[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]
Changes are being made in Jewish supplemental education in Louisville for the coming year. The Louisville Hebrew School has a new name, Louisville Beit Sefer Yachad (LBSY), and two new staff members have been hired for LBSY and the High School of Jewish Studies (HSJS).
Riva Schanker will serve as Director of Judaic/Hebrew Curriculum and Lisa Rothstein as Director of the Upper School and Director of Curriculum for the HSJS. Both bring a wealth of Jewish knowledge, energy, excitement and commitment to their positions.
Schanker, who has 28 years of experience in Jewish education, will be in charge of teacher training and supervision, the curriculum for the LBSY and communication with parents.
She has a BA in early childhood from Queens College and a second BA in psychology with a minor in child development from Ashford University. She has experience in Jewish overnight camp and as a youth group adviser. This summer, she is the supervisor of all female staff at Camp Laurelwood in Woodbridge, CT, where she has worked for nine years.
Schanker’s excitement about her new post with the LBSY is contagious. Inspired by her past Jewish experiences at camp, workshops, in service programs and youth groups, she hopes to pass that on to her teachers. “If I’m able to inspire them,” she said, “then, in turn, they’ll inspire their students, which, in turn, will inspire their parents.” She hopes she will get more parents involved in their children’s Jewish education.
“It’s a passion for me, not a job,” she says. “This position is giving me a chance to give back and make a difference.”
One element she plans to introduce is better communication with parents about what’s going on in the classrooms “through blogs and newsletters written by their own children about what’s going on that week.”
Originally from California, Schanker grew up on Long Island, NY and in south Florida. She also lived in Woodburton, CT and spent a year in Israel, where she lived on a kibbutz, studied at an Ulpan, and acquired foreign language credits from the University of Haifa.”
She and her husband, Robert, have been married 20 years and have three daughters, Nicole, 18; Shanna, 14; and Megan, 10. The Schankers are members of Adath Jeshurun, and Riva serves the congregation as the family event coordinator.
Rothstein is from Houston, and grew up at a very large Reform congregation. “I had a really good experience in Hebrew School and NFTY,” she said, “and that’s why I’m sitting here. I want others to similar opportunities.
She attended the University of Missouri with the intention of majoring in journalism when she encountered “the biggest irony of my life. It took going to school at a place with such a small Jewish community to make me realize how important Judaism was to me. I decided to stay at Mizzou, but I changed my major and got a degree in social work.”
While attending college, Rothstein participated in a birthright israel trip, which she described as a profound experience.
After graduation, she went to Baltimore where she earned a Masters in Social Work from the University of Maryland and an MA in Jewish Communal Service from what was then Baltimore Hebrew University. She later earned a graduate certificate in Jewish education.
“The whole time I was in Baltimore,” she said, “I was actively doing Jewish things – teaching Hebrew School, serving as youth group director.” While there, she met and married Matt Goldberg, the Jewish Community Relations Council director for the Jewish Community of Louisville.
Her parents, both law professors at the University of Louisville, have called Louisville home since 2000.
Schanker and Rothstein are eager to start their new jobs and have already begun researching a new curriculum. “We’re looking at different options to bring more creativity for the children,” Schanker said. “They have a long day, so we need to find something that taps into their interests. And the reality is that we live in a secular world, so we need to tap into the secular interests our children are involved with and connect them to Judaism.”
Rothstein attended the Institute for Southern Jewish Life at the end of June to look at a K-12 curriculum they offer. She also plans to meet with “all the rabbis to learn what their goals are and try to make that happen.”
Schanker is responsible for the curriculum for kindergarten through grade 8. Rothstein is the principal of the middle school and is responsible for the high school curriculum. They will work closely together to provide a cohesive program for the students.
“We’re going to be offering more in service opportunities for the teachers to give them better tools to be more successful,” Schanker said. She also plans to send teachers to CAJE (the Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education).
Schanker doesn’t expect to achieve all her goals immediately. “This is a process. It will take time for all the expectations to be completed and to do it right. There will be three to four goals set each year. We’re going to accomplish those goals and then move forward.”
“I want to take this program to something everyone can be really proud of,” Rothstein said. “I’d like to expand it beyond the 10th grade – not this year, but down the road.”
“The drop-out rates post-bar/bat mitzvah are very high,” Rothstein observed. “I’d like to create a program that keeps them coming back. To do that, you have to do programming and experiential types of classes where they feel like they get something out of it – not where they’re being lectured to or talked at, but where they can engage in hands-on activities and field trips.
“I’d like to create some opportunities to be involved in Partnership with Israel, too,” she continued, “and to learn about things they may not have learned about in the younger grades.”
Down the road, Rothstein also envisions classes where students can earn college credit. She hopes to create a program where they can “learn about Jews around the world, Jewish culinary delights, music, Jewish culture, history, comparative religion, comparative Judaism” and more.
“I want to give kids the tools they need so when they graduate high school they can go off to college with a basic core of knowledge so they can live a Jewish life.” Rothstein concluded.