Teenage girls and their parents who have dreamed of a high school that combines high academic standards with a curriculum that teaches marketable skills and strong Jewish values have a new option: Ohr Chana Vocational Academy.
Located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Ohr Chana was created as an alternative to the traditional high school in which pressure for grades, competition, and acquisition of often irrelevant information outweigh the quest for knowledge or the thirst for Torah and spirituality.
Originally opened for teenage girls who were not thriving in the standard girls’ yeshiva system, the school began to modify its mission during the 5769 school year to become the first Orthodox girls’ vocational high school in the country.
This year Ohr Chana will offer a full, dual-track curriculum: One track caters to the focused and self-motivated student who wants her high school experience to help her grow spiritually through advanced and meaningful Torah learning.
The second track caters to the student who can best succeed in a small, non-pressured classroom environment and who has a drive to actualize her potential, develop her talents and excel – perhaps for the first time in her school career.
“The traditional high school curriculum doesn’t necessarily prepare today’s girls for the real world,” says the school’s founder, Rebbetzin Sara Labkowski. “Besides business skills for parnossah (livelihood), there are a host of life and homemaking skills that are no longer being passed down from mother to daughter.”
Ohr Chana’s stated aim is to fill in these gaps, in a supportive and nurturing environment. “Every girl deserves to spend four years experiencing enjoyment, success and spiritual growth,” says Mrs. Labkowski, a veteran educator and the driving force behind Ohr Chana’s sister institution Machon Chana, the first full-time women’s baal teshuva yeshiva outside Israel.
Ohr Chana’s evolving curriculum of applied academics includes mathematics, language, history and science – with a twist. In addition to the basics, students learn how to use math as it apply in banking, budgeting and business… English used in writing articles, letters to the editor, grant proposals and speeches …. biology as it applies to health, nutrition and self care … and psychology in the context of marriage and child rearing.
Vocational training includes cosmetology, culinary arts, computer graphics, and information technology. Among the life skills on the program are time management, sewing, money management, crafts and music, in addition to knowledge related to running a Jewish home. One parent remarked that the personal skills curriculum reads like “everything I always wanted to do but never learned how.”
Ohr Chana offers small classes, open discussions, individualized instruction and hands-on learning. Extracurricular activities encourage students to take on leadership roles as counselors, Hebrew school teachers and child care providers.
Many graduates of Ohr Chana have gone on to seminaries in Israel, Australia and Florida. Many have well-paying jobs and some have already married and are raising their own Jewish families.
“Ohr Chana brought out the best in me – self-confidence and a love for learning I didn’t know I had!” said a recent alumna.
For further information, please call 718 735 4044, visit www.ohrchana.org.or come visit at 556 Crown Street, corner Albany.