By Dr. Sophia Balderman
Kadimah Academy, my alma mater, recently came perilously close to closing its doors. Shrinking enrollment and a weakened financial footing led the board to consider shutting down the school as it approached its 60th anniversary. Yet, the Buffalo Jewish community rallied and ultimately this precious jewel of a school will once again be educating children from kindergarten through eighth grade come September.
After living away from my hometown for 11 years, Kadimah Academy was a large part of the reason I decided to return to Buffalo. I eagerly anticipated the chance to give to my daughter the same day school education my parents gave me. Having come close to seeing its days come to an end caused me to ponder the reasons I feel that a Kadimah education is valuable.
Kadimah is the Hebrew word for “forward.” By providing students the opportunity to become well-versed in their own heritage, a Kadimah education helps them to form solid cultural identities. What better way to move forward in the world, connecting with people of all types of backgrounds, than to be familiar with your own cultural background, customs and traditions, and history?
Kadimah also emphasizes the importance of a very strong secular education. All eighth-grade students take the ninth-grade state Regents exams in math and science (and Hebrew). Since class sizes are small, students receive individualized and personalized attention from their teachers so they can excel in a warm, nurturing environment.
My experience as a student at Kadimah Academy formed, in large part, the fabric of my character. I learned to look deeper than the surface of ancient texts by reading the commentaries of famous rabbis, ones that have numerous applications in science and medicine, and it has served me well. I learned about the devastation of European Jewry during the Holocaust and the lesson that we must be especially sensitive to the suffering of others. I learned about our special connection to the land of Israel, its history and people.
I recall the excitement with which we would learn about the special observances of each Jewish holiday and Sabbath as it would approach, and how I would enthusiastically share my knowledge with my parents as we celebrated at home.
Most important, Kadimah provided a bridge from my roots to my adult self. This is the true gift of a Kadimah education and it’s not so easy to define. It is in the families, the songs, the celebrations and remembrances, the sense of community, of connectedness. It is in the “menschiness” of the teachers, staff, parents and students. It is in the spirit of the school.
It is in the day to day expression of Jewish values such as tikkun olam (repairing the world), acts of loving kindness (such as visiting the sick, comforting the mourning and giving charity), studying the Torah (bible) and other Jewish texts, prayer, respect for our fellow human beings, Zionism, and the importance of Jewish community.
While an education at a public school can be excellent, preparing students for higher education and successful careers, only a Jewish day school education can really partner with parents to help raise children who will live lives imbued with and enriched by Jewish values. While a Jewish education begins at home, a day school education enhances it beyond measure. I am so grateful that Kadimah Academy will continue to offer a once in a lifetime opportunity, that of a quality Jewish day school education, to students in Buffalo; it is truly a gift that keeps on giving.
Dr. Sophia Balderman, of Buffalo, is a physician specializing in hematology, and a proud alumna of Kadimah Academy.
Posted by Geraldine Cobb