Meet the 2023-24 Board
TT is Resilient & Strong
MESSAGE FROM THE EDITOR
Dear Families, Alumni, and Friends,
Welcome to the first newsletter of the 2023-24 school year. We hope you are well, and although summer seems so long ago, that it was spent doing what you enjoy, in good health, with family and friends.
We have been following the horrific events in Israel, and are thinking of all who have been impacted by this senseless tragedy. Talmud Torah Society is one with Israel and the Jewish people. We stand with Israel. Am Yisrael Chai.
I hope you enjoy our newsletter.
Natalie Soroka, Executive Assistant, TT Society
Message from Noga Vaisblat
President, Talmud Torah Society
Thank you for taking the time to read the first newsletter of the 2023-24 school year.
The Talmud Torah community stands united with the entire Jewish nation as we grieve the senseless and dreadful loss of life in Israel. Our hearts are filled with sadness, but we will overcome terrorism and the resilient Jewish spirit will prevail. I would like to thank all of you for the shows of solidarity and for your support to our students, our staff, and our community.
While most of our time and efforts have been dedicated to ensuring a safe environment for ELC and school children, the Talmud Torah Society’s board of directors and executive members did manage to meet several times over the past months. Over the summer, the board participated in a two-day orientation to familiarize new board members with the workings and initiatives of the TT Society, in order for the year to be as productive and beneficial as possible. I am very excited to see the board’s committees execute their workplans.
We have some challenges ahead of us. Our roof needs replacing, we are facing an increased need for security, and the tax receipts issue you have all been informed of is yet to be resolved. However, we have a strong and very dedicated team, and I am convinced we will stand united in face of all these obstacles.
The Society Board is committed to maintaining open communication with the community, and we will keep updating you as the situation evolves. We are very aware of the worldwide increase in antisemitic events and are ‘keeping our finger on the pulse’. If you witness any antisemitic/anti-Israeli incidents, please report it to the Edmonton Hate Crimes unit, and bring it to our attention.
Noga Vaisblat, PhD.
Message from Darin Johnson
Principal, Talmud Torah School
Recent tension and violence have impacted our school. Many stories and perspectives have been shared.
In light of this, our staff has been steadfast in their commitment to student learning. They provided consistency through routines and engaging lessons while navigating uncertainty and difficult conversations. I am honored to work with such a caring team of professionals. We launched the year with great momentum. Our last two PD days have helped us to regroup and rekindle our spark. I have to hope we will be stronger through our collaboration with parents, our partners and our common goal of providing high quality learning experiences for our students.
Relationships are strong at Talmud Torah school. I am still getting introduced to new people and I enjoy hearing about their contribution to the learning that has taken place here over the years. Looking back on 2022-2023 we can be proud of the results our students made on their standardized tests and classroom assessments. I am working with staff and the community to review our previous goals and adjust for this year.
I hope students, parents and community members are holding on to our meaningful assemblies and performances. Our school wide book Can Sophie Change the World? has helped us to discuss citizenship and belonging.
Darin Johnson, M.Ed.
Our 2023-24 Society Board Committees
Governance Committee: Chair, James Friedman, Jennifer Coppens, Kira Gregson, Samantha Hanson.
The Governance Committee oversees the work of the board. It sets the governance framework, ensures the Board governs in accordance with its framework, and oversees board recruitment, education, and self-evaluation.
Education Committee: Chair, Michelle Huberman, Shoshi Aziza, Melissa Benjamin, Lana Black, Ruth Coppens, Karen Hering, Mark MacLean, Nurit Reshef (Judaic Consultant).
The Education Committee’s purpose is to assist Talmud Torah Society in fulfilling its oversight responsibility related to the content, quality and delivery of a Hebrew Language Arts (HLA), and Judaic Studies (JS) program. In addition, this committee will provide assistance in accommodating for diverse and individual needs of ELC and TT students.
Finance Committee: Chair, Megan Mandel, Doug Kondor, James Friedman, Ken Soroka.
The mandate of the Finance Committee is to assist the TTS board in fulfilling its oversight responsibility related to financial performance and reporting, financial policies, internal controls, risk management, audit, financial planning, and relevant strategic initiatives and milestones identified in the Strategic Plan.
Fund Development Committee: Chair, Mark MacLean
The Fund Development Committee supports the acquisition of philanthropic resources necessary to implement fundraising activities in support of the vision, mission, values and strategic priorities set by the Talmud Torah Society (TTS). Over Rosh Hashanah we ran the always popular Fundraiser. TT families and supporters ordered bouquets of flowers, delivered personally to their family and friends, wishing them Chag Sameach.
Communication Committee: Chair, Nomi Steen, Ori Bar Or, Natalie Soroka.
Over this next year we will continue to develop our “client care” program, which includes expanding our recently established “buddy family program” for new families to the TT community. Our goals also include implementing an electronic enrollment form to improve the Society registration experience (stay tuned), as well a mid-year enrollment intention survey.
Security Committee: Chair, Doug Kondor, Albina Karpman, Becky Saegert.
The Security Committee’s purpose is to provide security-related recommendations to the Board specifically regarding enhancing security in physical space, culture, crisis management, and approval of funds for the School property. We are responsible for maintaining up-to-date documentation of security protocols of programs in the building, including relevant contact personnel.
Building Committee: Chair, James Friedman, Doug Kondor, Noga Vaisblat.
The Building Committee’s purpose is to assist the Talmud Torah Society (TTS) with short or long term capital projects (quotes, interaction with trades). Will work as required with appropriate committees or TT Society employees depending on the project. All projects to be approved by the TT Society board.
HR Committee: Chair, Stacie Perlmutter, Ohad Eliyahu, Megan Mandel.
The HR Committee’s function is to assist the Talmud Torah Society in fulfilling its employee responsibilities by ensuring that personnel policies, procedures and practices are established, implemented, kept under review and modified when necessary.
This will help ensure that staff roles and responsibilities align with the TTS strategic plan and objectives.
ELC Committee: Chair, Michelle Huberman, Kelly Goldford, Faren Hochman, Jay Lerner, Stacie Perlmutter.
The ELC Committee’s purpose is to assist the TTS Board in fulfilling its oversight responsibility related to the quality, accessibility, financial well-being, flexibility, and inclusivity of the ELC program.
talmud torah is resilient & strong
By: Natalie Soroka
The week of October 9, 2023 was a difficult one at Edmonton Talmud Torah School. The devastation in Israel spread far and wide, and TT families and staff struggled to comprehend and cope. A lot of planning and coordination took place over the weekend to ensure the safety of our children. TT Society president Noga Vaisblat and principal Darin Johnson, in collaboration with Stacey Leavitt-Wright of Jewish Federation of Edmonton, kept in constant contact and worked tirelessly to keep families informed on school and security matters.
Monday morning, security protocols were already in place. Edmonton Public Schools provided TT with onsite security, and Jewish Federation of Edmonton, through a grant, provided an additional layer of security through a private security company. Stacey worked tirelessly to advocate for us and provide us with this next level of security. The Edmonton Police Service stepped up to not only provide an onsite police vehicle, but by Friday morning, Staff Sergeant Greg Scott was onsite the entire day providing additional security and comfort to our families, and a strong contingent of parents committed themselves each morning and afternoon to patrol the school grounds. Thanks to Doug Kondor, Chair, and his committee, for their efforts on behalf of the Society and its families.
That first week, rather than the usual process of waiting outside for the school bell for the start of the day, students immediately entered the school and waited in the hallway for classes to begin. Out of an abundance of caution, all students, including those in the Early Learning Centre, were kept inside the entire week.
As you are well aware, Friday, October 13, 2023 was a particularly emotional and unsettling day for so many around the world, including our families, and many kept their children home. Teachers and staff in both K-6 and the ELC pulled together, supported each other and created a comfortable and fun learning environment for children who did attend. It was a small but mighty group. In K-6, teachers decided to combine classrooms. Division 1 (K-6) and Division 2 (4-6) learned together, making for a unique and enjoyable day for all students. Sacha Brodie, ELC Director and Jennie, ELC Lead Educator, worked just as hard rearranging and combining classrooms, and moving educators around based on the reduced number of children.
Our K-6 students were involved in some very meaningful art activities. While some cut out doves of peace and wrote messages of hope, others wrote heartfelt words of support and cards to Israeli soldiers. Some of these messages of hope and the cards will be sent on to Israel via the iTalam organization that provides us with our Hebrew and Judaic curriculum. Others are posted throughout our school hallways.
In addition, Division 2 students created a Japanese form of art (Notan) using symbols like a Star of David, Torah, etc., to represent the dark days and the light we hope for.
At another time during the school day, our older students teamed up with younger students for buddy reading in the library.
Different grades also had the unique opportunity to experience gym time together, which they loved, especially when Ari the TT mascot joined in! During music class Moreh Ben introduced the younger students to the drums and their faces lit up when they realized how many different sounds could be made using their hands. The older students were excited to learn the basics of playing the ukulele.
Towards the end of the day, everyone gathered in the music room for a school-wide Shabbat celebration. Moreh Ben played the piano and Moreh Ari accompanied him on the guitar, while the students sang their hearts out to many wonderful Shabbat songs, and songs in Hebrew and English about hope and peace, including Kol Ha’Olam Kulo (The World Is a Very Narrow Bridge). Accompanied by their teachers, their young voices filled the room and hearts of all those present. It was an incredibly heartwarming and special experience. Partway through, one student commented out loud that he really wished that everyone worldwide could learn to get along and live together.
Talmud Torah Society’s Education chair, Michelle Huberman, attended and was very moved by the Shabbat service. “I was never so proud of the teachers as they sat among the children, their arms around some of them supporting and singing and making them feel safe and comforted”, she commented.
The start of the next week saw a significant increase in enrollment, with the kids once again getting into a routine, while security remained heightened. Our teachers are always amazing, but they have been rock stars through this challenging time. Along with Principal Johnson, who went above and beyond, TT staff, ELC staff, and Society staff were there for each other and the TT family. Together with our community partners, we remain resilient and strong. Am Yisrael Chai.
family & community respond with support
Talmud Torah Society and school community has been humbled by the outpouring of support from our families, the Jewish community, schools and the community-at-large. From cards and food deliveries, to phone calls and emails, to comments on our social media accounts, and in person support, we have been feeling your love and strength. Todah Rabah! Here is a sampling:
“My beloved TT and ELC teachers and staff,
Today was the hardest day of what has already been an unimaginable week. From the bottom of my heart and the wells of my tear ducts, THANK YOU, for being there for our students and community. I cannot begin to imagine how hard it has been dealing with this situation, contemplating all the possibilities, implementing protocols, discussing/supporting students (and parents), and trying to keep on top of lesson plans, all while worrying about your own safety and family and putting on a brave face for our children. Your dedication is unwavering and your love for our children, the community, and Jewish life is immeasurable. Just as much as the IDF are our heroes in Israel, you are our heroes here. Thank you for keeping our school and children safe and comforted during this terrible time.” TT Parent
Tishrei, the first month of the Jewish year, is always filled with wonderful learning and celebrating the holidays at Talmud Torah, and this year was no different.
Educator’s Conference – Galilee School Connections Program
Our very own Morah Bianna Kuksin was in Israel this past summer to attend an educator’s conference. The Jewish Federation of Edmonton offered this opportunity to Hebrew teachers at TT, and Bianna was an eager participant. Upon her return, she was interviewed by Tammy Vineberg, APR Associate Director, Marketing and Communications, Jewish Federation of Edmonton.
Pictured: Odel, Teacher at Lev Ha’emek TT’s sister school, and Morah Bianna.
“I truly loved teaching at Talmud Torah. It was truly a community that fosters learning and love!” Sam A.
“My first year as a teacher was at TT. I taughter there for 7 years and loved every minute.” Debbie J.
Talmud Torah Society is very appreciative that Jewish Federation of Edmonton offered this opportunity to TT from the P2G fund, and that Bianna can use this experience to benefit our school. Todah Rabah!
Our alumni are important to us. If you are an alumni, we would love to know what you have been up to since graduating from Talmud Torah School. This month, we are highlighting a former TT teacher who recently contacted us asking to receive our TT Times newsletter. Many of our TT alumni and former teachers will have fond memories of Ms. Jackson.
Debbie Jackson – Reflections on my time at TT
Little did I know that I would soon embark on an educational experience that would forever imprint my heart and soul.
Fresh out of school, one of my first interviews was for a Gr. 3 position at Talmud Torah, and the interviewers were: Phyllis Levin (Principal), Honey Weinlos-Issacs (Gr. 3 English) and Rachel Ovics (Gr. 3 Hebrew). I learned Talmud Torah was a Hebrew-English school and the students studied a half day in English and the other half in Hebrew. At the centre of their education was Judaism – religion and culture. I was intrigued. And so, my journey at Talmud Torah began.
TT alumni, WE NEED YOU! We welcome and encourage our TT alumni to connect with us so we can include you. Please don’t hesitate to drop us an email. You can send us something short and sweet, or long and luxurious….we just want to hear from you, and so do all our TT alumni and friends. Please email email@example.com.
Over the past two months, our Early Learning Centre (ELC) and Out of School Care (OSC) have been busy welcoming both new and returning families to the TTELC family. The High Holidays were celebrated in each of our rooms. Everyone spent time in the school’s Sukkah outside, and explored with honey and Shofars.
Our Kinderarts program was invited to Beth Israel Synagogue for a tour on Simchat Torah. The Torahs in the Aron HaKodesh captivated the attention of all the kids. Our celebration came to a close with a parade around the school led by the ELC. We waved our handmade Torahs, collected candy thrown in the air, danced and sang. We wish you and your family continued health, prosperity, and happiness. May this be the most prosperous year yet.
TT ELC Welcome Event 2023
By: Natalie Soroka
Beginning the morning of September 20th, the aroma of freshly made food filled the air, as preparations for the yearly welcome event began. Educators Michal and Livnat were busy in the kitchen cooking and baking for the event later that afternoon. Sacha Brodie, Director and Jennie, Lead Educator, along with educators and staff, were excited to welcome families to TT ELC’s annual welcome event, held in the TT gymnasium this year. Children were eager to participate in a variety of centres, including face painting, blocks, and stickers. Families sat together, eating delicious food, schmoozing with those they were familiar with and those they got to know for the first time.
Educators chatted with families as they served a variety of pasta dishes (including GF options), fresh salads, garlic buns and, for those with a sweet tooth, chocolate babka! Out of School children were excited to participate in this event and were very helpful. Thank you to all who helped with set up and clean up! It was very heartwarming to see families connecting and we look forward to more opportunities to connect in the near future.
read-in week & book-nic
This year, October 2-6 was Read In Week for Edmonton area schools. According to the Read In Week website (readin.ca), “The READ IN Week initiative began in the 1990’s and consisted of representatives from Edmonton Catholic Schools, Edmonton Public Schools and Norquest (then) AVC. These organizations decided to join together to raise awareness for the importance of literacy”.
Ever since Esther Starkman (Talmud Torah Class of ’50 alumna), Chair/Founder of Read In Week, started Read In Week in the ’90s when she was Chair of the Edmonton Public School Board, Talmud Torah has been participating in Read In Week. This year was no different. Teachers Jessica Holtzman and Lindsey Campbell organized this year’s event, which included the popular TT Book-nic event.
Parents were seen in the school all week reading to individual classes. Thank you to all those who read, as well as to special guests, Constable Yannick Carter, Cree author Jules Thomas, Senator Paula Simons, MLA Lorne Dach, and Stacey Leavitt Wright and Jenn Magalnick of the Jewish Federaton of Edmonton. On the final day of Read In Week, for TT Book-nic 2023, TT families and students gathered together in the gym on blankets, while students listened to books read by teachers, family members and invited guests. While eating their lunch, they were spirited away by wonderful stories and conversations. Our students listened to a variety of books in English and Hebrew, and it was heartwarming to observe the community spirit and the love of reading.
Ancillary Judaic Program through Kadima Academy
AJP@TT is a Society program in partnership with Kadima Academy. AJP@TT provides an optional after-school Hebrew language and Judaic curriculum from a Modern Orthodox perspective.
As we approach the end of the first few months of school, we wanted to take a moment to update you on the progress at AJP @ TT!
Rabbi Tal, Moreh Yizchak and Moreh Daniella led our students in an exploration of the holidays Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah. The students had the opportunity to visit the sukkah at Beth Israel Synagogue, where they learned about various customs, enjoyed delicious snacks, and blessed the four species. It was a wonderful experience for all involved.
In Rabbi Tal’s class, the students have begun their study of Shemot (Exodus) from the beginning. They are using the books of L’havin u’lhaskil, which not only focus on Hebrew learning but also provide a comprehensive understanding of the text. Additionally, on Mondays, the students have been learning about the holidays, and after the holidays, they will delve into the study of Berachot (blessings).
We are excited about the great months ahead and the continued growth and learning of our students in the AJP program.
The AJP Teachers
tt school council
Welcome back to TT. The School Council’s main tasks are advising the principal on various school issues, and fundraising to pay for learning activities like sports equipment, yearbooks, and more. Our main fundraiser is the weekly Pizza Lunch. There are 5 members of the 2023-24 TT School Council and we wanted to quickly introduce ourselves to you.
Ken Lister – Co-Chair
Ken is the proud father of Jonah in Grade 5 and Sierra in Grade 3. He is also a TT Alumni (Class of ’89) and a former TT teacher. In his free time, he enjoys watching Oilers hockey and NFL football, playing ball hockey and drinking bubble tea.
Cara Greenspan – Co-Chair
Cara has a son in Grade 4 and a daughter in Kindergarten. She was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has over a decade’s experience in teaching incredible young minds, for which she feels very privileged. She loves crafting, baking and creating!
Gabriella Jaffray – Co-Vice Chair
Gabriella is the proud mother of a Grade 2 student. She is a University of Manitoba Alumni. In her free time, she enjoys home DIY and baking.
Cera Dixon – Co-Vice Chair
Cera is the proud mother of Breckon in Grade 4, Ramona in Grade 2 and Poppy in ELC. She is also a second generation TT Alumni (Class of ’93) and loves making pottery. In her free time, she collects Harry Potter books in every language she comes across.
Jyl Fialkov – Secretary
Jyl is a proud mother of children in Grade 2 and Kindergarten. She is also a U of A Alumni. In her free time she loves hiking and exploring our beautiful rocky mountains.
Next TT Times…December 2023