The boards of Kehillat Beth Israel (KBI) and Ottawa Talmud Torah Afternoon School (OTT) have agreed in principle to join the two organizations to expand on the educational opportunities provided by the school and to enrich the synagogue’'s services to the community.
It’s a conversation that’s been happening for awhile — years, in fact — but it took the COVID-19 pandemic to really bring to light the opportunity that existed in the merger.
“The pandemic forced a lot of organizations to think more deliberately about what they do,” said Rabbi Eytan Kenter of KBI.
Naomi Hirshberg, OTT board chair, said the pandemic highlighted support the school needed in terms of Judaic studies.
“Our teachers are fantastic — we are very proud of our school and of the history of the school. The teachers teach about Israel, Jewish holidays … but we wanted a little bit more.”
In the early stages of the pandemic, OTT moved from operating out of three separate locations to a consolidated space offered by KBI.
“Being able to centralize at KBI, being in that space, the next logical step seemed to be around formalizing the relationship between the school and the synagogue,” said Hirshberg.
Among the many benefits is the opportunity to have a “vibrant, community-minded religious school,” said Rabbi Kenter.
“We’re excited to really work together with the parents and the school to represent the values of the community while at the same time presenting a really thoughtful and special version of Judaism to share with the kids.”
It’s the first Conservative supplementary school of its kind in Ottawa, says KBI vice president Jeremy Rudin, and it will be open to all families, not just members of KBI.
Similarly, Temple Israel of Ottawa offers their supplemental religious school, Temple Israel Religios School (TRIS) to all members of the community, not just synagogue members. Temple's president Miriam Burke echoes KBI's enthusiam and says the more access to Jewish education for our young people the better.
Hirshberg agreed, adding that she’s excited for the opportunity for her own children as well.
“OTT has always been proud that you can come from any background and be part of the school, but the partnership with KBI will fill a bit of a niche. Community members might say well ‘I’m not orthodox,’ or ‘I’m not reform,’ and this is the middle ground. Everyone finds something that works with their family,” she said. “There are benefits in being involved and part of the OTT family, or the KBI family, or both.”
Plans for the upcoming school year (2022-2023) are well in development, said Rudin, with “a lot of enthusiasm on all sides.”
Parents or community members interested in opportunities at the school in the fall are invited to connect with Hirshberg, or the OTT board. To ask questions, visit: https://www.ottas.ca/contact-us