Cooperation: Church offers Jewish school a home

Seven years after Congregation Beth Israel opened its preschool, local members of the Jewish community will take education to the next level: kindergarten and first grade. And although the 2005-06 school year won't start for another five months, all the details for the Charlottesville Community Jewish Day School are falling into place– including a somewhat surprising location: Christ Episcopal church, downtown on Jefferson Street.

"The spirit of cooperation is alive and kicking," says new head of school Dick Lavine, calling the church "a very usable space in a nice location." Better yet, he says, the church has offered the space rent-free, a huge plus for the start-up school.

A former Fairfax County principal who moved to Charlottesville after retirement to be closer to his daughter, Mira, and her family, Lavine says he hopes to see the new school open with 10 students next year. Six have already confirmed, and he hopes that the possibility of scholarships to help with the $8,000 tuition will attract a wide range of families.

Though students of all religious affiliations are welcome, Lavine says that the curriculum will be designed for children "who are looking for a Jewish experience in their education."

Lavine's son-in-law, Josh Freedman, will be head teacher, and Lavine says the school will use "established curriculum practices," paying close attention to state SOLS so that returning to public schools, "would be an easy thing for students" if they opt to do so.

Elie Avidor and Elissa Rosenberg's seven-year-old daughter, Hadass, attends Charlottesville public schools, but their son, Emanuel, will be in the Jewish Day School's kindergarten class next year.

Rosenberg cites the small child/teacher ratio– likely no higher than 5-1– as a big draw. Avidor is especially enthusiastic about Emanuel learning Hebrew so that he can speak with his Israeli grandmother.

"We're excited about the quality of teaching and the sense of community and Jewish values," he says.

Elie Avidor