Chabad, San Jose rabbis jointly manage yeshiva at two locations

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Recognizing that educating youth is crucial to building a strong traditional Jewish community, a Palo Alto Chabad rabbi and a San Jose non-Chassidic Orthodox rabbi have joined forces to run a yeshiva primary school.

The Torah Academy, which opened in Palo Alto two years ago, has plans to move to a larger site in the Sunnyvale area, in order to better serve South Bay families. In the meantime, school will start Tuesday, Sept. 3, at temporary sites in San Jose and Palo Alto.

Rabbi Yosef Levin of Chabad of the Greater South Bay in Palo Alto, who began the Torah Academy in Palo Alto, will continue as dean. Rabbi Gedalia Meyer of Congregation Ahavas Torah in San Jose will become the school's director. School sites will operate at the synagogue at 1537-A Meridian, San Jose, and at 3070 Louis Road, Palo Alto.

The rabbis look forward to working together. Since the children of several of Meyer's congregants already attended the school when he took the helm at the San Jose synagogue one year ago, the collaboration seemed a natural progression.

The two rabbis share similar community goals. "Historically in Europe, both branches have worked together for the betterment of the Jewish community," Levin said.

The two groups actually have much in common. "The vast amount of Jewish content is common to all forms of Orthodoxy," Meyer explained, "and the differences are flavorings that each group adds. Our goal is to focus on the basic common ground and not exclude any of the flavorings."

"The basic idea behind the yeshiva is to bring fresh life into the Jewish community [through] an essential Jewish education taught in its most traditional and authentic manner," he said. "We want to create a school for the Bay Area that can match the standards found in yeshivas on the East Coast."

The yeshiva will focus primarily on Torah learning and lifestyle with an emphasis on Torah values, Levin noted.

"Jews recognize what has kept them together is study and practice of Torah," he said. "To have our children continue to study and pass this to the next generation is important. Children need to recognize the central role Torah plays and how it has never changed.

"We will try to give children a way to realize their connection to God, Israel and the Jewish people. This is our highest priority and essential to Jewish life."

Students in kindergarten through second grade will spend 31/2 hours daily studying Torah through games, music, art and other activities.

In grades three to five, boys and girls will follow divergent courses of study. Boys will study Chumash (the five books of Torah plus haftorah), Mishnah and Gemorah (two parts of the Talmud) for 4-1/2 hours. Girls will study Chumash, practical Jewish law and Hebrew. Both boys and girls will have secular studies, augmented with computers whenever possible, following the state of California's curriculum requirements.

Yeshiva students must adhere to a dress code and certain strict standards of moral conduct, language and diet. Parents and teachers are expected to reinforce these objectives. The school is open to any Jewish child who is prepared to meet these standards.

Partial scholarships will be available this year.