Congregation Beth Israel (CBI) in Scotch Plains has welcomed Aviva Tilles as its new Director of Congregational Learning. She will be responsible for directing Congregation Beth Israel’s religious school, as well as overseeing its high school program, youth groups, and adult education, providing a comprehensive approach to the synagogue’s commitment to life-long learning. CBI’s religious school will offer in-person instruction as well as a remote learning track for the upcoming 2020 – 2021 school year, beginning Sunday, Oct. 18.
Aviva Tilles comes to Congregation Beth Israel with more than two decades of experience working in the Jewish world, both as a teacher and administrator. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a Master’s in Public Administration from Clark University in Worcester, MA.
Aviva’s passion for Jewish education and her involvement with United Synagogue Youth (USY), the youth movement affiliated with Conservative Judaism, can be traced back to her high school days at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland. She was president of her local USY chapter and co-chair of USY’s regional summer program, Encampment. Between high school and college, Aviva spent a year in Israel, participating in NATIV, the college leadership program sponsored by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
After receiving her graduate degree, Aviva worked full-time for USY for 13 years. In New York City, she was the Director of USY Summer Programs, in Seattle she was the Regional Youth Director for the Pinwheel Region, and in Chicago she was the USY Systems Manager/USY International Convention Director.
For more than 15 years, Aviva also has worked in different Jewish congregational schools throughout the country, in capacities ranging from being an all-in-one teacher for four different grade levels to spearheading a Project Based Learning curriculum for 8th – 12th graders.
“Aviva’s experience and enthusiasm make her a great fit for CBI,” said Aaron Kessler, President of Congregation Beth Israel. “We recognize that our religious school, youth programs and adult education classes will look somewhat different this year, but we are confident that Aviva can help deliver a positive and meaningful Jewish education to students and congregants of all ages and abilities, in a safe and comfortable environment.”
After a two-month evaluation by a special task force consisting of synagogue professionals and lay leaders, Congregation Beth Israel made a determination that it could hold in-person religious school classes this fall, with a separate, fully virtual track available to students as well.
“In attempting to craft what the upcoming school year should look like, we took into account the four ‘C’ s – Community, Content, Continuity, and Commitment,” said Aviva Tilles.
Religious school classes will be held outdoors as much as possible while the weather permits. When instruction moves indoors, only large classrooms, all with enhanced ventilation equipment, will be utilized, with a maximum of 10 students per class. Congregation Beth Israel is partnering with the Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Central New Jersey to provide additional classroom space. Health screenings and temperature checks will be implemented, and everyone in the synagogue will be required to wear masks at all times.
“We want to thank our friends at the JCC down the block for helping to make this happen so that we could offer more in-person instruction,” said Melissa Liebermann, Vice President for Education at Congregation Beth Israel. “Students may be attending class at a different time and even in a different building than in the past, but we have worked hard to maintain our high level of instruction and to keep the needs of families in mind when putting together their children’s schedules.”
Congregation Beth Israel’s religious school will also offer a separate, fully virtual track. Students who opt for remote learning will attend their own distinct virtual classes rather than being video-conferenced into in-person classrooms. Parents will be able to move their children into the virtual learning track at any point in the school year, for any reason. In addition, the in-person track was created with the ability to transition to a fully virtual experience for the entire religious school, should the need arise.
“After working on plans all summer, I’m excited to finally get to meet the students who make CBI come alive, no matter where, when and how I am able to see them,” said Aviva Tilles.
Congregation Beth Israel’s religious school educates students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Children in kindergarten through second grade meet on Sunday; synagogue membership is not required for students to attend this program. Religious school for grades 3 – 7 meets two days per week. Darcone, for 8th – 12th graders, meets one evening each month.
Congregation Beth Israel also offers grade-specific youth programming during the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for all students, K – 12.
Affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Congregation Beth Israel has youth group chapters of Kadima, for children in grades 6 – 8, and United Synagogue Youth (USY), for 9th – 12th graders.
Congregation Beth Israel’s adult education program offers a wide array of courses to its members throughout the year.
Congregation Beth Israel is an egalitarian Conservative synagogue, serving the religious, educational, cultural and social needs of congregants from Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Westfield and surrounding towns. It has been recognized as an ABLE Awarded Congregation by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest for its commitment to inclusion and accommodation for all its members and guests.
Congregation Beth Israel is located at 18 Shalom Way, Scotch Plains, NJ (corner of Martine Avenue). For more information about the synagogue or its religious school, call 908-889-1830.