Today is February 26, 2018 -
In the 1970s and 1980s, Congregation Beth Emeth and Temple Israel combined their Hebrew high school programs. As students we were free to select classes from a wide array of Jewish-themed subjects, including Hebrew language, Holocaust studies, and Jewish cooking. Some classes, however, were required. For example, Beth Emeth students who were preparing for Confirmation had to fulfill certain course requirements, as did Temple Israel students preparing for their Hebrew High School diplomas. Students participating in the teen mission to Israel also had a required class.
My fondest memories of the program were during the 15-minute breaks between the two classes every Tuesday evening. As soon as the first period let out, I went looking for Ilana Ungerman, whom I knew from our summers together at Camp Givah. Since I was a Beth Emeth, Bethlehem Central, and NFTY kid, and she was a Temple Israel, Shaker, and Young Judaean, our school-year paths were on parallel tracks that would have never crossed–if not for this program.
Could Temple Israel and Congregation Beth Emeth have run their high schools independently? Were there institutional and communal politics involved? Was it worthwhile anyway?
Needless to say, 30 years and five children later, Ilana and I fully support Jewish communal high schools, as well as any and all other opportunities for Jewish teens to get together.