With Stamford’s Jewish community’s continued expansion, its Bicultural Hebrew Academy will open its academic year with an additional 70 students. Greeting them on the first day of school is Rabbi Josh Rosenfeld, BCHA’s new head of Judaics. The Rosenfeld family arrived in Stamford this summer after living on the Upper West Side for a decade.
One aspect of their attraction to their new community is “the people that make up the parent body, the student body and the community of Stamford in general,” Rabbi Rosenfeld revealed, “There’s a diversity of backgrounds, even a diversity of observance we loved about our community on the Upper West Side: all different kinds of people, all kinds of interesting, fascinating people.
“Beyond that, I knew that BCHA was a strong institution, one that was already doing really well,” he added. “I saw it was student-centered with student-focused education, and physical beauty as well. I felt like it would be a good fit and a good place to send my own kids to school. If we were going to do the suburbs thing, this certainly felt like one that was most in our comfort zone, and the most potential to be able to do something transformative for the school and the community.”
Working with the current school administration, Rabbi Rosenfeld has a three-part strategy he plans to bring to BCHA. The first area is the curriculum. He has been working with Dr. Malki Feuer to create a full curriculum guide, a scope and sequence that tracks development of skills and knowledge acquisition, from pre-K through 12th grade. “I’ll be responsible for the implementation of that curriculum, and for aligning it with everything that happens outside of school—how we talk about the chagim, the parsha and Jewish life cycle events; using best practices in making sure that Judaic studies is something that is treated with the utmost seriousness and with the same benchmarks that we would use for any other subjects.
“We want to see our students coming out of Bi-Cultural with a certain set of skills, a knowledge base and the ability to forge out into the world, to have this phenomenal background and grounding to become lifelong learners.”
The second area of focus Rabbi Rosenfeld described is creating a culture of Torah learning. On September 12, BCHA will host their first monthly parent-child learning. All parents and children from grades 1 through 8 have been invited to attend. The event will be hosted by Rabbi Rosenfeld and Interim Head of School Rabbi Tzvi Bernstein. The program includes morning minyan, breakfast and then guided learning for parents and children to help them prepare for Yom Kippur.
“This event speaks to a real passion of mine,” Rabbi Rosenfeld explained, “which is bringing parents into Judaic studies. Parents can help their child with geometry homework, but when it comes to Judaic studies, parents sometimes say (and rightfully so) that they were never taught or they were never given the tools or stuff that’s been forgotten. A big goal of ours is to bridge the gap between community learning and what’s happening in school.”
Another new item this year is Mishmar on Thursday nights. “We have faculty members already signed on with special courses of study for more informal kind of learning, with focus on creating the culture of Torah study,” noted Rabbi Rosenfeld. Additionally, he is planning a new Shabbat newsletter, called In The Parasha, featuring Judaic studies faculty. His goals are to “familiarize the parent body and the students with the brilliant people that we have teaching here and their Torah thoughts, to be able to bring school into the home, to update parents on what students are learning in Judaics, and to help foster conversation that hopefully extends far beyond the classroom.”
The third sphere is what he plans to bring to the larger community, working alongside Michael Feldstein, the lay leader of BCHA’s Community Center for Education. There will be classes for adults, parents, grandparents and the community at large, allowing for BCHA to become a hub for community torah education.
Previously, Rabbi Rosenfeld was the middle school principal at Manhattan Day School and the associate rabbi at Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York City. Prior to that, he was on the faculty of SAR High School. Rabbi Rosenfeld studied for two years in Yeshivat HaKotel and served in the IDF in the 605th Combat Engineers as a lone soldier through the Second Lebanon War. He received a bachelor’s degree with honors in English Literature from Yeshiva University, where he was a Wilf Family Scholar. He holds a master’s degree from the Azrieli Graduate School and obtained semicha from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.