Perelman Union Breaking Shatters Friendships

— by Rita Ross

Last March, the school board of the Perelman Jewish Day School held a meeting at which they decided to dissolve the teachers’ union. This was done with no negotiation, no discussion and no participation of the people whose lives this would most directly affect: the teachers.

The board decided unilaterally to have each teacher negotiate his or her own contract, with tenure and seniority being eliminated and a general clause in the new handbook stating that any teacher could be terminated at will, with no due cause.

Perhaps one of the troubling aspects of this non-negotiation termination of the union is in what has happened to the once-warm and caring relationship that the teachers shared with parents and board members. People who once had close friendships are now avoiding each other and do not even make eye contact.

More after the jump.
The union was in place when I first started teaching at the Solomon Schechter Day School (now called the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Jewish Day School). I have never known of any irreconcilable differences, although the tenure and seniority policy never overindulged the teachers. The union accomplished important things: It allowed dedicated teachers to feel valued and appreciated by offering health and welfare benefits, and the security of knowing that they were assured of employment.

In my tenure as a parent of an alumnus and a teacher of 27 years, I had always felt myself to be part of a community, a member of the Perelman family. How the board’s action can improve Jewish education and benefit our children and the teachers is hard to reconcile given the hard feelings that it has engendered.

Rita Ross taught first grade for 27 years at the Perelman Jewish Day School. She is now retired as a teacher and is the author of Running from Home, a memoir of her experience during the holocaust. She is a frequent lecturer on anti-Semitism and the need for tolerance.

Open Letter to the Perelman Jewish Day School Board of Directors

Dear Board members,

As the proud father of four children who have all graduated from or currently attend the Perelman Jewish Day School, I am writing to you to ask you to reconsider your unilateral decision to no longer recognize the union which has represented your teachers since 1976.

You assert that the relevant labor laws would otherwise impair your freedom of religion. I am not a lawyer, so I will not argue the legal basis for such a claim. However, I have serious reservations about the halachic, moral and social basis for your action.

This claim that union-busting is part and parcel of our exercise of religion sadly plays into the hands of those anti-Semites to whom the word “Jew” is a verb with a negative connotation.

In fact, exactly the opposite is true; our religion deplores strong arm tactics in employer-employee relations. The Perelman Jewish Day School is affiliated with the Conservative Movement whose Committee on Jewish Law and Standards passed a teshuvah (legal position) on Jewish labor law: Conservative day schools and other institutions must pay a living wage to their workers and “may not interfere in any way with organizing drives.”

More after the jump.
Historically, the Babylonian Talmud gives citizens the right to intervene between a employer and employee to insure the fairness of wages. More recently, orthodox Rabbis such as Eliezer Waldenberg and Moshe Feinstein have recognized the right of workers and even religious school teachers to bargain collectively.

The Jewish people is called upon to be “a light unto the nations”. We should be an example to others and impose a higher standard for ourselves. We should never seize our Jewish identity as a carte blanche to ignore community norms which even Walmart and McDonald are required to follow.

Your lawyers can might advise you about how far you can push the envelope of labor law, but they cannot advise you about derekh eretz.

The board has valid concerns about many issues (such as salary and tenure), but these issues should be addressed with respect at the negotiating table. The teachers do not have the right to get whatever they want in those negotiations, but they should have the right to sit at the table and be heard. If secular law perhaps does not require a religious organization to give unions a voice, then halakhah (Jewish law) and derekh eretz (common decency) does.

Please reconsider your decision and sit down to talk with the union before their contract runs out in August.

Yours, Daniel Loeb

PS: Tomorrow, you are holding your annual fundraiser. However, instead I will be making my donation to the Jack H. Barrack Hebrew Academy (even though I have no child who attends school there). By recognizing their teachers’ union, they show the kind of kavod (respect) which we hope our children will model.  

Perelman Jewish Day School Bars Teachers Union

— by Lynne Fox, Chairperson, Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee

The Perelman Jewish Day School board has unilaterally withdrawn its recognition of the union which has represented their teachers without interruption since 1976 and refuses to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.

Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee stands firmly with the teachers, their union and the parents and community leaders who have reached out to us as the board violates the rights of the school’s teachers to bargain collectively.

Although the school claims a religious exception to the relevant labor laws, it is the teachers’ concerns which are in alignment with tenets of Conservative Judaism. By dismantling the union and denying employees the power of collective bargaining, the Perelman Jewish Day School is acting in opposition both to major halakhic authorities and to the official position of the Conservative Movement. In 2008, the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards passed a teshuvah (legal position) which obliges institutions affiliated with the movement to comply with a series of Jewish labor laws. Among these, employers must pay a living wage and “may not interfere in any way with organizing drives.”

More after the jump.
This teshuvah draws upon a consistent line of rabbinic authority dating back to the Talmud. The third century Mishnah and Tosefta instructs employers to meet or exceed local custom in terms of wages and benefits, and the Babylonian Talmud gives town residents the right to intervene between a local employer and a worker to insure that wages are fair.

In 1945, Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, a leading Israeli Ashkanzi scholar and posek (authoritative adjudicator of questions related to Jewish law), recognized the right of workers to organize and to have their regulations and rules seen as binding. He also recognized, in certain conditions, their right to strike.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986), a Lithuanian Orthodox rabbi, scholar and posek, concurred in a series of Responsa that extended Rabbi Waldenberg’s holding to include the right of workers to prevent scabs from doing their jobs and to include the rights of religious school teachers to bargain collectively, even though community funds and the religious obligation to teach Torah were at stake.

The Perelman Jewish Day School has based its identity on a fidelity to halakhah (Jewish law) and derekh eretz (Jewish ethics). We call upon the school’s administration to bring this same dedication to its obligations as an employer of teachers who work hard every day to make the institution a center of Torah.

Jewish tradition has been clear and consistent — the treatment of workers and their right to organize are among the basic underpinnings of a just society. We therefore call upon the Perelman Jewish Day School to reverse their decision and begin to bargain with the teachers union over the terms of the next collective bargaining agreement.  

Off Green: Papering Over Our Environmental Problems

How has the surface temperature of Earth been changing?
This video dramatizes 130 years of planet-wide temperature changes relative to the local average temperatures. Red means warmer and blue means colder. Global climate change is of more than passing interest — it is linked to global weather severity and coastal sea water levels. (Astronomy Picture of the Day.)

DILBERT ©2013 Scott Adams. Used by permission of Universal Uclick. All rights reserved.

This is the second installment of a series of articles giving examples of “green” initiatives that do little other than distract, along with ideas about what we should be doing instead.

Trees are the lungs of our planet. Carbon dioxide levels rise and fall in an annual cycle, as plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. As forested land is depleted, our planet loses its natural ability to mitigate the damage that we are doing to the atmosphere.

Accordingly, we should avoid cutting down trees whenever possible, but it should be done in a way that makes sense.

Our School Will No Longer Be Printing Out Forms To Send Home

Each summer I have to fill out numerous forms with the same information for my children’s camps, schools and afterschool programs, the PTO, etc. However, one of the schools has announced that it was “going green,” and would no longer be printing out the required forms. Instead, parents would have to go online to find them.

I was delighted to hear this, and imagined that I would go online and see an online form which would be pre-populated with my data from last year which I could review, correct and then approve by clicking on a button. However, that is not exactly what the school had in mind. The forms were not to be submitted online, but instead needed to be printed out by the parents, completed by hand and mailed in.

Somehow, parents print out their own forms does not strike me as any “greener” than the old system, where the school would print it out for us. The only difference is who pays for the copies.

The story of “Offgreen” banking, and ideas on how to do better follow the jump.
Banks guilting us into forgoing receipts

Similarly, some banks are trying to use a cloak of “greenness” to save themselves some money. As the ATM screenshot to the left shows, the bank is trying to guilt us into forgoing a 2-inch by 2-inch receipt.

It’s easy being GREEN.
You can save paper to save trees and save the Earth.
You can reduce 0.49g carbon footprint at this time.

If I breathed even once during the time I read this message, I have exhaled 0.98g of carbon! Twice the potential savings for not having any record of my deposit.

The electricity used by a 60 Watt light bulb gives rise to the production of 10 grams of carbon every second. That is the equivalent of 20 ATM receipts every second.

My car discharges almost 20 pounds of carbon for every gallon of gasoline it burns. Each gallon of gasoline is the equivalent of over 18,000 ATM receipts. Instead of debating whether or not I should be printing a receipt, I should have debated whether or not to drive to the ATM in the first place!

A round-trip ticket from Sydney to Australia for one person involves the emission of 2776 kilograms of carbon dioxide. This is the equivalent of more than five million ATM receipts!

We need to focus our environmental efforts where they will be the most effective. When school and banks make these gestures in the name of “greenness” the results are either counter-productive or negligible.

How can we keep our eye on the ball?

What should we do instead?

  • Put clean used paper in a recycling bin instead of the trash.
  • Reuse the back side of paper from the recycling bin when you need to make a sketch or jot a note.
  • Take electronic notes instead of paper notes.
  • Read articles and emails online instead of printing them out.
  • Buy poly lumber furniture made out of quality artificial recycled post-consumer plastic and rubber. Not only you would be saving the trees and keeping soda bottles and automobile tires out of our ubiquitous landfills, but you would enjoy a quality material which is weather resistant, attractive and maintenance free.

Perelman Jewish School Third Graders Learn Entrepreneurship

Josh Kopelman

— by Ronit Treatman

What is the most effective way to teach young people about entrepreneurship? To have seasoned businesspeople demonstrate how it is done. Entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Josh Kopelman, of First Round Capital, invited the third grade students at Perelman Jewish Day School’s Stern Center to visit him at First Round. They will have the opportunity to present business plans to him and two other venture capitalists, Wayne Kimmel and Marc Singer.

More after the jump.
The visit, which will take place on Thursday, April 25, is the culmination of a third grade unit of study about venture capitalism that began last fall. The students were taught basic business terminology and learned the steps to creating a successful business: starting with a big idea, developing a business plan, and considering such variables as the consumers, market, price, and location.

Singer (left) and Kimmel

The third graders were then asked to think about what sort of business they would want to start when they grow up. They formed partnerships with their classmates based on similar interests, and from there set out to develop a plan, and design their own businesses. In addition, Kopelman visited the third grade classes and taught an interactive lesson about the fundamentals of entrepreneurism and venture capitalism.  

The Stern third graders have continued to work with their business partners to further develop their big ideas, and look forward to presenting their business plans to the three venture capitalist dads. Who knows? Maybe an angel investment will occur!

An Historic Vote Ushers In A New Era

— by Ben Rosen

Strength, unity, diversity, longevity, community, tradition and Jewish continuity were the overarching guiding principles that governed the discussions between negotiating teams from Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy (JBHA) and Perelman Jewish Day School (PJDS) over the past several months.

Working in partnership, Perelman Jewish Day School, Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, all agreed that a unified middle school would not only maximize community resources, but also provide exciting and expanded opportunities for students — educationally, socially and financially.

More after the jump.
During the past several months, both institutions, their leadership and administrations engaged in intense discussions focused on creating and enhancing an educational system based on best-practices and the combination of best features currently offered by both schools. PJDS, JBHA, and the Federation are committed to the priority of providing first rate day school education to as many children as possible – an education grounded in deep Jewish traditions and exceptional academics.

On Tuesday night, December 18, 2012 history was made in our Greater Philadelphia Jewish community when the Boards of JBHA and PJDS voted, during their respective meetings, to unify their two middle schools. In September 2013,   The Schwartz Campus in Bryn Mawr will welcome students and parents to the new Robert M. Saligman Middle School of the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy.

The newly unified Middle School will be pluralistic in its philosophy offering at a minimum a Conservative-based religious practice track as well as the religious tracks currently offered at JBHA, and familiar to PJDS families, in order to appeal to a wider variety of students. The Middle School will also offer academic programs suited to a wide spectrum of learning styles and abilities, including reasonable accommodations for students with special needs (such as the OROT program).

Cecily Carel, Ira Schwartz, and Elliot Norry

Both institutions agreed to work together along with the Federation to raise significant resources to enhance and support the entire K-12 day school system including:
a) Offering incentives for increased enrollment,
b) Providing free transportation to the school from points north and east,
c) Creating a state of the art home for the newly formed middle school,
d) Offering generous financial aid and merit scholarships.

Sherrie Savett, President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, commented:

Both institutions must be commended for their tireless efforts in this process. Their shared vision for a strong, robust and vibrant community day school system prevailed and led us to this momentous day. I applaud Cecily Carel and Elliot Norry and their negotiating teams for their steadfast leadership and dedication to the children of our community.    

Cecily Carel, Chair of the Board of Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy praised the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia adding:

Federation has been an invaluable asset to us in this process, when called upon, providing guidance and strategic input. Moreover, Federation and its leadership have agreed to garner significant resources to make this partnership a reality. We owe a debt of gratitude to Ira Schwartz for his contributions, especially in recent days, that resulted in both teams agreeing on a plan to unify the schools.

I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to partner with Elliot Norry on this most momentous journey and applaud him for his visionary leadership, together with his unwavering commitment to our Jewish community.

Elliot Norry, Chair of the Board of Perelman Jewish Day School commented:

We engaged in our joint discussions believing that we could create a more seamless K-12 day school system grounded in rich traditions, superior academics, with a focus on affordability, sustainability and improved access. While many collaborative models were thoroughly examined during this process, the PJDS board believes that we have achieved the best possible outcome for the broader Jewish community. We have also learned a great deal about our respective institutions that will undoubtedly further improve and enhance our collaborative efforts. I want to thank Cecily Carel for her partnership and her exemplary leadership.  The future of our day schools is extremely bright and we look forward to creating a strategic alliance with JBHA as the process of creating a unified middle school unfolds.

Unification: Saligman Middle School of the Barrack Hebrew Academy

Standing to the right: Cecily Carel, Ira Schwartz, and Elliot Norry

The Greater Philadelphia community is witnessing the unification of two of its Jewish middle schools: the Perelman Jewish Day School’s Robert M. Saligman Middle School with the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy’s (JBHA) middle school.  

This morning, Cecily Carel and Elliot Norry, the presidents of the Barrack and Perelman Boards of Directors, notified the community of the unification:

Pleased to share the news that Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy and Perelman Jewish Day School Boards of Directors voted, during their respective meetings, to unify their two middle schools.

In September 2013, The Schwartz Campus in Bryn Mawr will welcome students and parents to the new Robert M. Saligman Middle School of the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy.

Working in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, both Boards agreed that a unified middle school would not only maximize community resources, but also provide exciting and expanded opportunities for students — educationally, socially and financially.”

The terms of the unification follow the jump.
According to a letter released by PJDS, “a unified middle school will allow for greater class sizes, more effective use of community resources, and will expand educational opportunities for our students.

Here are some important details about the upcoming unification, based on commitments made by JBHA:

Location and Timetable

  • Robert M. Saligman Middle School of the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy will open its doors to students at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.
  • The school will be located on the Schwartz campus in Radnor, home of the JBHA, in a newly renovated Athletic building, maintaining our philosophy to keep our middle school in a separate facility. A Bet Knesset will be added by August 2014.

Staffing and Curriculum

  • Susan Friedman will remain Principal of the unified middle school, with the majority of her faculty also remaining at Saligman.
  • The middle school will continue to adhere to a student-centered curriculum focused on the educational and social needs of early adolescents.
  • The school will be pluralistic, offering students the opportunity for a Conservative-based religious practice track which includes daily prayer, along with the religious tracks currently followed at JBHA. The 8th grade Israel trip will be offered for at least the next two years.
  • The middle school will continue to offer programs for a wide spectrum of learning abilities, including special needs programs (such as the OROT program).

Financial Information and Transportation

  • Tuition and fees will be set at the same amount currently charged by Saligman, with increases limited to 2% or CPI until the end of the 2017-18 school year.
  • JBHA will provide equivalent financial aid packages, unless a family has experienced a material financial improvement.
  • The middle school will offer free transportation to those affected by the move for the next five years.

Governance and Collaboration

  • While the middle school will operate under the sole ownership of JBHA, Perelman representatives will sit on the JBHA Board, numbering 20% of the voting members. JBHA representatives will likewise sit on Perelman’s Board, numbering 15% of the voting members.
  • A Middle School Management Committee (MSC) will provide board level oversight of the middle school. The MSC will consist of two members of from among the PJDS-designated JBHA Board members, and two members from among existing JBHA Board members.  The fifth member of the MSC will be chosen by the PJDS-designated members and will act as Chair of the MSC.
  • Perelman will be paid $2.5 million over five years to enhance K-5 enrollment.
  • Perelman and JBHA will work together to advance a K-12 system that helps bolster the Jewish identity of our students and ensure our community’s future”.

The official public announcement was made this afternoon at 4:00 PM, in front of the future home of the unified middle school, the Barrack Mitchell Building (Athletic Building).   Working in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, both Boards agreed that a unified middle school would not only maximize community resources, but also provide exciting and expanded opportunities for students — educationally, socially and financially.

Jewish Day School Grants and Scholarship Now Available For All Ages

The Kohelet Foundations’s Jewish Day School Collaborative will award a limited number of tuition grants and scholarships Jewish day school students in nursery, elementary, middle and high school for September 2012.

These grants and scholarships ensure that more children realize the dream of an education rich in Jewish values and responsibility, where they achieve academically, while connecting to the world through a Jewish lens. Engaged, passionate and committed, they are tomorrow’s leaders.

Each student will receive up to 33% of tuition at day schools throughout Greater Philadelphia and South Jersey, up to $5,000 for lower and middle school and up to $8,500 for high school.

These grants and scholarships are multi-year and are offered to new and existing day school students of all denominations. Qualifications and details vary based on grade level.

Don’t wait another minute to give your child a Jewish day school education.

A limited number of grants and scholarships available at all day schools in Greater Philadelphia/South Jersey:

Intergenerational Simchat Torah

Fifth graders from the Perelman Jewish Day School in Melrose Park, PA join with seniors from the Klein JCC in Northeast Philadelphia to mark the Jewish holiday of Simchas Torah which celebrates the conclusion of the annual cycle of Torah readings. Standing from left in the front row are, Selma Fleigelman, Zev Rosenberg, Bella Magerman, Helena Federman, Sara Weingram and Brynn Kantrowitz. Sharing the moment (back row from left) are Shelley Geltzer, Klein JCC adult services program director and Rabbi Chaim Galfand, of the Perelman Jewish Day School.

Now celebrating its 36th anniversary year, the non-profit Klein JCC provides social, educational and cultural programs, as well as vital social services for people living in Northeast Philadelphia and its surrounding communities.