10 years on Sandler Family Campus: Hebrew Academy of Tidewater Konikoff Center of Learning and the Strelitz Early Childhood Center

by | Mar 6, 2015 | Other News

In the 1950s, a very determined group of leaders came together with a vision for a Jewish day school for the children of Tidewater. That dream became a reality and the Hebrew Academy of Tidewater opened its doors in Norfolk in 1954–1955. The founding men and women of the school were: Joe Jaffe*, Rabbi Joe Schecter*, Rabbi Israel Bornstein*, Soloman Yavner*, Molly* and IP Gordon*, Jack Stein*, Nellie Gottlieb*, William Mazel*, Harold Goodman*, Harold Burstein*, Willie Einhorn*, Dr. David Kruger and Carl Katz* (*of blessed memory).

In 2004, the community joined together to open its new home in Virginia Beach, the Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus of the Tidewater Jewish Community. In sharing these extraordinary grounds with the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, Tidewater Jewish Foundation and Simon Family Jewish Community Center, the Hebrew Academy of Tidewater became a campus partner in promoting Jewish life and learning, and bringing the joy of youth to the greater Jewish community.

It is heartwarming to walk through the campus cardo and hear HAT students “benching” (singing the prayer after eating) or belting out with ruach (spirit) songs as they prepare to welcome Shabbat. Witnessing the daily ritual of students walking to the gym, cafeteria, pool or the playground reinforces the circle of Jewish life to campus visitors. When HAT students engage with the JCC’s seniors by sharing a joint Seder, or participate in the Lee and Bernard Jaffe* Family Jewish Book Festival or simply join in the JCC’s after school programs and activities such as swimming lessons or Kid’s Connection, the convenience and synergy of campus life becomes a blessing for many families.

Miles Leon, president of the HAT board at the time of the move from Thompkins Lane to the Sandler Campus says, “The same warmth and excellence of the old school still exists, but in an amazing, state-of-the-art building that has even more to offer.”

And what a first-class facility it is. Every classroom is outfitted with interactive white boards, allowing students a 21st Century Classroom global learning experience. The Miller Library boasts two floors of books and media resources for students, as well as a Jewish resource room for the community. The Fleder Multi-Purpose Room is home to many school events, including Jewish holiday celebrations, strings concerts and other performance art, guest speakers, book fairs, open houses, graduation ceremonies, alumni functions, professional development and more. Preschoolers enjoy swimming classes, a cooking center and a fantastically equipped playground.

“When we moved to the new campus,” says Jodi Klebanoff, a former HAT board president and HAT parent, “it was essentially the start of the new millennium. I took office on the heels of Miles Leon, whose outstanding leadership prepared us for the move and kept the ship steady through transition.

“During my term, the board’s goal shifted to capitalizing on the strengths of the new building and sharpening our academic capabilities. The board recruited Zena Herod as the new head of school and, with her knowledge and expertise, the school evolved into the 21st century classroom, making extensive use of laptops, ActivBoards and daily instruction in the modern computer and science labs. Opportunities for our students grew exponentially. During Zena’s leadership, the school also received a 10-year re-accreditation from the Virginia Association of Independent Schools, an extraordinary undertaking which involves intensive planning.”

Much has changed over the last 10 years, including never-ending advances in technology.

“We have to keep up with that pace,” says Randi Gordon, current board president and HAT parent. “We continue to update technology and added another layer to it a few years ago: a student run broadcasting system with the call letters WHAT, of course! The kids host their own television show every morning, providing school-wide updates and announcements to all students and faculty. It’s an impressive way for our students to practice and showcase their public speaking and leadership skills.

“I’ve watched two of my children graduate from HAT, and a third who will do so soon. I could not be more proud,” adds Gordon. “I attend graduation ceremony every year and, without fail, Hebrew Academy graduates are truly poised young leaders. They are accepted into all of the top independent schools and public school International Baccalaureate and academy programs in Hampton Roads. I look forward to seeing what the future brings for HAT and the Strelitz Early Childhood Center.”

“If I could impart one thing to any parent considering sending their child to HAT,” says Klebanoff, “I would say this: Do it. As a past HAT parent to three children, I appreciate the tangible impact HAT’s dual curriculum makes on its graduates. No question, the secular program builds confident and prepared graduates who excel in all core subjects necessary to transition to middle school and beyond. The Judaic studies program builds character and integrity, fostering a love of Israel and strong Jewish identity. Most importantly, students receive a foundation that is critical to maintaining a vibrant Jewish community for generations to come.”

Hebrew Academy of Tidewater Konikoff Center of Learning and the Strelitz Early Childhood Center preschool is accredited by the Virginia Association of Independent Schools and is recognized as such by the Virginia Board of Education. It is also a founding member of RAVSAK. Serving students from preschool through fifth grade, the school is also a recipient agency of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, Tidewater Jewish Foundation and the United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula.

For information about enrollment, contact Carin Simon, director of admissions, at 757- 424-4327 or csimon@hebrewacademy.net.

by Dee Dee Becker