Education Briefs

Day Schools Earn Accreditation

Two area day schools, both founded in 1994, earned full accreditation this summer.

Beth Hillel Day School in Valley Village, the East Valley’s only Reform Jewish day school, was accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE).

“The fact that our school earned a six-year accreditation, the maximum length of time awarded by these certifying boards, is recognition that Beth Hillel Day School is indeed meeting the high goals we’ve set to provide our students with the best education possible in general and Jewish studies,” said Susan Isaacson, Beth Hillel Day School’s education director.

Farther west along the 101, Abraham Joshua Heschel West Day School in Agoura Hills was accredited by the California Association of Independent Schools, the WASC and the BJE.

“Receiving recognition from these prestigious accrediting agencies puts Heschel West in the upper echelon of young dynamic educational institutions,” Heschel West principal Jan Saltsman said. — Sharon Schatz Rosenthal, Education Writer

High School Makes Temporary Move to ShomreiTorah

When New Community Jewish High School students (NCJHS) return to their studies on Sept. 7, they will no longer be meeting at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus in West Hills, where the school was founded in 2002 with 40 students.

“We outgrew it,” said Dr. Bruce Powell, head of NCJHS. “We were supposed to be there for three years, but we were only supposed to have 120 [students]. We’re at 170 at this point. We were bursting at the seams there.”

NCJHS moved to Shomrei Torah Synagogue in West Hills on Aug. 29. The school has use of 16 classrooms at the synagogue and will continue to use Milken’s gym for its athletics program. NCJHS expects to be at Shomrei Torah for one to six years and will add modular classrooms as its enrollment grows.

However, Powell said the school has its eye on a property that can be developed as a permanent campus in Agoura Hills, and the city’s planning commission has already issued a conditional use permit.

“Growth is both wonderful and challenging,” Powell said. — Adam Wills, Associate Editor

L.A. Educators Receive NationalAward

Two Los Angeles religious school teachers were honored in July when they received Grinspoon-Steinhardt Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education. Lea Ben-Eli, a music teacher at Temple Beth Am’s Pressman Academy, and Eden Cooper Sage, a eighth- and ninth-grade teacher at Temple Israel of Hollywood, were thrilled to be among the 56 recipients in North America.

The awards, sponsored by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation, in partnership with Jewish Education Service of North America, are given to Jewish educators who made a career commitment to the field and contributed to his or her school or community in an outstanding way. As winners, Ben-Eli and Sage were awarded $1,000 cash prizes and $1,500 stipends for professional development.

Both women will be honored at the United Jewish Communities General Assembly in November where they will be recognized in a national gathering with an emphasis on Jewish education and communal leadership. — SSR

Cal Lutheran Embraces Diversity

California Lutheran University (CLU) got a lesson in diversity when 22 students and three faculty members participated in the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) A Campus of Difference, an anti-bias and diversity training program.

During the three-day session, which began on Aug. 23, two trainers, representing different cultural and racial backgrounds, prepared the student ambassadors to lead diversity and inclusion discussions on campus. Participants examined stereotyping, explored the idea of culture and discussed issues related to discrimination and bigotry on campus.

CLU is involved in several diversity programs following the receipt of a $400,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation in 2003. The grant, which will be dispersed over a three-year period, is being used to foster a campus climate that encourages inclusion, crosscultural interaction, respect for and appreciation of diversity and global awareness.

Over the past decade, more than 43,000 people have participated in the campus training programs — which have been held at more than 250 colleges and universities nationwide. — SSR

Sharon Wins Big With Bush

One historic concession deserves another. Just four months after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — the father of the settlement movement — stunned Israelis by pledging to evacuate some settlements, he got his payback from President Bush, who reversed decades of U.S. policy by recognizing Israel’s claim to parts of the West Bank.

It was compensation, with interest: Sharon had scored perhaps the most stunning diplomatic triumph in the U.S.-Israeli alliance in a generation.

"In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final-status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949," Bush said Wednesday at a White House appearance with Sharon after the two leaders met. "It is realistic to expect that any final-status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities."

The statement, reiterated in a letter to Sharon, represents the first time the U.S. government has provided a formal commitment to Israel’s claim on parts of the West Bank.

Bush’s commitment came without any mention of land from Israel and was widely seen as a significant shift in U.S. policy in the region. It was a soaring historical moment fraught with grinding political realities.

Bush needs a Middle East success to bolster a reputation as a bold foreign policy leader that flags with each U.S. casualty in Iraq.

For his part, Sharon needs to show Israelis that his leadership through some of the nation’s most traumatic years is resulting in a diplomatic breakthrough.

In addition, Sharon faces a May 2 Likud Party referendum on his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, and other Likud figures have vowed to challenge any uprooting of settlements.

When talks on the dimensions of a withdrawal began in February, the Americans rejected out of hand any recognition of Israeli claims in the West Bank. Subsequently, U.S. officials said they would consider such a recognition depending on the breadth of the withdrawal.

According to a senior Israeli official, the disengagement plan Sharon presented to Bush calls for an Israeli withdrawal from all of the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the West Bank.

The settlements, encompassing 500 settlers, include Ganim, Homesh, Kadim and Sanur, all in the northern West Bank. The withdrawal from these settlements would provide contiguity for the Palestinians between Jenin and Nablus, a major Palestinian concern.

The official said any future withdrawal would depend on how the Palestinians respond to this proposal and whether they live up to their commitments.

No one expected Bush to so explicitly bury years of U.S. policy, which traditionally said all the land Israel captured in 1967 was up for negotiation.

At best, Bush was expected to recognize vague "demographic realities." Instead, he said it was "unrealistic" to expect Israel to return to its pre-1967 lines.

Bush moreover threw in an endorsement of Israel’s controversial security barrier as it is now routed.

"The barrier being erected by Israel as a part of that security effort should, as your government has stated, be a security rather than political barrier," he said.

Finally, Bush expressed his most emphatic rejection to date of the Palestinian demand that Arab refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to land in Israel that they left in 1948.

"It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final-status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there rather than Israel," he said.

Sharon gave very little in return. Against Bush’s repeated assurances that the Gaza withdrawal would spur forward the U.S.-led "road map" peace plan and its goal of a Palestinian state, Sharon referred only obliquely to "your vision" in his public remarks Wednesday.

The biggest political loser Wednesday appeared to be the Palestinians, who were paying the price for a leadership that refused to stop terrorism and never successfully engaged Bush.

"He is the first president who has legitimized the settlements in the Palestinian territories when he said that there will be no return to the borders of 1967," Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei was quoted as saying by Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper.

Qurei’s outlook was bleak.

"We as Palestinians reject that, we cannot accept that, we reject and refuse it," he said.

Senior Bush administration officials, however, said the Palestinians should view the letters as an opportunity.

"What we want is a situation where Palestinian leaders, committed to democracy and fighting terror, have a chance to take control of that territory as a down payment on the way toward a Palestinian state," one said. "And we propose to engage very vigorously with the Palestinian Authority to try and create the institutions that will allow them to do that."