“What makes our schools stand out is our diversity,” says Monica Mendel Bensoussan, Director of Development at Les écoles Azrieli Schools Talmud Torah/Herzliah.
“We represent 30 countries – from Ethiopia to Israel – and we embody the whole mosaic of Jewish culture.”
This school system is more than 125 years old. But Herzliah’s new high school building in Montreal (which opened in 2017 with catalytic support from the Azrieli Foundation), is state-of-the-art. Replete with innovative classrooms, science labs, sports facilities and meeting spaces, the school has a global, creative vibe.
“The gift from the Azrieli Foundation was transformational,” says Mendel Bensoussan. “While our core values remain the same, the new building has changed everything – the kids are blossoming because of the space.”
Features include a rooftop garden where students collaborate with seniors from a nearby centre to grow produce for a local food bank, and a hall for Torah study where students can videoconference with other students in Jewish schools across the world.
Inside the realm of Jewish education, “sometimes some students feel out of touch with the rest of the world, but Herzliah prepares you for the real world,” says student Allan Hoffman, whose parents immigrated from Argentina. “I was a very shy kid, but when I arrived, I felt like I belonged.”
Now 17 and in his final year at Herzliah, Hoffman edits the school newspaper, participates in the Model UN and this year excelled at the science fair, competing regionally. He plans to study health sciences at Montreal’s Dawson College next year.
“I found myself,” he says of his time at Talmud Torah/Herzliah. “I was very small in a big world – now I know who I am.”