Read my latest posts on Harkham Hillel.

After 42 years being run by Rabbi Menachem Gottesman (Nov. 11, 2002 Jewish Journal article), Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy now seeks to define itself. In the process, it is weeding out teachers who don't fit its Modern Orthodox outlook.

Over the past eight years, enrollment at Hillel has fallen from 700 to 580 according to my sources (850 to 750 students according to the 11/11/02 Jewish Journal).

Tuition is scheduled to increase 30% for the 2007-2008 school year. It is currently about $14,000 a year with the $2,000 a year mandatory contribution to the building fund. About a third of Hillel's students receive financial help.

While enrollment has fallen over the past three years, Hillel's budget has increased dramatically.

In the school year 2002-2003, Hillel's expenses were $5.488 million for 712 students (it was Rabbi Gottesman's last year). In 2003-2004, expenses ran $5.821 million for 680 students. For 2004-2005, it was $5.546 million for 695 students.

Amy Klein writes in the Oct. 27, 2006 Jewish Journal:

"When we were reviewing our curriculum and program goals three years ago, we wanted to make sure that we were giving a quality level of education to all of our students, and to be able to give everyone a product that would stimulate them and challenge them and increase their own fulfillment in having access to Torah learning," said Rabbi Boruch Sufrin, headmaster of Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, an elementary school in Beverly Hills.

Sufrin will speak on a panel at the JOFA conference, with a representative from Shalhevet School and others, to be moderated by Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Jewish Journal education editor.

Two years ago, Hillel began teaching Mishna to girls as well as boys in fourth through sixth grades and now girls in seventh and eight grades are learning Gemara.

"As our students are exposed to so much more in their lives and as Jewish education encompasses both genders and so many of our current generation are professionally involved in Jewish life and Torah learning at all levels, there's no reason why both genders should not be exposed to girls learning all aspects of Torah. It gives them a very important key," Sufrin said, adding that that such study helps women understand Bible commentaries and understand areas where everyone agrees they should be involved.

"It also gives them a sense that they have a connection to the entire Torah, and in today's society that's important," he said. "It's not an issue of being equal -- it's an issue of giving them what they deserve."

But most schools have kept Gemara off the curriculum.

More from the Jewish Journal Nov. 26, 2004:

The biggest change is occurring at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, where Rabbi Boruch Sufrin, now in his second year as headmaster, introduced a Mishna program for fourth- through sixth-graders where girls and boys have identical curricula.

For now, while the seventh- and eighth-grade boys study Talmud, the girls pursue a halacha tract similar to that at Yavneh and Maimonides, but Sufrin plans to reevaluate that once the Mishna program is firmly established.

From the Jewish Journal March 18, 2005:

Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy hopes eventually to teach all Judaic studies in Hebrew, in addition to having Hebrew-immersion periods every day.

“We feel that if our children receive this at the age of 4 or 5, it will serve as a tremendous foundation for when we begin to teach them more formal Hebrew,” said Rabbi Baruch Sufrin, who heads the school.