last Sunday, in a high-profile, well attended ceremony at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum, the Israeli Ministry of Education presented Chabad’s Beit Chaya Girls School of Haifa with the religious education award of the year. The prize recognizes the school’s outstanding commitment to education, founded on the principles of a living Judaism.
Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, Vice Minister of Education, Mr. Zvi Hendel, and Chief Religious education administrator, Rabbi Shimon Adler, were present at the ceremony.
Founded in 1982, by Rabbi Yehuda Leib Schildkraut, with 12 students, Beit Chaya now includes an elementary and high school, accommodating some 520 students who commute from Acre (Akko) Naharya, Afula, Nazareth, Midgal Haemek, Maalot, and all over northern Israel, and employs 40 teachers. Two years ago, Beit Chaya moved from an old, rundown building to a modern, state-of-the-art facilities on Chabad’s $12m educational campus in Haifa.
“Roughly 30% of our students come from non-observant homes, and many of them live below the poverty line,” says Rabbi Schildkraut, who received the award along with principals Mrs. Miriam Drukman (primary school) and Mrs. Sara Goldberg (high school). “Beit Chaya provides students with a first, positive exposure to traditional Judaism, while simultaneously looking out for the girls’ material welfare, through subsidizing transportation fees, the cost of nutritious meals, and a full range of educational and recreational after school programs in students’ respective neighborhoods,” he says, pointing to the spiritual and physical nurturing that go hand in hand at Beit Chaya.
“Beit Chaya opens its doors to students from widely varying backgrounds, and embraces them with joy and love, and a deep sense of educational mission,” read the statement put out by the prize committee, headed by Doctor Nissim Elikim. It is this sense of mission that has led the school to “serve as a model and example of educational values based on the teachings of Chabad Chasidut, with its emphasis on serving the Creator and walking in His ways with true joy.”
According to the committee, “students at Beit Chaya enjoy their learning, and reach exemplary levels of success in all areas.” In fact, Beit Chaya’s average is twice as high as the general academic average in the entire country, says school supervisor Shimon Shitrit.
The school has earned special acclaim for its tutoring program, which enables elementary school girls to receive help with their schoolwork from the high school students, fostering feelings of camaraderie, responsibility, and a deep sense of mutual commitment.
“The school faculty has created an open, warm and loving environment,” said Elikim. “And the physical appearance of the building—its beautiful structure—is representative of the school’s entire approach to education in the spirit of Chasidut, with love for the people and the land of Israel.”