Andrew Campanella: Providence Hebrew Day School has great academic results. How would you describe your school’s approach to education?
Rabbi Scheinerman: Providence Hebrew Day School is a school whose focus really is about character development, as well as excellence in education and preparing kids for the finest schools that they might want to go to. Torah studies is pretty much half of our day, and the other half of our day is general studies. But our day is a much longer day. Whereas a public school may have until 2:30 p.m. from 8 a.m. in the morning to accomplish all their core curriculum subjects, we have pretty much close to a half-day of general studies, and a half-day of Torah studies. In order to accomplish what we need to and put in the art and the gym and the computer [classes] and the various different things that kids need as life skills, it just takes that amount of time.
Andrew: Your school focuses on value-centered education, teaching kids the difference between right and wrong. Can you tell me more about this and the other activities you offer?
Rabbi Scheinerman: [Value-based education] really is an offshoot of everything that we teach. Many of the Biblical lessons we tie into those types of character issues that we can learn from and apply in our life. We also have our students extremely involved. We do a charity carnival. We do a food for the poor through the Jewish food pantry. Kids actually volunteer once a week to help moms in their homes prepare for the weekend, laundry, whatever they need help with. We have a lot of kids that are involved in their local synagogues setting up a festive get-together or whatever it might be that they need help with. The synagogues just call on them. There are other activities, certainly. One of our benefits is that we actually partner with the Jewish Community Center across the street. For example, our boys and girls have swimming twice a week at the Jewish Community Center. Kids have the opportunity to join clubs there. Both our day school and our high school run different forms of production: music, drama, song, and dance productions that kids participate in.
Andrew: Why do you think it’s important for parents to have a choice in where they send their kids to school?
Rabbi Scheinerman: Every parent should be entitled to pick and choose the education that works best for their kids. That’s especially applicable when you have poor zip codes. If you’re lucky to live right next to the science magnet school that happens to be a great school, you’re in great shape. But if you happen to live next to one of the low-functioning schools, you’re not great at all. Parents need to really have that choice of where they want to send their children to school.
Andrew: How do you celebrate National School Choice Week at Providence Hebrew Day School?
Rabbi Scheinerman: We’ll send letters out to our legislators and other people and we really work together with the Catholic Foundation to make all that happen. We love that partnership. We host many events here at our school and at the Statehouse where our students have participated and our band has participated. We believe in it because we believe in the process, and we’re in it for the long haul. We’re not giving up on this. We believe that school choice is something that’s growing, and it’s going to continue to grow regardless of who the president. This is really the way of the future.
Andrew: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Rabbi Scheinerman: I think the most important thing is that Providence Hebrew Day School is a school that has a healthy balance and a school that emphasizes relationships. We are constantly emphasizing relationships. It’s a school that focuses a lot on helping kids wherever they’re at.