Shaare Shalom taps Raileanu for top post


Shaare Shalom, the joint-religious school of Shaare Zedek Synagogue and Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel has hired Michael Raileanu as education director for the upcoming school year.

Raileanu, currently the director of Judaic Studies at Solomon Schechter Day School, will take on the new role at Shaare Shalom as of June 1.

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As education director, Raileanu enters the school at a moment of transition: in the 2008-09 term the school will take over operation of the weekday afternoon Hebrew school that was formerly operated by the Central Agency for Jewish Education.

Gary Kodner, a co-chair of the Shaare Shalom Education Task Force, said that with the transition, the task force is essentially re-envisioning the school as a whole. The school has typically served about 120 students in past years, Kodner said.

The task force talked with the synagogue leaders and rabbis and parents in the congregation to find out what direction the school should take.

“What we heard was that people wanted to change the model. We didn’t want to have two standalone schools anymore. We didn’t want to have a Sunday religious school program with an administration and a director and a Hebrew school with a separate director,” Kodner said.

“We wanted to not only transition from Central Agency but we also wanted to combine those schools into one seamless program.”

In addition to writing a new mission statement with objectives for the school, the task force conducted a nationwide search for the school director. They found their ideal candidate was already in town.

“What made Michael stand out were a few things. He has had an enormous amount of experience, not just in St. Louis, being the assistant head of school at Solomon Schechter, but he had also led programs that were more synagogue-oriented programs,” Kodner said.

“As a teacher and as a educator, his style was definitely forward thinking. He was thinking experiential learning, which is what we were looking for from our task force. He came with a more hands-on approach, a more progressive approach, ” he said.

Raileanu said he is excited at the prospect of being able to create a new template for religious education.

“My career started in the religious school world. I’ve been in the day school world now for five years, and the opportunity to start my own school and do the things I’ve always wanted to do is a tremendous opportunity,” Raileanu said.

He said he found a “shared vision” with the boards and rabbis of the synagogues. “I have found the people at Shaare Shalom to be extremely receptive, and looking for something new and different and exciting. That’ something you don’t get everywhere you go.”

The school will combine Sunday school programs with Monday and Wednesday afternoon programs and select programming on Shabbat mornings.

Raileanu said he plans to make Hebrew a major focus of the school, along with a focus on making Shaare Shalom programs accessible through the internet.

“Kids are busy, busy, busy, busy. If a kid is going to miss Hebrew school for a soccer tournament in Springfield, I want our school to have a strong enough internet presence that they can pick up the missed assignments, turn in their assignments, and be able to participate in the school via the internet,” he said.

Raileanu came to St. Louis three years ago, after serving Jewish communities in Texas, California and North Carolina. Raileanu has a master’s degree in education from the University of Judaism in Los Angeles.

While Raileanu will be education director at Shaare Shalom, he will still maintain a connection with Solomon Schechter. He will teach part-time at the school.

Along with Kodner, Pat Cohen co-chairs the Shaare Shalom Education Task Force. Other task force members include Kathi Rosenberg, Debbie Gold, Beth Levy and Andria Rosenblum.