Hebrew Charter School in Harlem Will Strive for Diversity, Backers Say

A Hebrew charter school will open in Harlem in fall 2013, modeled after Hebrew Language Academy Charter School in Brooklyn, pictured above. (Photo via Jewish Week)

After its approval by the New York State Board of Regents last Tuesday, a Hebrew charter school will open in the historically black neighborhood of Harlem. The Harlem Hebrew Language Academy Charter will begin classes in fall 2013, reported Julie Wiener at Jewish Week.

A Hebrew charter school in Harlem may sound akin to an African-American-themed school in Borough Park or Jerusalem.

But Harlem Hebrew Language Academy Charter — whose charter the New York State Board of Regents formally approved on Tuesday, and which is slated to open in fall 2013 — is arguably in an ideal location to recruit a racially and socio-economically diverse student body interested in learning Hebrew.

While Harlem Hebrew’s reach is not limited to Harlem —  it will draw students from Manhattan’s District 3, which includes the Upper West Side, an area with one of the highest densities of Jews in the world, according to The Jewish Week — the school will work with local community groups to make Harlem a crucial part of its identity, organizers said.

Harlem Hebrew’s planning group has developed a number of partnerships with community-based institutions, including the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, which is developing a curriculum emphasizing immigration and migration with a lens on Harlem.

“One foundation of our model is creating diverse, inclusive schools that expose students of all backgrounds to the Hebrew language and build bridges of understanding,” said HCSC’s board chair, Sara Berman, co-lead applicant for Harlem Hebrew and a resident of the Upper West Side.

The publicly-funded dual-language immersion charter school will start with grades K-1, with plans to expand to K-5 within the next five years. Harlem Hebrew is modeled after Hebrew Language Academy Charter School in Brooklyn. Opened in 2009, founder Sara Berman calls the Brooklyn school the “most diverse charter school in New York City.”

Both schools are backed by the Hebrew Charter School Center, a group created by a Jewish consortium led by the hedge fund manager and philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, who is also Berman’s father. Steinhardt is the co-founder of Birthright Israel, a group that offers free trips to Israel for young Jewish adults.

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