Traditional Congregation joins Shaare Shalom

BY MIA LEVINE, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Traditional Congregation has decided to join the Shaare Shalom Religious School for the upcoming school year.

Shaare Shalom currently serves as a joint religious school for Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel and Shaare Zedek Synagogue. Traditional does not currently offer a religious school for their own families.

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After reading an article in the St. Louis Jewish Light about Michael Raileanu’s assignment as director of Shaare Shalom, Traditional Congregation Board President Alan Rosenberg, decided to contact the religious school. The timing couldn’t have been better, said Rosenberg.

“The attendance at Traditional’s Jewish Heritage Center religious school had been dwindling,” he explained. “More of our parents started sending their kids to Jewish day schools — predominantly Solomon Schechter — but we also had those parents who sent their kids to public schools. Obviously, they wanted to give their kids a solid Jewish education as well.”

For several years Traditional struggled as how to best accommodate those parents and their children. They considered resurrecting the Heritage Center on a more limited basis and were even in the process of working on a plan, when Rosenberg came across the Jewish Light article.

Rosenberg contacted Gary Kodner, vice president of Shaare Zedek, expressing an interest in Shaare Shalom’s community model for supplemental religious school education.

The two met, along with Michael Raileanu. The three immediately realized this was an ideal cooperative venture.

“Our objectives absolutely coincided,” said Rosenberg. “We were all invested in figuring out how to accommodate the Jewish education of our young people.”

Kodner agreed. “BSKI and Shaare Zedek have always taken a community perspective,” he said. “Resources are also very tight and numbers are shrinking. If you aren’t working together as a community, you’re ultimately hiring more people and spending more money to accomplish the same thing. The fact that Traditional is coming into the ballgame now reinforces what we set out to do in the very beginning,” he said.

Kodner also believes that another advantage of a community model is that the Conservative Jewish community reaps more expertise.

“With Shaare Zedek and BSKI working together, we have two rabbis, two offices, and two boards. Introducing Traditional into it will bring significant contributions to the table too. Those types of resources you can’t ever overlook.”

Kodner believes too that part of the community model is reaching out to the Solomon Schechter community. Since they are part of the Conservative Jewish community, Kodner feels there’s no reason that their students should be isolated from the students who are in supplemental education. Currently, Shaare Shalom holds community Shabbatonim, but they are looking for other programming that could work out as well.

Over the years, said Kodner, Traditional families have sought out Conservative day school education, so the idea of introducing the Traditional kids into the Conservative ideology for supplemental religious school was never an issue.

“In our view,” said Rosenberg, “we’re talking about educating young Jews, so they’re learning the alef-bet, learning Shabbos, and learning holidays. There’s nothing philosophical, so it’s a moot point.”

Set to begin after Labor Day, Shaare Shalom will hold classes on Sundays for the Kindergarten through second grades at BSKI. Grades three through seven will attend on Mondays and Wednesdays at Shaare Zedek.

“We are also researching to see if we could find somewhere to hold classes out west in order to make it more convenient for our existing families and our new Traditional families who live out there,” said Raileanu.

Raileanu is hoping for six or seven Traditional students to join the 120 existing Shaare Shalom students.

“We’re all very excited,” said Raileanu. “There’s the potential to get all kinds of community involved. It all feels a little bit experimental, which is a good thing for me. I like that. I’m hoping we can create something that many members of the community will look to as an alternative.”