How can VTT compete with other elite private schools when the general curriculum is taught in half the time?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions. VTT is responsible for the same learning outcomes as other schools but we capably do it in less time. Teachers and students must use instructional time well and students must learn to be self-motivated and organized. VTT’s school day is one hour longer than most schools to allow for the added Judaic component. The school’s long-range plans are monitored by the Office of the Inspector of Independent Schools, a branch of the Ministry of Education.
How does Vancouver Talmud Torah (VTT) accommodate the range of Jewish traditions/levels of observance?
The value of pluralism is embedded into the fabric of VTT’s identity and practice. While the expectations of Jewish law and customs are taught regarding all aspects of Jewish tradition, we recognize and embrace the fact that each family and child is at a different place on the journey of Jewish observance and living and comes from any of a variety of home traditions. We offer a comfortable and welcoming environment to explore and discuss personal practices. Differences are used as an opportunity to clarify and sharpen understandings and to experiment with practices that are new. The intention is for students to understand where they fit into the varied spectrum of philosophy and practice of the modern Jewish community and to comprehend how that compares to the teachings of the mitzvot/commandments of our ancient and long-standing tradition.
What is your religious philosophy?
Vancouver Talmud Torah is a traditional community Jewish day school that respects and embraces variation in observance and religious practice. As such, we serve a community of families that reflects a wide spectrum of beliefs and ritual practices. The leaders and teachers of Vancouver Talmud Torah serve as role models for the value of pluralism and for active engagement in Jewish life and living, which we hope to inspire in our students and families as a result of their being a part of the VTT community. “Pluralism” refers to a community that fosters respect for each individual’s background and builds a safe and comfortable environment in which it can be discussed. Therefore, our classrooms and other teaching spaces should be places where teachers and students are able to express personal opinions and engage in conversation. Care must be taken to always bear in mind that all opinions are valid and welcome and that there may not be “one right answer.” Our success in helping our community to grow and learn on an on-going basis will be founded on these ideas and practices.
Do students need to be Jewish to attend VTT?
To be considered for enrolment, students must have at least one Jewish parent. We will also consider a child that is going through a conversion under the guidance of a rabbi.
What level of Hebrew fluency can we expect from graduates?
VTT’s Hebrew language goals fall into two major categories: the language of traditional texts such as the Siddur/prayerbook and Bible and the modern Hebrew language of the State of Israel. Regarding traditional Hebrew, VTT strives for each student not only to be able to comfortably read the text, but also to be able to communicate comprehension of the text. We strive to reach beyond rote recitation of our traditional texts for it is in comprehension that personal meaning and connection are made. When it comes to modern Hebrew, our curriculum meets the needs of a diverse range of abilities. We create immersion environments in our classrooms in which children from Israeli families will be able to maintain and enrich their knowledge and fluency with Hebrew while at the same time building the vocabulary and speaking abilities of the rest of the student body. Fluency and fluidity will vary from student to student. However, we strive for every student to have a facility with Hebrew that would make him or her comfortable with Hebrew if in Israel and age-appropriate Hebrew sources when outside of Israel.
How does Talmud Torah adhere to Jewish dietary laws?
The Jewish dietary laws are one of the ways that we elevate the mundane act of eating and connect it to G-d and holiness. They also add an aspect of religious discipline to everyday Jewish life. As a community, VTT observes the laws of Kashrut within the school in the following ways:
- Students may only bring dairy or pareve foods (items that are neither meat nor dairy, such as fish, and fruits and vegetables) to school for lunches and snacks.
- Food items brought into the school for celebrations or activities must bear a certified kosher label (see some examples below) or must have been prepared in the school’s kitchen. Unfortunately, we cannot permit home-baked goods to be brought into the school for such events.
- For families desiring meat/protein lunches, Mendelsons Kosher Gourmet (MKG), our caterer, offers a meat options 2-3 times weekly.
What is the portrait of a VTT graduate?
A graduate of VTT is a Jewish teen who is confident in his or her ability to be successful in 21st century society, with developing critical thinking and analytical skills, and steeped in a foundation of Jewish knowledge and practice. S/he is strongly identified with Judaism, the Jewish people, and the Land of Israel and committed to life-long learning, with a desire to pursue higher learning in Judaic studies alongside general studies. A VTT graduate is an active and participatory citizen of Canadian society and the Jewish community, driven by the values of derekh eretz (respect) and tikkun olam (making the world a better place).
Where do most of your graduates go after VTT?
Many of our students choose to continue their education at our sister–and primary feeder–school King David High School. They appreciate the individualized attention and intimate community as well as the continued ties to Vancouver Talmud Torah. Our students also gain admittance to other private schools and the Vancouver School Board’s mini schools.