Gesher school expanding into adult education

Dan Finkel, head of Gesher Jewish Day School, will teach a 10-week course for adults.
File photo

Looking to increase its profile in Northern Virginia and play a larger role in Jewish education writ large, Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax is expanding into adult education.

Last week, the school announced that it will partner with the Jerusalem-based Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning to offer a 10-week course taught by Dan Finkel, Gesher’s head of school.

The school recently completed a five-year strategic plan that called for the school to play a larger role in Jewish education in Northern Virginia as a whole, Finkel said.

The school is also looking to increase its visibility in Northern Virginia’s dispersed Jewish community.

Finkel said both Gesher’s research and the recent Jewish demographic study of the Washington region indicated that some families in the area aren’t aware of the school.

Finkel projects that enrollment at the K-8 school will 122 students this year, up from 115 last year and below its peak of about 200 students in 2006.

According to Jennifer Scher, Gesher’s director of development, the school’s strategic plan takes a broad view of the role Gesher plays as the only Jewish day school in Northern Virginia.

“We’re in year one [of the strategic plan] and a major component is, what is the role of the day school beyond the students we serve? How do we impact the greater community?” she said, adding that parents and other community members expressed a desire for more adult education.

“It’s also driven by demand. We didn’t just wake up and say, ‘Hey, we’d like to do adult Jewish education now.’ We had lots and lots of requests.”

The adult course, scheduled to begin in October, will be about Jewish denominations and how they adapt to a changing world. The curriculum is designed by Melton.

Finkel said the course reflects the broad affiliations of both the school community and Northern Virginia.

“We [at Gesher] deal with all denominations. So we have to be very intentional about being inclusive to whatever form of Jewish somebody is when they come through the doors.”

Gesher has seen the denominational makeup of its families change, he added.

“Ten or 15 years ago, the vast majority of our families were either Conservative or Orthodox affiliated,” he said. “Now, 40 percent are unaffiliated and a very high percent are intermarried.”

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