Known as “The People of the Book,” Jewish people have valued education long before immigrating to the United States. In America, education is of great value and something that Jewish Americans immediately embraced as a path to opportunity for themselves and their children. Being an immigrant I often heard my parents say, "Milana, we didn't work hard to come to this country so you can be a mediocre student. Come back and get an A next time!" My parents encouraged me to get good grades and perform well on my tests so that I could become a strong professional and be able to achieve the American dream. Today, I too believe that education for my children is of utmost importance and that is what led my family and I on this journey today
When I looked for a school for my children, I searched for places that would give my children the education, skills, and opportunities to succeed as adults. After searching and finding some great schools, something was always missing - but I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was. A very powerful quote from Carla Naumburg in an article she wrote about Jewish day school education captures exactly what I was searching for:
“What I am looking for in a Jewish day school is something that can't be measured on any standardized test or report card; rather it is something we will see over time in the communities our daughters choose to connect with, the families they create and the values they live.”
With all the challenges kids face today like materialism, pride, identity, social skills and many others, it is crucial to choose an education for our children that supports the values we try to teach at home. Parents are busy working and often have little time beyond reminding children to do their homework, study for their tests and come back home with good grades. Our children spend more time in school than at home, and therefore pick up many behaviors and thoughts at school as well. It's not a judgment on our parenting, it's just the new reality we must face. I didn’t want to send my kids to just any school, and so my search dragged on.
Eventually, I found a school that met and surpassed all of my hopes and dreams for an excellent education. Mazel Day School (MDS) opened its doors in 2002 with just two children. My daughter was the first child to be enrolled in their nursery class. Before long, Mazel became very well known in our community. Parents enrolled their little ones and loved it so much that it seemed impossible to find another school quite like it. The teachers truly cared about the students and parent involvement was high. Best of all, the children are excited about school and learning! With its success, Mazel began to expand. One of the founders of the school said, “There is no beginning without continuation and so, Mazel opened its Elementary school and soon after a Middle school. Fast forward to today, and there are over 170 happy students in Mazel Day School from pre-nursery through grade 8. Our neighborhood was incomplete until a vibrant school like Mazel became a community staple dedicating itself to fostering the next generation of empowered Jewish people.
MDS's approach to education is governed by profound respect for all students. Teachers nurture their curiosity, cultivate their imagination, encourage creative expression, and critical thinking. In an academic setting that values open, engaged inquiry, MDS’s rich and rigorous curriculum weaves the best of both Jewish and general knowledge throughout the day. At Mazel Day School, the learning process itself is valued and as a result, children develop a true love for learning and pursuit of knowledge. Teachers use a variety of methods to bring subject matter alive, including: regular field trips, projects, discussions, interactive activities and explorations. Learning experiences are designed to be joyful, meaningful and real. From science and social studies, to math and literacy, the curriculum is not only aligned with national standards, but with individual strengths and interests as well. Opportunities for collaborative teamwork, training for social competencies, and character development are integrated into the daily curriculum. American citizenry is cultivated through knowledge and appreciation of our history, culture and democratic process. Study of Hebrew language, Jewish-Israeli history and heritage give students a sense of belonging to a rich and diverse Jewish culture. Russian language and literature broaden our students’ horizons and wordliness. Our rich and unique tapestry of learning provides a superior education that sets our school apart from others.
When I drop off my children, I feel confident that the education that my children receive in Mazel will not only teach them math, sciences, and humanities but will also instill a sense of Jewish pride and prepare them to make major contributions to the world. Mazel Day School fosters a value system and identity development in my children. By building on Jewish concepts – my children grow into ethical and moral individuals enabling them to contribute to society in a positive way.
The establishment of MDS represents a key milestone in the Russian Jews' journey toward revival of our Jewish identity. As Natan Sharansky so eloquently stated, “Only a person who is connected to his past, to his people, and to his roots can be free, and only a free person has the strength to act for benefit of the rest of humanity.” Giving our children a Jewish day school education is the key that can help unlock the full potential of our community. MDS serves as a model for Jewish education and is true catalyst that is driving change in Brooklyn’s Russian Jewish Community.
This year my oldest daughter will graduate 8th grade. My husband and I are very busy choosing the right high school for her, attending one school open house after another. We explored all different neighborhoods, schools and options in Brooklyn, Long Island, Queens, New Jersey and Manhattan. As I was listening to one high school’s Rabbi speak about the value of a Jewish day school education, I became very emotional and started to cry. These were tears of happiness. I felt that the decision we made for my daughter was the right one.
When my husband and I were leaving those schools with our daughter we kept repeating to each other how blessed we felt to have made those choices for our kids. When we were growing up we did not have opportunities to be proud of who we were as Jewish people. We weren’t able too study our traditions and our history - it was simply forbidden. G-d Bless America. Our children were born in a country where they can learn and be proud of their heritage. There are many options for us to choose from in an education; however to us a Jewish education has become the natural choice.
Mazel is the answer to all of my questions. Outstanding education, friendly environment, and Jewish pride- what else can we ask for? If you are like me, looking for a school where your children will receive excellent moral and academic education, arrange a visit in person or check out our website at http://www.mazeldayschool.com/.
Milana Feldman is an entrepreneur and an owner of woman’s boutique – Zori, and a proud mother of four children. Milana is a participant of the Parent to Parent initiative of The Jewish Education Project, which promotes parent leadership in Jewish Day Schools.