TTSP Announces Closure Of Afternoon School Program

Nine months after closing its day school, Talmud Torah of St. Paul is continuing its restructuring when last week the board announced the closure of its afternoon school, effective at the end of the school year.

Both the Newman School and Afternoon School closures were due to dwindling enrollment in both programs. The Afternoon School program has six children in the 2nd-5th grade program.

“As a communal institution, you have this trust which comes from the history of Talmud Torah, from the dollars that people have shown up with to support being a communal asset,” said Liz Palmer, the executive director of Talmud Torah of St. Paul. “And if you’re using so many of those for a very small fraction of the community, are you really being a good steward of that investment and that trust?

“The families in that program right now, they see how few people there are.”

Palmer said that the model of what Talmud Torah used to be has been absorbed by the area synagogues.

“They’ve offered more resources for families, especially of young children, and the knitting together of that community at the synagogue level has changed the landscape,” Palmer said. “And so for us to just sort of continue the way we’ve always been just would be ignoring something really important about what’s happened to the community.”

David Kaplan, the chief development officer – and next CEO – of St. Paul Jewish Federation, said that Federation has been in contact with TTSP Board President Jared Miller throughout the process, and that Federation will continue partnering with TTSP.

“We’re incredibly thankful for the role Talmud Torah has played and continues to play in Jewish education, and we join them in acknowledging the changing times,” said Kaplan. “It was a hard and brave decision that they made, but we look forward to moving with them in a meaningful role in Jewish education in St. Paul.”

In a letter to the school community, Board President Jared Miller said TTSP will work on strengthening the Midrasha Hebrew program for 8th-12th graders and expanding the Hineni adult learning program.

In the interim, Palmer said that Susie Chalom, a long-time Jewish educator throughout the Twin Cities who is the director of the Afternoon School and Midrasha programs, will be connecting families to the appropriate resources so they are not left in the lurch. Then will come the focus on programs not being held in other places.

“We’re really going to focus on Hebrew education, which we do very well and which is essential, and not really done in the way that Talmud Torah does it,” Palmer said. “Susie has done tireless work to ensure that students can get college credit for that. And then we have some other ideas about ways to grow that and perhaps offer some of that teaching to students who don’t have those resources in other states.”

Palmer also mentioned a partnership with the Mussar Institute for teens, and also growing Hineni, which is being led by Rabbi Debra Rappaport.

“We are we are rich in wisdom with these two women,” Palmer said of Chalom and Rappaport. “They both know what is right to offer, and they know how to offer it. And our organization just needs to give them room to do what they know how to do.”