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Azrieli Graduate School Awarded AVI CHAI Grant to Enhance Spirituality of High School Students

Jan 29, 2009 -- The AVI CHAI Foundation has given a grant to fund Religious Understanding in Adolescent Children (RUACH), a new project of the Institute for University-School Partnership at Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration. The two-year collaborative initiative between the Institute and eight Jewish day schools will explore creative means of promoting growth in students' relationships with God and their religious actions and beliefs.

“Our objective is to create deeper spiritual connections for students and more religious purposefulness in Jewish schools,” said Dr. Scott Goldberg, director of the Institute and one of the project’s principal researchers.

“High school is a very dynamic time in the course of a young Jewish person’s life,” said Goldberg. “Being connected to, and aware of, the divine in Judaism will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the Jewish identities and lives of youth impacted by RUACH.”

The eight high schools participating in RUACH are geographically and ideologically diverse. They include:
- Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CES-JDS) in Rockville, MD
- Hebrew Academy of Long Beach’s Davis Renov Stahler Yeshiva High School for Boys (HALB-DRS) in Woodmere, NY
- Ramaz Upper School in New York City
- Salanter Akiva Riverdale High School (SAR) in the Bronx, NY
- Maimonides School in Brookline, MA
- Weinbaum Yeshiva High School (WYHS) in Boca Raton, FL
- Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy—Yeshiva University High School for Boys and Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls, both in New York City

“Studying and attempting to develop growth in crucial areas of students’ inner, religious lives, meaningfully fulfills AVI CHAI’s goals regarding religious purposefulness,’” noted Jordan Rosenberg, RUACH’s project coordinator and a rabinical student at YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. “Religious purposefulness can result in a well developed and thoughtful approach to our religious and spiritual traditions that we at YU are uniquely poised to accomplish,” he said.

Dr. David Schnall, dean of Azrieli, pointed out that, “Combining our Jewish traditions and the best theory and practice from academia represents an exciting fit for YU and the AVI CHAI Foundation.”

Dr. David Pelcovitz, Gwendolyn and Joseph Straus Professor of Jewish Education at Azrieli and a senior fellow at the Institute, is partnering with Goldberg in conducting research for RUACH. “Developing religious growth is an area that is not well understood, though virtually everyone would agree that nourishing spirituality in our children is important for religious continuity, their psychological well-being as well as their Jewish identity and religious growth,” Pelcovitz, a noted psychologist and expert in religious development, said.

The Institute and participating schools will also interact through meetings and conferences sponsored by YU. The knowledge gained during the course of the RUACH project will also be used to upgrade the Azrieli curriculum to benefit current and future students. Its findings and best practices in the area of religious purposefulness will be disseminated through colloquia, publications and workshops for Jewish educators.