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Ezra Academy implements new approach to learning

WOODBRIDGE — Ezra Academy has announced the implementation of a new, innovative educational approach to learning, in partnership with the Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy. According to school administrators, the Lookstein Virtual courses are connecting the Woodbridge Jewish day school’s middle school students to Jewish learning and enhancing the school’s curriculum.

Lookstein Virtual, a project of Bar-Ilan University’s Lookstein Center for Jewish Education, was recently named one of North America’s top 50 innovative Jewish organizations in the twelfth annual Slingshot Guide.

A new model in Jewish education, Lookstein Virtual is a financially sustainable online school that teaches a broad range of Jewish studies classes to a wide variety of students. The program’s goal is to bring quality online Jewish education to students everywhere, regardless of geographic location or ideological orientation; and to supporting Jewish schools, synagogues, and families by providing affordable and flexible instruction.

The Ezra day school students are among 1100 students in grades 6-12, from the farthest reaches of Alaska to suburban Detroit and metro Miami, using the program. Participants from across the country work in synchronicity (or not), independently or collaboratively.

“Our class is 100 percent engaged in this course…the students are learning so much – not just about this particular text, but learning Tanach in general…I am thrilled that this is exceeding all my expectations,” says Ezra Judaic Studies teacher Rabbi Amanda Brodie.

Ezra Academy piloted with Lookstein Virtual this year and plans to expand its partnership in 2017-2018 as a way to expose students to new opportunities in Jewish studies, says Brodie.

The Slingshot Guide selected Lookstein Virtual from among hundreds of finalists reviewed by nearly 100 professionals with expertise in grant-making and Jewish communal life. According to the Guide, Lookstein Virtual’s “highly interactive learning platform opens the door to all kinds of new learning experiences.” Organizations included in this year’s Guide were evaluated on their innovative approach, the impact they have in their work, the leadership they have in their sector, and their effectiveness at achieving results. The Slingshot Guide was created by a team of young funders as a guidebook to help funders of all ages diversify their giving portfolios to include the most innovative and effective organizations, programs and projects in North America.

“We are thrilled to be selected for the Slingshot Guide for the second consecutive year,” said Chana German, Lookstein Virtual Director.  “Online Jewish learning is a game-changer for schools, communities, and families of all different shapes and sizes. We are honored to be recognized for our work and to be included among this list of innovative Jewish organizations each doing their part to shake-up the status quo and better the Jewish community.”

Caption: Ezra Academy 8th-graders work on their online Tanach course. (Photo courtesy Ezra Academy)

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