Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy is a pluralistic Jewish day school for students in grades six through twelve from a broad variety of backgrounds. The school integrates a comprehensive and rigorous college preparatory curriculum with the teaching of essential Jewish and American values and texts. Barrack graduates value diversity, celebrate the richness of Judaism's language, culture, and history, and have a strong connection to Israel. Barrack prepares future leaders of the American, Jewish and global communities who work for a better world through acts of justice and compassion.
Philosophy & Goals
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, an independent pluralistic community day school, was founded in 1946 as Akiba Hebrew Academy by a group of public-minded Jewish citizens, lay and professional, who were deeply concerned about preparing students to assume responsibility in their community as leaders and active citizens. Uppermost in their minds was the need to create a progressive, dynamic community of educated Jews who would help ensure the survival of the Jewish people and Judaism after the Holocaust. Thus, they set out to establish an intensive program of Jewish studies integrated with a comprehensive college preparatory program. It was the vision of the founders that Jewish middle and high school students come together to study their common heritage in a pluralistic setting, learning to respect all positions and the sincerity with which they are held. This objective was intended to strengthen the Jewish identification of every student without compelling acceptance of one particular interpretation of what is the Jewish way of life.
Barrack prides itself in the diversity of its student body and faculty, but diversity alone is not sufficient to create a pluralistic environment. Pluralism is the energetic, intentional, and conscious engagement with diversity. At Barrack, pluralism is not just tolerance, but the active seeking of understanding. It does not imply that there are no absolute truths, nor does it demand that we consider all points of view to be equally valid. The language of pluralism is that of dialogue and encounter, give and take, criticism and self-criticism. Respectful dialogue means both speaking and listening, and that process reveals both common understandings and real differences. Dialogue does not require agreement; rather, it demands that we bring our individual identities and deeply-held beliefs to a meaningful conversation with others.
From the School’s inception, its educational philosophy has been responsive to significant developments in education and maintains a dynamic approach to curriculum, both academic and experiential. We believe students learn through experiential as well as intellectual activities and therefore are committed to providing our students with a variety of opportunities.
Our Derech Eretz Pledge, prepared by a committee of students and faculty, provides the foundation for the learning environment at Barrack. This pledge clearly defines standards of human relationships and behavior, with specific expectations for students, faculty and staff.
The Derech Eretz Pledge
As individuals and as a community, we are committed to studying Torah, to practicing its morals and values, and to demonstrating Derech Eretz with these six values:
- Humility (Anava) - Striving to act with a sense of humility on and off campus, and accepting and giving constructive criticism with humility
- Modesty (Tzniut) - Speaking and dressing appropriately, and accepting honors and enjoying success with modesty
- Honor (Kavod) - Honoring and respecting all students, faculty, staff, and visitors, as well as the Barrack school buildings and grounds
- Honesty (Yosher) - Speaking truthfully, completing assignments with honesty, and continuing to act with honesty and integrity even in the face of peer pressure
- Community (Kehilla) - Participating in the spiritual life of the Barrack community, and accepting diversity and extending friendship in a community represented by different outlooks
- Fellowship (Hevruta) - Affirming and supporting others in their successes and challenges, and participating as a positive member of a team
While mastering the content and skills of each academic discipline, teachers challenge their students to develop an inquiring attitude and encourage them to voice informed opinions freely in the classrooms. Using 21st Century educational guidelines, our curriculum incorporates a focus on communication, creativity, collaboration and cooperation. Respectful dialogue among students and faculty is expected.
Barrack offers a unique study abroad program in Israel during the fall trimester of a student’s junior year. In this program, learning comes to life as students supplement their formal academic studies with trips to historical sites that parallel their study of the history of the Jewish people and Israel. Incorporated into these trips is a one week journey to Poland, during which Barrack students visit the once vibrant centers of Jewish life in pre-war Europe, as well as several concentration camps. Many students report that their experiences in Israel and Poland are life-changing; they return to Barrack with greater maturity as well as a stronger personal connection to Israel and their Jewish roots.
Jewish Learning and Life
The Jewish Studies academic program and those activities which flow from it are at the core of the school. The Jewish calendar provides the framework for Barrack Jewish life. Our goal is to graduate knowledgeable Jews, young adults who are conversant in the ideas and texts of our tradition, who use their learning as a moral compass to navigate life, and who are able to build healthy, successful relationships with others. In addition, we instill in our graduates an awareness that they are a link between the Jewish communities of the past and the future. Our students recognize the essential importance of Kehillah, Israel and the Hebrew Language in the history and culture of the Jewish people. In addition, we are committed to the centrality of Israel and the State of Israel.
Because we believe that Torah and Jewish culture are best transmitted in their original form, without an additional layer of translation, we study our classical texts in the original language (Hebrew or Aramaic) whenever possible.
Barrack students are taught to value learning for its own sake (Torah Lishmah), and to appreciate the importance of obligation. They leave our school with a heightened sense of responsibility, committed to Derech Eretz (mutual respect), Tzedakah (social justice), Chesed (community service) and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world).
Advantages of a 6th-12th Grade School
The fact that Barrack is comprised of a middle school and an upper school in one unit is deliberate. The founders sought to build a community in which middle school students interact with upper school students and faculty. These interactions benefit younger students by providing role models who challenge and guide them in formal and informal settings. This structure also benefits older students by offering them opportunities to demonstrate responsibility and assume positions of leadership.
Middle School Philosophy
Recognizing the unique needs, interests and skills of students in grades 6 through 8, the Barrack faculty and staff are committed to the development of the entire child in a warm and nurturing environment. Academic, religious, physical, social and emotional growth is the focal point of the dual curriculum, co-curricular and extracurricular activities. Students are encouraged to think, question, learn and make decisions based on Jewish and American values. As their innate creativity and curiosity are nurtured, Barrack’s Middle School students are taught to respect themselves and others. Students are inspired by talented and involved teachers to develop the intellectual and emotional skills that prepare them for a seamless transition to high school.
Upper School Philosophy
In a rigorous dual curriculum that includes both in-depth college preparatory and extensive Jewish studies components, students in the Upper School become independent, curious, open minded thinkers. While mastering the content and skills of each academic discipline, each student develops an aptitude for critical analysis and a strong work ethic. Faced with the challenges of the 21st Century, Barrack students become proficient in oral, written and technological communication to complement their academic and spiritual development. We help create well-rounded adults who value education and their Jewish identity. Our graduates translate their Barrack experience into understanding, their understanding into commitment and their commitment into action in the Jewish community, the United States, Israel and the world at large.