Sinai program expands with addition of Chabad couple
Funders to transition away from Miami Valley School scholarships, Judaic track classes
By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer
Five years ago, Lee and Patti Schear launched a scholarship program to enroll more Jewish students at the private, nonsectarian Miami Valley School, along with a Judaic studies track at the school, and an independent Judaic studies program on Sunday afternoons at Sugar Camp, open to all area Jewish high schoolers.
The Schears established the non-profit organization, Sinai, to support the projects.
Now, the Schears have decided to expand their Sinai ventures outside MVS, funding a new couple for Chabad of Greater Dayton — Rabbi Hershel and Pesha Spalter — to lead the Sinai High Sunday program, a new lunch club for Jewish high schoolers, and outreach to Jewish students at area universities.
Lee Schear said this is the final year Sinai will fund Judaic scholarships for new students to MVS.
“The most impressionable age in kids’ lives,” Schear said, “is from the seventh grade through the high school. Our idea was to keep these kids engaged, get them meeting with each other, give them a smattering of Jewish learning and really to prepare them to leave high school to kind of do battle with, to argue with the pro-Hamas people in college, to have enough grounding, enough security that they felt good about. A natural extension of that is talk to the college kids. So that’s what we have planned.”
He described the current MVS high school curriculum for the Judaic track as “very professorial.”
“Maybe you have to teach it that way,” Schear said. “So I wanted to increase the effectiveness of the engagement.”
Sinai and MVS will continue to provide scholarship funding to see all 20 current Sinai Scholar students through 12th grade at the school.
“When they’re accepted as a Sinai Scholar, the commitment is to get them through the 12th grade,” Schear said.
Miami Valley School Headmaster Jay Scheurle said he is now exploring funding possibilities to keep the Judaic track and scholarships going.
“The program wouldn’t exist without the Schears,” Scheurle said. “We are incredibly grateful to them for their leadership and developing the idea and partnering with the school to get this off the ground. I’d love to see it continue. I think the opportunity for us to continue to attract Jewish families from the Dayton area is positive for the families and it’s positive for the school. We hope to announce this school year how that will move forward.”
Candace Kwiatek continues as lead teacher of Judaic studies for the fall semester at MVS, Scheurle said. She teaches the high school class and is writing the curriculum for the middle school class, taught by new MVS high school history teacher Harry Berkowitz. Kwiatek has decided to retire at the end of the semester.
For the winter/spring semester, MVS has hired Cantor Jenna Greenberg to teach the high school class. Greenberg is a teacher at Hillel Academy Jewish day school.
Hershel (26) and Pesha (23) Spalter are now the third couple in the local Chabad’s employ.
Chabad of Greater Dayton Director Rabbi Nochum Mangel said the Schear Family Foundation has committed to fund the couple for two years, “with the hope and expectation that it continues based upon needs being met.”
The Spalters, who wed a year and a half ago, arrived this summer from Brooklyn. He grew up near Milwaukee, she in Toronto. Both have worked with Jewish teens and young adults.
MVS is the first school to sign up for the new Sinai Lunch Club. The Spalters will bring kosher lunch for Jewish high schoolers at MVS once a week and talk about Jewish topics.
“There’s also a humanitarian aspect of it,” Hershel said. “The first program will be the Ukrainian Jewish Relief Fund.”
“The goal,” Schear said, “is to keep it on campus, to make it easier for the kids, for the school. He added that Chabad also has the OK to hold the lunch club with Oakwood High School’s Jewish students but hasn’t worked out where the lunches will be held.
Hershel said Sinai U will kick off with the delivery of care packages to Jewish students at area universities.
“Anytime a student needs someone to talk to, we want to be available,” Hershel said.
“There’s somewhere to go where there’s always a Shabbat meal ready for you, a Friday night meal, a warm meal, a Jewish face, holiday programs, we’ll teach classes,” Pesha said.
“We’ll try to find time, maybe on the holidays, to bring the kids from all of the colleges together that they should meet,” Mangel said.