation for each to

strive further and to feel a sense of accomplishment.

RHA has also learned that social skills have taken a step back for all students as a result of the pandemic and as such, the school is committed to fortifying learned social skills and to forging new ones with our renewed emphasis on collaboration. And of course, the program promotes creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking, the skill

set of every 21st century education. Even Jewish religious education promotes social skills and the social connection with Jewish people both today and throughout the ages.

There is a realization that the pandemic has affected each child in different ways and that the students coming back to school for classes in 2022/23 are like no others in history. With a shift in the RHA education plan to completely personalized learning, the hope is to provide everything the students need to leave the problems of the pandemic far behind and to ensure that each student is not only a competent and critical reader, but has achieved measurable learning success throughout this school year

“Following an assessment of the data and consulting top resources and reseach, we have embraced Core Four of Personalized Learning to ensure that every RHA student gets what he or she needs to succeed.”

Language Learning @ RHA

Why We Teach Conversational

“Our new curriculum in Hebrew language learning will be shifting the emphasis from reading the Hebrew language to actively speaking it,”


We are very excited to announce big changes in learning Hebrew at RHA. “Our new curriculum in Hebrew language learning will be shifting the emphasis from reading the Hebrew language to actively speaking it,” shares Hana Macmull, our Director of Judaic Studies. “Our goal is to see every RHA student graduate speaking fluent and confident Hebrew.”

It has been universally agreed among educators that the best way to learn a language is to speak it and to provide as many immersion opportunities as possible. Research

at RHA

shows that speaking is the most difficult part of learning Hebrew and that students who learn by reading, understand much more than they can say. We know that our students have been reluctant to speak Hebrew, even though we know that they can.

According to Lead with Languages, an organization of over 12,500 language educators and administrators, “Research shows that learning a second language boosts problem-solving, critical-thinking and listening skills, in addition to improving memory, concentration and the ability to multitask. Children

proficient in other languages also show signs of enhanced creativity and mental flexibility.” In other words, among other things, learning and speaking another language is an excellent way to learn and reinforce all the tools of a 21st century education.

French Canada, many decades ago, cried out for more emphasis on the French language in the country, proclaiming, “la langue, c’est la culture”. That is equally true of the Jewish culture and the Hebrew language. Our Hebrew language is deeply embedded in modern Jewish culture. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said, “Through Israel, Hebrew, the language of the bible, was reborn as a living tongue.” We have embraced this as our mission at RHA: to teach Hebrew as a living tongue. And that means speaking it.

Rabbi Sacks goes on to say that since its creation “Jews have come to Israel from over a hundred countries, representing the entire lexicon of cultural diversity.” The revival of the Hebrew language has helped unite our people, not just in Israel, but globally and allowed us to share cultural and religious experiences.

There is not a Jewish person who travels to Israel and does not instantly feel like they are coming home. Imagine how wonderful that will be for our students who will be fluent in Hebrew who will be able to converse with locals and who will get a full experience of the country!

It has been said that “to speak another language, is to possess another soul.” Rita Mae Brown, American writer, says “Language is a road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.” Helping our students see the continuum, from Judaic studies including biblical language and the foundations of our 5783 year-old culture up to modern Hebrew and the land of Israel, will help them develop both their Jewish “soul” and their Jewish identity.

We will be providing our students with authentic experiences in regular real-world situations, like birthdays, holidays or eating dinner. The expectation is for them to speak entirely in Hebrew as they enjoy these experiences. We also expect them to take those experiences home and teach the words they learned to the rest of their family during those same experiences at home.

Hebrew lessons at RHA will integrate learning the Hebrew language with having a connection to Israel. We will be twinning with Jewish communities around the world, sharing aspects of daily life and Jewish experiences in the students’ common language of Hebrew. Our ShinShinim will keep our students up on modern Israeli pop culture and slang and we will also be incorporating more Hebrew in more student activities and events like student council and assemblies.

Learning Hebrew is part of each student’s Jewish heritage as well as our shared Jewish culture and experience. Every RHA teacher is on board with these new modalities because the more opportunities to speak Hebrew that are created, the stronger our students’ language skills will become as they progress through school.

“It is our sincere wish that parents come on board when their children bring home their Hebrew learning and assignments,” adds Macmull. “We want you to encourage them, speak Hebrew with them and participate in every way. You will see the benefits pay off as your children grow with a firm foundation in what it means to be Jewish.”

המיצעמ הנש היהת תאז
It will be an extraordinary year, or more accurately –

Why We Choose RHA

“On top of the excellent academics, what we love most about RHA is the warm and loving environment the school provides for our daughters. Teachers go out of their way to make school a special experience with a personalized approach. RHA feels like a true community, one which we are so proud to be part of.”

“We made the best decision for our children’s schooling. We were welcomed into a warm, inviting and supportive community. Our children are thriving; they’ve made so many new friends and are becoming creative, thoughtful learners. The quality of education, caring teachers and strong sense of community have made our children excited to go to school each day.”

Ashley and Danny

Parents’ Association @ RHA

the PA raises funds that go towards supporting different initiatives throughout the school. Grade 1 Siddurim, playground toys and games, library books and resources, school-wide dance parties, Grade 8 graduation gifts and trip subsidy and school renovations are just some of the initiatives made possible because of our Parents’ Association’s fundraising efforts.

The PA is a big part of the reason RHA is known for our close-knit community, creating a richness of spirit and depth of commitment that infuses the entire culture of our school. The PA partners with the Head of School and Principal to discuss new programs and initiatives happening at school.

We have been hard at work since the start of school. We hit the ground running in September with our kick-off event, the Welcome Back Fair! We had an unbelievable turnout, and it was wonderful seeing the entire community together again. The lunch program is also back in person. Students are back in L’Chaim Hall with parent volunteers to distribute hot lunches. Our Holiday Committee was busy in September and October organizing baked goods and lulav and etrog sales, as well as handing out Rosh Hashanah treats to students. Stay tuned for two very exciting Chanukah events coming up in December: a school-wide dance party and an RHA@ Rinx skating event!

The PA runs several fundraising programs throughout the school year. Through programs such as the School Calendar, Terra Cotta Cookie Dough, Bingo, School Start and more, and with the support of our families,

A huge thank you to all our committee chairs and volunteers who help make it possible. Being a part of the PA is a rewarding experience. While supporting the school, students and staff, it’s a great way to socialize and build lasting friendships. Together, we can do so much for our school! Your time is truly valued and appreciated. Volunteers are what help bring our PA programs to life. Join us! To get involved, please contact me.

The Robbins Hebrew Academy
Parents’ Association are dedicated parent volunteers who organize programs and fundraisers that help support our school and bring our community together for fun and exciting events.

Spirit of RHA


Building Character @ RHA

Character Matters

Character Education is a new emphasis in 21st century education that many schools have adopted in our post pandemic world.

Here at Robbins Hebrew Academy, we have always stressed Tikkun Olam and Menschlichkeit as two integral parts of our curriculum. The RHA ‘On The Road To Dignity’ Character Education encompasses both of these. The goal is to teach our students to become well-rounded global citizens who lead their lives with integrity, Jewish values and compassion.

Research has shown that academic excellence is only one predictor of lifelong success. Equally important are qualities like respect, appreciation, responsibility and confidence. In short, all of the aspects of good character are also crucial.

Learning how to cooperate with others, tolerate different viewpoints and to respect the needs of others have become critical in today’s world.

Creating well-rounded critical thinkers and courageous leaders is no longer an option when it comes to preparing our children for the future.

The RHA ‘On The Road To Dignity’ Character Education is at the heart of our curriculum and its principles are interwoven throughout lessons in every discipline. We focus on producing wellrounded citizens who lead moral and ethical lives with integrity, Jewish values and compassion. In Judaic Studies, we apply the lessons of the past to help with the challenges of today’s world. RHA encourages students to look at issues from a multi-dimensional perspective and to be mindful of the social, political and environmental impacts of decision-making. Students explore the connection between kindness, caring, true

worth and perseverance, not only locally, but globally as well. We are also placing an emphasis on approaching the world with good moral values, like honesty, integrity, empathy, fairness, cooperation and courage.

A person’s character represents how they act, think and feel. It’s how one interacts with others and treats oneself. The RHA Character Education will ensure that our students develop the qualities to become ethical leaders and menschen.

“The RHA ‘On The Road To Dignity’ Character Education is at the heart of our curriculum.”

Character Assemblies @ RHA

RHA ‘On the Road to Dignity’ Character Education

This year, on September 30, on the second annual National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, the RHA gym was a sea of orange.

Our students and staff marked the day by wearing orange shirts to honour the survivors and victims of Canada’s residential schools. Even more importantly, our students made presentations to commemorate the First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities who were so impacted by the residential school system; to raise awareness and to understand its legacy.

The event was hosted by our Student Council CoPresidents. Grade 6 students performed a play they wrote, and Grade 4 students highlighted Indigenous stories and personal reflections. Students were able to put themselves in the position of the Indigenous children who were separated from their families and unable to acknowledge their heritage and culture or speak their languages. Students expressed how grateful they were to attend a school where things were exactly the opposite.

This assembly highlighted our RHA character trait of the month — EMPATHY. It was also a lesson in the belief that every child matters. Students were able to empathize with the residential school students while understanding how lucky they are in comparison as well as understanding that all cultures are important to the people who belong to them.

This event is part of the Character Assembly we have implemented at RHA, where students and teachers from JK to Grade 8 gather as part of the RHA ‘On The Road To Dignity’ Character Education. A different character trait is featured each month. The Student Council are the hosts and students usually come with boundless Ruach (spirit). Both students and teachers show that spirit by wearing blue RHA t-shirts and students from different grades make presentations to show their awareness of the components of menschlichkeit and character. Parents and special friends are invited to attend the assemblies.

September Empathy October Respect November Appreciation December/January Perseverance February Responsibility March Honesty & Integrity May Character Reflections Character Assemblies and Trait Spotlights Include: 15

RHA Leadership Team

Meet The Team!


Known as one of Canada’s pre-eminent thinkers in educational pedagogy, Claire has changed the way RHA students learn with curriculum based on critical and design thinking. As a past President of the Canadian Association of Independent Schools (CAIS), Claire is also an expert in special needs and enriched programming.



With a specialty in guidance, learning strategies and curriculum development, Brett understands and harnesses the power of positive learning environments. His area of expertise is curricular planning, assessment and evaluation. An experienced high school and middle school teacher, Brett brings a unique perspective to the role.

A veteran educator within the private and public school systems, Shayla manages the elementary school division, student life, special events and develops ground-breaking programs such as the character education initiative.



Jodi manages the school-wide curriculum, leads the personalized learning team and oversees professional development for staff. A seasoned and accomplished educator, Jodi has transformed our early years program by instituting Reggio Emiliainspired initiatives, a leading approach to early childhood education. In addition to her teaching credentials, Jodi has Principal’s qualifications, a master’s degree in educational psychology and a CAIS Independent School Leadership Diploma.


An experienced and beloved Judaics studies educator, Hana oversees our Hebrew language learning and ceremonies. She helps develop innovative curriculums in Tanakh, Rabbinics and Ivrit (Hebrew) that facilitate academically engaging experiences. Through an environment that fosters creativity and critical thinking, students graduate with a sense of pride in their Jewish identity and a meaningful connection to Israel.



CAIS-accredited: It’s a big word that denotes a major achievement. It means that RHA has reached the pinnacle of excellence and is recognized for its unparalleled teaching, advanced curriculum and remarkable educational experience.

As Ontario’s first Jewish day school to be CAISaccredited, we have a unique story to tell.


1700 Bathurst Street, Toronto, ON M5P 3K3

Contact: Shira Unterman, Director of Admissions at 416-224-8737 ext. 137 or sunterman@rhacademy.ca

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