Thankful Mom by Rachel Spiro

As a mother of teenagers, there is nothing more gratifying than to see your teens making good choices. To know they are surrounded by positive people who support and inspire them and to know that your teen is excited about life. If this sounds wonderful to you, then let me tell you about the gift of Torah High.  It’s time to get excited about the possibilities and opportunities that await your teens and your whole family when you get involved with Torah High.  Torah High has made a huge, positive impact on the direction and choices that my kids have taken and I can honestly say that Torah High has truly been a G-d send to our whole family.

Spiro family

Rachel and David Spiro with their 4 children

It starts with the incredible high school credit courses which take the  ancient wisdom of Jewish teachings and makes it relevant and applicable to our teens. These courses come to life by the wonderful teachers who have the gift of caring and connecting with our kids.   The classes are small and interactive and taught by more than one teacher so that there is variety in teaching styles. The classes are informal and students are encouraged to talk openly. In short, Torah High respects our kids as individual thinkers and what a difference this makes!

Our relationship with Torah High began over five years ago with our eldest daughter Ariel, (now in second year University) and continued when our second eldest, Hannah took Torah High classes and today, the journey continues to be a source of joy and triumph as we watch in awe and gratitude as our third child (now a teen too!) enthusiastically begins his connection  with Torah High. Throughout our connection with Torah High, our whole family (even our 9 year old daughter) have been thrilled to be part of the Torah High family.

First of all, let me tell you that we tend to shy away from any organized religion, live a secular life and have a healthy case of cynicism when it comes to marketing.  So free pizza was not going to win us over… even if Tov Li is the best!  What won us over, heart and soul, is the very heart and soul of Torah High, its teachers, Rabbis, administrative staff and community of family and friends  that constantly welcome and inspire.  I can’t   begin to list every act of kindness that I have witnessed that consistently  demonstrates Torah Highs  core values of  caring people who are committed to quality teaching and programs for  their students. I am probably an annoying parent, always getting involved, having an opinion, a question, a concern…so basically  your typical Jewish parent, and this is how I have come to know that Torah High is about people who care deeply about our children and are there to inspire us  by just being good people, working hard to make a difference in our world.

The most amazing thing though, has to be seeing in all my kids, their genuine enjoyment in going to Torah High classes and extra-curricular programming. This has been a constant since our eldest daughter took a grade eleven course in Jewish ethics and philosophy of love.  Finally, Ariel was excited about learning.  Night school fast became her favourite class.  Her teacher talked about life and relationships that brought ancient Jewish wisdom to her own  life.  One of the most wonderful lasting legacies of Torah High for Ariel is her realization of the importance of Jewish community in her life. Ariel has nurtured the  friendships she has made through her experiences with Torah High, including the friendship that she shares with her first Torah High teacher, Mandy.  The commitment and caring that Mandy Greenspan shows for her students is truly inspiring and heart felt.  While raising a growing family and teaching classes, she always finds room at her Shabbos table for her students and  invites our whole family to share in the nachas of holidays.

Torah High teachers continue to amaze me.  When we needed a minyan in our home at 7am it was Ariel’s Torah High teachers who came to our aid. When Hannah took Politics with Torah High, she couldn’t wait for us to meet her teacher, Rabbi Gans.  Hannah’s love for knowledge and for debate found a place to thrive.

Once again the outstanding commitment of the teachers became apparent when Hannah decided to hold a charity concert in our home and her Torah High teacher, Rabbi Gans offered to donate the time and talent of his band, BenAmi for this cause.  The  evening ended with acoustic music and singing around a camp fire in our back yard, while the Rabbi’s awesome wife, Aharona and their beautiful children enjoyed the evening too. The warmth of this community just knows no bounds. It was the NSCY staff and advisors who supported Hannah’s vision, not as part of their job, but simply because they really do care about our kids and support their efforts to do good. Teachers have helped my kids get to class, stayed late to discuss questions and provide nurturing beyond the call of duty.  Rabbi Irons and his staff have repeatedly created opportunities and programming that challenge our kids to be a mensch, to grow spiritually and to develop leadership skills, to be the best they can be in ways that fit their individual gifts.  Torah High is a gateway to meeting people and learning about groups  who are making a difference in our communities. It is through NCSY that our family has become involved in chesed groups like , Live2Give and Chai Lifeline.

How often does a high school credit turn into community, chesed and camp fires? Most recently, our son began his first Torah high class and I went to pick him up early because we had tickets to see the play, Wicked. As I waited patiently (at first), I got to watch his class through the glass walls of the state of the art Prosserman building.  What i saw amazed me; students and teacher thoroughly engaged in listening to each other. I saw everyone laughing and learning.. and I could not get my kid to leave class early! That is the miracle of Torah High.

Torah high has become a  very important, integral and  special part of our lives. We have made wonderful friendships with   Torah High teachers, with the Rabbis and their families and with parents and  students,  and the High school credits have been  some of the best courses our teens have ever taken.

One of the incredible aspects of Torah High staff , is their ability to accept and respect individual differences without  judgment .  As secular Jews, we are grateful that Torah High provides our teens with the opportunities to learn about their birth right, to consider the possible positive pathways available to them in life and to learn about the Torah teachings that resonate with them as unique individuals. Torah High creates consciousness in choice at a time in our kids lives when there are so many pressures and consequences. During the war in Gaza, it was Rabbi Gans facebook page that gave me hope to find my way with his message that the only way to respond to this pain is to keep doing Mitzvot.

I am proud of how my kids have embraced their experiences with Torah High. They have been able to become more of who they really are.  Hannah discovered that tznious dress really resonates with her, while Ariel still prefers jeans. Hannah has become Shomer Shabbas,  while Ariel would prefer to shop. Our family of free thinkers has learned so much from the teachings and people of Torah High.  The values of kindness and caring and a welcoming community of wonderful people, living life with mindfulness and genuine warmth, bringing  Torah wisdom to life  through inclusive programming and living by example.

The hospitality  and  amazing quality programming continue to inspire me. One only has to experience the humour and hospitality   at the home of Rabbi and Rebbitzim Black to know that when teenagers are given the opportunity to shine, they will light up our world with hope!

At  Torah High banquets, our children and parents  are  acknowledged and awarded for their leadership, commitment and  hard work.  Our kids have been given the opportunity to travel and to take on leadership roles.  The safety of our kids is never a worry with Torah  High.  On an overnight Shabbaton in New York, the NCSY Staff purchased glow in the dark vests for all of the students to ensure they were safe while walking at night! Indeed, no expense or effort is spared when it comes to Torah High programming.   Torah High families are treated to internationally acclaimed guest speakers such as Charlie Harary and banquets fit for  special family simchas!

Being part of the Torah High family is truly a blessing that I thank G-D for and wish for others to know the same nachas for their teens too.

Torah High has provided our whole family with so many beautiful and enriching experiences, for which we are deeply grateful.