Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus will provide free Hebrew school for enrolled kindergartners, starting in the 2019-2020 school year.
The synagogue and its foundation made such funding available to help with the education of both new and current member children and to engage families further with the synagogue, said Senior Rabbi Hillel Skolnik. He explained the offering is part of a larger effort for the synagogue to become more inclusive.
“The idea is to help people have a door into the synagogue and into the school,” he said. “As a person and as a rabbi, I believe that people learn best by being in the building. That’s why we created the ‘prayground’ in the sanctuary, and why we make our services available for everyone, and part of why they are livestreamed and part of why we have devices for people who are hard of hearing so they can hear better – because people learn best and connect best when they are invited to participate. And that same concept extends to the religious school and if there are barriers, our goal is to remove them.”
Skolnik said the grant funding could potentially extend to first grade but is dependent on how many students enroll in kindergarten.
“The goal is hopefully to be able to grow this concept, and if we can make it work budgetarily … to create a situation where we can make religious school something that doesn’t have to be a financial burden to members of our congregation, or whoever wants to be part of our congregation,” he said. “I think that would be great, but I think this is a first step toward bringing people in and if there are hurdles, we are removing them.”
Tifereth Israel holds Hebrew school on Sundays and the school year starts in the fall.