Tuesday, February 25, 2020 -
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Boulder Hebrew High addresses teen issues relevant to them

Sara GoldbergTHIS fall, students at Hebrew High in Boulder can expect to see considerable changes to the curriculum.

“This is the beginning of a transition,” says Principal Sara Goldberg.

Unlike this year, when the program spanned 22 weeks, next year it will be shortened to 18 weeks, with more social events centered on holidays: Sukkot, Chanukah, Purim, Tu b’Shevat. And it will feature an overnight lock-in, a Shabbat camping in the mountains and more –– all included in the tuition.

Details of the revamped program were revealed last week at the Boulder JCC, where Hebrew High takes place.

It was the last night of Hebrew High this calendar year. All existing students, plus those interested in learning about Hebrew High (and their parents), attended.

“We had an amazing turnout of seventh and eighth graders and even ninth and 10th graders who aren’t currently at Hebrew High. If we could get them to come [in the fall], it would be fantastic,” Goldberg says.

“I think the programs they’re offering are very impressive,” says parent Kara Mertz.

Mertz’s son, Aaron Paul, is in ninth grade and will be entering Hebrew High for the first time in the fall.

“I wanted to check it out and see what it was,” he said, even though his mom had to exert mild pressure to convince him to join her. 

“He was ‘oh do we really have to go?’ but he was willing to consider it.

“I think it will be really fun for him; it will broaden his social circle. I love his friends dearly, but it’s good to have Jewish friends and it’s good to have a broad group of friends so you can choose what to do,” Mertz says.

Parents Margaret Lessenger and Steve Gardner brought their son to the open house. He’s had good experiences at Har Hashem so getting him to the open house was an easy sell.

“He was looking forward to coming,” says Margaret. Not only that, adds Gardner, “he was very sad when Hebrew school ended this year. He was disappointed that it was snowing and he couldn’t get here.”

AMANDA Ansell has been a student at Hebrew High for the last several years and plans to return in the fall.

“I really like it because it gives you an opportunity to meet other Jewish people in the community besides through BBYO.”

Ansell is also excited about the changes lined up for next year.

“I feel like they’re expanding the choices and making it more available. This year, there weren’t as many options as the years before,” she explains.

One of the changes that she’s looking forward to is the falafel bar. “I’m really excited for that. And also it’s going to be IST, so I’m going to learn about Israel,” she says.

The top reasons most kids continue their Jewish experience through Hebrew High is to see their friends and for the food.

Studying and Jewish life both fall at the bottom of the list, and yet, at least for the older Boulder Jewish community members, it’s a top priority.

“In Boulder,” says Goldberg, “after Bar and Bat Mitzvah, our kids don’t have a lot  –– BBYO, Hebrew High, and Har Hashem. Not much. We’re it. So it’s important to address their interests and needs, and to keep the programs as diverse as the students.”

“It’s the connection to the Jewish community and Jewish education” that Margaret Lessenger says she appreciates for her son.

But don’t be fooled, says Goldberg. “Hebrew High is not Hebrew school. It is ‘teen community Jewish-style.” She means that the classes and programs are designed to address teen issues “that are relevant to them and keep it real.”

There’s always Judaism that’s infused, but it’s not up front.

Goldberg says while they might be studying the parsha of the week, it won’t be heads down in books. It might involve games, class interaction or other methods that get the point across without feeling like school.

“We have to do it in a very creative way or they won’t come,” Goldberg says of the students.

“They’ve even told me, ‘I’m in school all day. The last thing I want is to come to school at night.’”

Hence the new programs next year.

Eighth graders will focus on comparative world religion and ninth graders will learn about eco-Judaism through a partnership with the Cottonwood Institute.

The 10th and 11th grade classes remain the same with confirmation and IST.

The 12th graders will partner with Hillel on the CU  campus for a look at Jewish life “after the bubble.”

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