There aren’t enough good stories about after-school programs, and this new volume edited by Jack Wertheimer of the Jewish Theological Seminary establishes high achievement marks for everyone with an investment in an after-school program of Jewish studies, from educators to parents and students. Wertheimer and his coauthors have identified ten communitybased and synagogue-based schools that demonstrate moral and academic excellence. These successful schools welcome many different kinds of learners and their educational leaders guide their teachers thoughtfully, ultimately motivating students to learn Hebrew, pray with authentic fervor, act as moral role models, and discover their history. The schools represent geographical and ideological diversity; some tend to emphasize academic learning and mastery while others tend to emphasize experiential learning, moral action, personal discovery, community service, and family celebrations. What is the recipe for success? Match the professional staff to the mission and vision of the school; build seven-day parent and community support beyond drop-off and pick-up in the carpool line; don’t be afraid to accept that the school cannot meet everyone’s needs; and sustain student interest by establishing measurable goals that students can achieve at every level; identify milestones of success and promote a sense of responsibility for students’ own learning. This book is a must-read for after-school program educators, parents, and board members. The wealth of ideas can transform any program. Index, notes.
Judd Kruger Levingston, Ph.D. and rabbi, serves as Director of Jewish Studies at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in the Philadelphia area. Levingston is the author of Sowing the Seeds of Character: The Moral Education of Adolescents in Public and Private Schools (Praeger, 2009).