The following article is taken from the January 2010 issue of the Main Street Journal. Click “Subscribe Online” above to start your subscription.
The Margolin Hebrew Academy: A Salute to Excellence
For 60 years the Margolin Hebrew Academy Feinstone Yeshiva of the South has opened its doors to Jewish children living in the Mid-South and beyond. Always a haven of intellectual and religious pursuit, MHAFYOS has reached new heights within secular studies and social programs.
Under the superior and global tutelage of Dr. Gil Perl, Dean of Margolin Hebrew Academy and Feinstone Yeshiva of the South ( MHAFYOS), students receive an outstanding and comprehensive education.
Recently recognized for verbal SAT scores placing the school in the top ten percent of the nation two consecutive years, the graduating class of 2009 scored higher than the national average for religiously affiliated schools and higher than the national average for private independent schools, almost all of which are far more selective in admissions than MHAFYOS by virtue of its status as a community institution.
To put this in perspective, MHAFYOS is extremely competitive with all the local, elite private, and religious schools, outscoring many of them on standardized testing.
Rabbi Uriel Lubetski, Upper School Principal — who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, a Master’s Degree in Information Systems, a Master’s in Jewish History, Rabbinical Ordination from Yeshiva University and is a doctoral candidate in Education Administration — says, “Our hope is parents of Jewish students in our community for whom the Judaic component of our program may not be the utmost priority in choosing a high school, will realize that the exceptional quality of our secular studies program is reason enough to give us a serious look.”
In the last three years, Dr. Perl has built a new, talented teaching and administrative staff “catering to the needs of students looking for an outstanding learning environment designed to facilitate growth of the mind.”
Rabbi Perl received his Bachelor’s Degree with a double major in Intellectual History and Eastern Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, and his Master’s and Doctorate from Harvard University (where he was an award-winning Teaching Fellow), along with smicha from Yeshiva University.
Rabbi Perl radiates a “can do” attitude and is fulfilling a desire to bring quality Jewish education to children from all backgrounds.
Education tools such as reflective teaching maximize teacher effectiveness. Using the reflective method allows instructors to employ a particular teaching method and then analyze how well the method works within the classroom. The instructor will assess what works best and adapt that to his teaching plan developing the critical thinking and learning skills of the students. With four separate student “tracks,” children are grouped by mastery levels so they can move freely when they have learned various skill sets, and are assured appropriate advancement is available.
Secular academics at MHAFYOS are rich in the sciences, language arts and mathematics. Offering 10 different Advanced Placement courses — including Literature, Language, Calculus, Biology, American History, Economics and Psychology — makes it possible for students to pursue their areas of interest.
Extracurricular activities are strong and diverse: drama, basketball, football, baseball, Model United Nations, and more. In fact, MHAFYOS recently hosted the Cooper Invitational Basketball Tournament with 16 teams from across the nation coming to Memphis. MHAFYOS has wide-ranging electives, too: debate, videography, yoga, computers, studio art, fine arts, and Enlightenment thought. When students express an interest in a particular subject, MHAFYOS educators work to help them explore and incorporate the subject into their studies.
In addition, the school will tailor programs to your child’s needs. Students at the MHAFYOS are currently taking Chinese and Arabic classes as well as Hebrew and Spanish. There are special study curricula accessible through the internet and online courses, as well.
Strong academic programs are necessary, and clearly MHAFYOS has them. However, the school offers so much more. Teen years are emotionally charged with self-awareness and peer pressure. MHAFYOS addresses the issues facing our children. Because the school has a small student body, each child is recognized and his strengths highlighted. With a low teacher/student ratio, the talented staff is able to really get to know students and build their self-esteem through projects and team work.
Melissa Perl, Assistant Principal and Rabbi Perl’s wife, teaches AP Psychology, Chumash, and Life Skills. She also oversees and coordinates professional development, making sure the academic, social, emotional and religious needs of the students are being met. In this manner, outstanding character can be formed. It’s not enough to promulgate great SAT scores. Character is built on a foundation of moral strength, applied ethics and the will to care for one’s greater community. MHAFYOS addresses critical character-forming issues and encourages, nurtures and develops the students’ natural gifts.
The opportunities to form lifelong friendships at MHAFYOS are prevalent. Rabbi Perl says, “The level of camaraderie is mind-boggling. Students who might never thrive in a larger school have an opportunity to gain a sense of community and bond with their classmates.” These bonds might be forged in class, on a school-sponsored canoe adventure, or a trip to Gatlinburg. There are also many school-sponsored events throughout the year that bring students together, working on common projects.
“MHAFYOS offers a rich and multifaceted education, creating young adults who have a strong and passionate commitment to Judaism and the world around them,” Rabbi Perl elaborates.
Graduates of MHAFYOS attend top Ivy League universities as well as specialized schools throughout the country and the world. Recent graduates have advanced to Barnard, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, NYU, Northwestern, the University of Maryland, SUNY Binghamton, Rutgers, Stern, Vanderbilt, Washington University and Yeshiva University, among many others. Some include a year of independent study between high school and university. Studies show exercising this option produces a more well-rounded and mature student.
Young women are encouraged to undertake successful careers.
Mrs. Perl holds a Bachelor’s from Stern in Judaic Studies and Psychology, and a Master’s from Barnard, and is currently a doctoral candidate at Yeshiva University Graduate School of Education and Administration. Working on her doctorate while teaching and raising three children raises the bar of feminine aspiration. She sets a stellar example.
Women graduates of MHAFYOS attend the finest universities and earn outstanding reputations in their fields of study.
Rabbi Perl is also developing an exciting residential program encouraging students living in cities with no Orthodox day schools to come and board at MHAFYOS, again making sure a wonderful Orthodox day school education is available to any Jewish student desiring one. With twelve boarding students currently enrolled, this aspect of MHAFYOS promises to bring a high level of added energy and wonderful student growth.
The future of MHAFYOS rests squarely on the evolution of its complex 60 year history. For decades the school has been a driving force in the development and continuation of the Memphis Jewish community at large, acting as a beacon to those families who wish to insure a legacy for themselves, their children, grandchildren, and the Jewish children who come to Memphis looking for a place of education and inspiration. Now, more than ever before, MHAFYOS is a wonderful educational opportunity for all Jewish children whose parents seek an environment of intellectual stimulation, a warm and loving atmosphere, and a character building institution adept in creating future leaders.