When the school was founded in 1970, it was one of the first Jewish day schools in the West Valley. The initial class was made up of seven boys, one girl and one teacher. It steadily grew, moving three times until finally finding its home at the Evenhaim Family Campus on Shoup Avenue in Woodland Hills.
In 1996, the school went down in history when students wrote to the U.S. Postal Service, helping to create the first-ever Hanukkah postage stamp. And the school has continued to be groundbreaking, transforming over the past five decades from a Conservative school to an independent one that is more traditional and Masorti, surviving the challenging 2008 recession and weathering the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, as the school celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, school representatives are finding ways to highlight all of Kadima’s accomplishments, even though in-person events have been pushed off until the pandemic is over.
“We’ve become an anchor of the Jewish community in the West Valley,” said Dr. Steven Lorch, who is head of school. “There’s not a lot out here in the Wild West, and Kadima has been a pillar of strength for the community.”
Sharlene Blau, who sent both of her children to the school, served as admissions director from 2005 to 2007 and is now a board member and Kadima grandparent, said Kadima “has so much to offer. You feel really good about who you are as a Jewish person. There is a diversity of families, which is incredible. We have families from all different backgrounds. I hope we can continue that because it’s very important for our society.”
Blau also said that kids who graduate from Kadima — which educates preschoolers through eighth graders — end up staying connected to the Jewish community. Her daughter teaches math at de Toledo High School and became involved with her alma mater. “She came onto the board of directors for four years at Kadima. I didn’t ask her to do it. She said she’d like to become part of it. Other young people were on the board, too.”
One thing that sets the school apart is the fact that tuition is inexpensive compared to other Jewish day schools (currently, it’s $14,000 for elementary and $15,000 for middle school). According to Director of Admissions Dikla Kadosh, Kadima was able to lower its tuition by 50% three years ago with the help of its main donor, Shawn Evenhaim and his family (whom the campus is named after), as well as other contributors like Sheldon Adelson.
“Shawn Evenhaim has been a big donor to Kadima for many years, and his family are incredible benefactors,” said Kadosh. “He said we had to make it affordable or there wouldn’t be any Jewish education left in this city.”
At Kadima, the educational philosophy focuses on the four C’s: critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration, said Lorch. “We’re adopting and implementing curriculum that exemplifies these four new twenty-first-century skills.”
In the school’s social studies program, there’s a new curriculum called “Reading Like a Historian.” Students encounter primary texts with competing views of a particular historical event or moment, and they learn to evaluate the reliability and validity of various sources and come to their own understanding of the event based on the evidence.
Right now, the school is doing a mix of learning on Zoom and in person. Preschoolers through second graders are allowed on campus, and class sizes for in-person learning are limited to 12 students. “We were one of the first schools to receive special permission to bring students back to campus,” said Kadosh.
Despite the fact that classes must remain small, many new families hope to switch from public school to private school and join Kadima when they can. “People are now very disillusioned with public education and worried that their kids are so far behind,” said Kadosh. “In private school, we can really accelerate them.”
Although times are tough for everyone right now because of COVID-19, Kadima’s leaders are hopeful for the school’s future, and what the next 50+ years have to offer.
“Kadima has rightfully earned the reputation of being a tight-knit family school that feels like home,” said Lorch. “We want to continue to build on the reputation and that reality of being the school that is warm, welcoming, embracing and inclusive with a greater diversity within the Jewish community.”
Kadosh said, “I really see us flourishing, increasing enrollment and becoming one of the leading schools in LA. People come to Kadima not just because they want their child to get an education but also because they want to be part of something. I really see us thriving and leading the way in some new technologies and educational philosophies. I see a very bright future at Kadima.”
Kylie Ora Lobell is a writer for the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, The Forward, Tablet Magazine, Aish, and Chabad.org and the author of the first children’s book for the children of Jewish converts, “Jewish Just Like You.”