Neve Sarah Herzog

Teenage Russian olim on their own in Israel seeking to reconnect with their Jewish heritage, Ethiopian girls in need of strengthening and encouragement, girls from Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha) seeking wider educational opportunities, and girls from needy socio-economic families working for another chance in life. These are the students who are benefiting from Neve Sarah Herzog, EMUNAH’s educational complex in Bnei Brak.

“Our population includes girls from St. Petersburg to Gush Katif, from the Hebron Hills to Eilat and Ethiopia,” states Shai Glick, principal of Neve Sarah Herzog. “The beauty of this educational facility is that it successfully integrates a multitude of cultures, with each one contributing to our community and our learning.”

The Neve Sarah Herzog complex includes a junior high school and scientific Torah high school for 450 girls in seventh through 12th grades. The emphasis is on high-level Torah studies with intensive courses in chemistry, biology, mathematics and English. The school also offers special tracks in computers, communications, TV and art/music as well as accounting. Some 30% of the student body is made up of olim.

Neve Sarah Herzog’s innovative education also includes providing hevruta study for its students. Once a month, on Rosh Chodesh, 25 young women from Midreshet Shilat in Karnei Shomron come with their rabbi to engage in half a day of hevruta study with Neve Sarah Herzog 10th graders. Girls in the 11th and 12th grades take part in a similar program in which Rabbi Ehud Shapira of Bnei Brak and five of his yeshiva students come once a week to help the girls with their Torah learning.

The school also has a special program in conjunction with Bar Ilan University whereby outstanding students can take college courses. This enables students in this program to graduate Neve Sarah Herzog with credits towards a bachelor’s degree already under their belts.

EMUNAH’s Neve Sarah Herzog won the 1995 Religious Education Prize of the Israel Ministry of Education and Principal Glick received the Ministry’s Outstanding Principal Prize.

Most of Neve Sarah Herzog’s students live in the surrounding neighborhood, and include girls from EMUNAH’s Achuzat Sarah Children’s Home. But 120 girls (80% of whom are olim) live on campus in the Blanche and Morris Gershbaum Student Residence. For them, Neve Sarah is more than just a school; it is literally home.

Neve Sarah Herzog runs an after-school program in math, English and Hebrew in which teachers stay to help girls with homework and answer their questions. Although intended mainly for the boarding school students, external day students are also welcome. The complex also offers an array of extracurricular activities designed to complement academic studies and enrich the girls’ experience. These include choir, dance, music, drama and tennis.

Despite the long study day, every Neve Sarah Herzog student volunteers at least once a week after school. Some work in a nearby children’s hospital. Others are leaders in the Bnei Akiva Youth Movement. Still others go to a neighborhood geriatric hospital to visit and cheer up the patients. In this way, the girls also learn first hand about such Jewish values as chessed, bikur cholim and tikun olam.

After they graduate, the girls continue to contribute to Israeli society. The vast majority goes on to Sherut Leumi (National Service), while the rest serve in the army. Fifty-five of the girls in the boarding school are from Na’aleh, a Jewish Agency project that brings teenagers from the FSU to Israel without their parents. Neve Sarah Herzog has been involved in this project for more than 10 years. The school helps these girls reconnect with their Jewish heritage in addition to providing them with top-level academic studies. Na’aleh graduates have gone on to college, married and started families in Israel. One girl even returned to the FSU to teach Hebrew in a Chabad school. And a few of the Na’aleh graduates have come back to Neve Sarah Herzog to teach. In many cases, the girls’ families have also made aliyah.

Ethiopians make up a large bloc of boarding school girls. Many Ethiopian families have been shattered by their Israel experience, which includes very high levels of unemployment, poverty and poor integration. The parents have lost their authority and communications between generations is poor. We have to deal with giving new strength to the Ethiopian family. We have a social worker and Ethiopian advisor who work on this with the girls and their parents.

A Day Boarding program has been set up where girls do everything but sleep at Neve Sarah Herzog. “These students come from homes where the families need extra support,” Glick explains. “We want to keep these families together while helping to strengthen them. The girls come at 6 a.m. and get all their food, enrichment and help with studies here. They only go home at night to sleep.”

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