The Portland area is fortunate to have three Jewish day schools serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Maayan Torah Day School, Maimonides Jewish Day School and Portland Jewish Academy offer excellent general and Jewish studies programs that incorporate Jewish values to create well-rounded graduates. (See below for story on the benefits of day schools.)
This roundup focuses on elementary and middle school programs. Preschools will be featured in a later issue. PJA and Maayan both offer preschool/early childhood programs, while Maimonides shares its campus with The Gan Preschool.
Some parents may feel Jewish day schools are out of reach due to cost, but all three schools offer generous tuition assistance in an effort to ensure that all Jewish children can receive a Jewish education.
Asked to describe their programs in one sentence, the schools shared the following:
Welcoming families of all backgrounds, PJA’s hands-on interdisciplinary curriculum emphasizes collaborative learning, critical thinking and joyful participation in Jewish life.
Maimonides Jewish Day School is an accredited, kindergarten through eighth grade school committed to teaching the whole child, inspiring lifelong learning, and providing personalized, meaningful, and empowering Judaic and General Studies education for a diverse community of Jewish children.
Maayan offers a balance of warmth, nurturing, rigorous academic experience and love of Judaism.
Following are more details on all three schools.
MAAYAN TORAH DAY SCHOOL
Principal: Rabbi Yerachmiel Kalter
503-245-5568 | maayanpdx.org
2 Touchstone Dr., Lake Oswego OR 97035
ACCREDITATION: AdvancEd, Cognia
FINANCIAL AID: Maayan offers a plethora of scholarships and financial aid.
BEFORE AND/OR AFTER SCHOOL: Yes
KINDERGARTEN-8TH GRADE: 55 students
ACCOMMODATION FOR LEARNING DIFFERENCES: Yes
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: Maayan is committed to offering a stellar secular and Judaic education at an affordable price. Students enjoy a rigorous academic experience that pushes them to grow yet nurtures their love of learning. In recent national standardized testing, the majority of students far exceeded grade expectations in Math and ELA. Students gain an in-depth understanding of Middot, Jewish customs and Torah. Most of all, they develop a love for their rich Jewish heritage and Israel.
MAIMONIDES JEWISH DAY SCHOOL
Director: Devora Wilhelm
General Studies Principal: Karen DeNardo
503-977-7850 | portlandjewishschool.com
6612 SW Capitol Hwy., Portland, OR 97239
ACCREDITATION: Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools; National Council for Private School Accreditation; and National Accreditation Board of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch
FINANCIAL AID: At Maimonides, we believe it is the right of every Jewish child to have the highest quality Judaic and secular education. To that end, we offer financial assistance as we feel no child should be turned away due to financial concerns.
BEFORE AND AFTER SCHOOL CARE: Yes
ACCOMMODATION FOR LEARNING DIFFERENCES: We have one staff member for every five students. This allows us to accommodate for learning differences, whether it is for a student who is struggling with a concept or for a student that is beyond the given lesson and needs enrichment.
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: We believe individuals progress and thrive most successfully at their own pace, so we maintain an excellent ratio of staff to students. We also believe that Judaism is applicable, relevant and supports meaningful and successful daily living. It is taught using a project-based approach that helps children love and personally connect to Jewish tradition and values. We believe that as active members of the 21st century, students must be curious, critical thinkers and lifelong learners.
PORTLAND JEWISH ACADEMY
Director of Admission: Sarah Glass
503-535-3599 | firstname.lastname@example.org
6651 SW Capitol Highway, Portland, OR 97219
ACCREDITATION: Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS)
TUITION: K-5th, $22,050; Middle School, $22,800 (2022-23)
FINANCIAL AID: We offer tuition assistance. More than 50% of PJA families receive tuition assistance. We also offer a 30% tuition discount for Jewish Communal Professionals.
BEFORE AND/OR AFTER SCHOOL: We offer after-school care for K-5th grade students.
KINDERGARTEN-8TH GRADE: 186 students
ACCOMMODATION FOR LEARNING DIFFERENCES: We will make accommodations for learning differences as necessary and as long as we have the resources to do so. PJA has a Support Services team of educators who provide support in both academic and social/emotional skills. In addition, we have support for students new to Hebrew language learning. Support is given both in the classroom and in individual or small group sessions.
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: Founded in 1961, Portland Jewish Academy is an independent, inclusive Jewish community school that welcomes families of all backgrounds. PJA provides an academically rich environment that supports each student’s personal growth and development, from infants through 8th grade. Our hands-on interdisciplinary curriculum emphasizes collaborative learning, critical thinking and community engagement. At PJA, students are empowered to think for themselves and work for the world.
Why send kids to day school?
Portland’s three Jewish day schools offer an abundance of benefits for Jewish children at any time. Now, two years into a pandemic that has battered everyone’s equilibrium, Jewish day schools offer even more advantages – not just for the students, but for the world.
“We are living in a very chaotic world, and a private Jewish school can bring in values and ethics,” says Maimonides Jewish Day School Director Devora Wilhelm. “Having a values-based education is even more important now than five years ago.”
Portland Jewish Academy Admissions Director Sarah Glass agrees that Jewish day schools have much to offer in the way of flexibility and core values.
“Our Jewish studies curriculum provides a built-in structure for social/emotional development by using our Jewish texts to learn lessons about how to live our lives with gratitude, respect, care for oneself and for the community,” says Glass. “We also incorporate a social/emotional curriculum in all classes. Lessons might include how to be a positive member of a classroom community, dealing with conflict in kind and constructive ways, building social skills and showing kavod (respect) for ourselves, others and property.”
Maayan Torah Day School also offers values-based education – one that inspires children to love Judaism and mitzvot.
Wilhelm notes that Judaism also teaches that every person makes a difference in the world.
“If every child could feel ‘I have purpose, what I do is important and I can make a difference,’ we would have a better world,” says Wilhelm.
The low ratio of students to teachers, ranging from 5:1 at MJDS to 10:1 at PJA, enables day school staff to be in tune with their students’ emotional and social needs, as well as their academic needs.
“This year, we are noticing a greater need among many students for additional support, both academically and socially,” says Glass. “Our teachers are focusing more than ever on providing opportunities for students to develop their social skills and find tools to help them manage their emotional regulation.”
In addition, PJA has a school counselor who works with students individually to guide them through challenging situations and offers small group sessions to support students navigating unfamiliar social dynamics.
At Maimonides, regular team meetings allow staff members to keep tabs on children for academic, social/emotional growth and concerns. Staffers consult with mental health professionals when needed and reach out to parents with out of school options.
MJDS believes in a three-pronged approach for students to succeed at school. Happiness – they must enjoy coming to school. Character traits – the school and home instills character traits that help a student develop into a mensch, who can succeed while making a positive difference in the world. Academics – the ability to think critically, analyze, interpret and use information and data effectively. When one is happy and a mensch, that is the foundation for academics to thrive.
Maayan Torah also focuses on creating a love for learning and Judaism. The school uses nurtured heart recognitions and student engagement strategies to foster an excitement for learning, which develops self-motivated students. The school offers an environment that conveys the joy and meaning of Torah and mitzvot.