October 22, 2014   28 Tishrei 5775
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Building Sustainable Futures: School Partnership
Mar. 10, 2011
Synagogue-school partnership includes tutoring, building repairs, mentoring and winter coat drives.

Community Contact Information:
Touro Synagogue
New Orleans, LA
www.tourosynagogue.com

Goals:

  • To positively impact the city’s public education system, the lives of vulnerable children in the system, and, in turn, the city’s crime rate.
  • To foster racial and religious understanding and harmony among people from diverse demographics and backgrounds in the city.
  • To strengthen the Jewish community and greater community by forming a school partnership.

Overview:
The congregation developed a deep-seated partnership with a neighboring at-risk public school through numerous initiatives such as tutoring, repairing the school building, mentoring and organizing winter coat drives.

Preparation:
After a series of brainstorming meetings to identify a meaningful social action initiative, the congregation chose to focus on two pressing local issues: education and crime. Two local experts—one education expert, one crime expert—served as advisors by suggesting ways for the congregation to make a positive impact in those areas.

The congregation decided to partner with a public school in the synagogue neighborhood. Meetings with school leadership took place to identify student needs.

Project Implementation: 
Congregants of all ages became involved in the partnership through the following activities: tutoring and reading with public school students; painting and repairing the building; providing birthday treats for students and staff; offering monthly teacher appreciation snacks; ordering discounted books; gardening; organizing drives for clothing items such as winter coats prom dresses; arranging motivational speakers; mentoring college-bound students; providing professional college entrance test preparation; underwriting college application fees; offering student academic incentive awards; standing up in advocacy for and with the school; fund raising for special projects; and assisting with grant-writing proposals.

In turn, public school’s students, parents and teachers have given back to the Touro Synagogue community. The marching band played during the synagogue’s annual jazz Shabbat, and the school’s director spoke at a synagogue dinner, which was also attended by students and their families. The school has also collaborated with the syngagogue to sell food and offer parking during Mardi Gras parades, and the school hosted an Oneg Shabbat dinner after Friday evening services. 

Results:
The synagogue-school partnership encourages students to believe in themselves and achieve academic excellence. The partnership has also affected the grater community: For example, Tulane University students have joined Touro Synagogue members in tutoring SBW students, and SBW students plan to join Touro Synagogue youth in working with a community soup kitchen.

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