Meet the Berger Family of Barrack Hebrew Academy
With rigorous academics, this culturally rich and diverse school is teaching its students to think critically.
“We wanted a place that would understand Stella’s strengths, challenge her in the areas she needed to grow and cherish her personality. We wanted a school that would treat her as a whole person. We found all of this, and more, here,” said Jeff and Liz Berger about Barrack Hebrew Academy.
Jeff and Liz Berger, both born and raised on the Main Line, attended local independent schools—Jeff, an all-boys school, and Liz an all-girls school. When it came time to choose a middle school for their daughter Stella, they began their search early, with open minds, looking for a place that would meet her individual needs.
Barrack Hebrew Academy
Founded in 1946, this co-educational, pluralistic Jewish day school for students in sixth through twelfth grade is the oldest such school in North America. Jeff and Liz Berger, who prior to enrolling their daughter did not have a religious background and had not considered a Jewish school, were initially drawn to Barrack because of the academics, but have learned first hand how culturally rich and diverse the school is.
“There is a home here for every family. We came to Barrack because of the academics, but found an amazing community,” said Liz.
“Everyone knows each other, and cares about each other – the teachers know each student individually, the students all look out for one another and are welcoming, especially to new kids when they come in,” said Stella.
Academics at Barrack are balanced in a thoughtfully designed curriculum that includes traditional humanities subjects such as literature and history as well as math, science, and STEAM along with Jewish studies & Hebrew language.
“Barrack has shown Stella how to be more engaged in her learning,” said Jeff. “For example, in elementary school she wasn’t interested in math, but when she came to Barrack [in sixth grade] she learned how to enjoy it and realized she was good at it.” Barrack retrained the way she was thinking about math resulting in success and increased self-confidence.
Barrack students experience Jewish continuity by studying the Tanakh (Bible) and ancient rabbinic texts. Using these sources and their knowledge of Hebrew language helps them develop critical thinking and advanced analysis and communication skills.
Jake Tapper, who graduated from Barrack in 1987, and now serves as CNN’s Anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent said “the dual curriculum grounds you in not just another language and worldview, but in a set of ethics, of expectations of behavior, of instructions in right and wrong.”
Parents appreciate that Jewish values shape the student experience and are drawn to the school for access to this timeless wisdom. Outside formal classroom work, Barrack students are encouraged to bring the Jewish values of honor, courage, kindness and community to life in everything they do. All students participate in community service, and the school requires every senior to complete 120 hours of service learning as part of their graduation requirement.
Barrack offers a diverse array of opportunities for students to get involved. With clubs ranging from American Sign Language and Environmental Action to Women’s Empowerment and World Affairs, there is an opportunity for all students to explore their passions. Barrack’s competitive sports teams often rise to the highest level of competition with the TCISL (Tri-County Independent School League) and Penn-Jersey Athletic Association. In clubs, sports teams, and arts and theater, Barrack students come together to compete, expand their horizons and take on leadership roles.
Stella, like all students at Barrack, is encouraged to create her own experience—to pick activities that interest her. As this school year gets underway, she is on the tennis team and hopes to be on the cheer squad. She’s passionate about making a difference for cancer patients in the Cancer Awareness Club and is looking forward to her junior year semester studying in Israel.
Giving students the chance to be guided by Jewish values in their everyday lives gives them confidence, clarity in their beliefs and the drive to constantly improve themselves and the world around them.
To learn more about Barrack Hebrew Academy, consider attending one of their upcoming open houses:
Friday, October 19, 9:30 am – 12:00 pm
Wednesday, December 12, 9:30 am – 12:00 pm
Wednesday, January 16, 9:30 am – 12:00 pm
To register, or for more information on the school, please call the admissions office, 610-622-2350, or visit jbha.com.
Photographs by Sarah L. Bender.