Stephen S. Wise Temple Launches Second Summer of Pioneering Synagogue-Based Freedom School

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On June 24, Stephen S. Wise Temple opened its second summer of the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School, the second in the nation sponsored by a Jewish organization, and the first Jewishly-sponsored one of its kind on the West Coast.

Stephen S. Wise Temple Freedom School

LAUSD Board Member Steve Zimmer opens the Wise Freedom School with a book!

In order for this project to succeed for a second year, we had to reach out beyond our walls and get the community involved. And the community answered with an overwhelming response, allowing us to make this year's Freedom School even bigger and better!

On June 24, Stephen S. Wise Temple opened its second summer of the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School, the second in the nation sponsored by a Jewish organization, and the first Jewishly-sponsored one of its kind on the West Coast.

Seventy-five children from Stanley Mosk Elementary School in Winnetka will attend a six-week program of literacy training, mentorship, and enrichment activities on the Stephen S. Wise campus. The program, in which all costs to fund have been contributed or raised by Stephen S. Wise Temple – from its members, the community at large, family and charitable foundations, and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s office – will be run and staffed by Stephen S. Wise Temple adult and youth members, other individuals from the Los Angeles community, and Temple members will volunteer their time for various enrichment programs every day. The teachers will be committed college students with a passion for social justice and a love of children. Students in the program will enjoy resources that the Stephen S. Wise Temple campus offers, including beautiful classrooms, open playgrounds, and a pool. In addition, students will take several field trips to cultural sites around the Los Angeles area, including the Skirball Cultural Center and the TreePeople's Nature facility.

In only its second year, Stephen S. Wise Temple's Freedom School has expanded in several ways. It has garnered interest from students at both private and public high schools from around the city. Program Coordinator, Jennifer Smith, notes, "we never even advertised the program for teens to volunteer, but they heard about it from their friends throughout the community, and before I knew it, I had teens banging down my door to get involved!" This year, there are 50 high school students from the Los Angeles area volunteering during the six-week program, looking for an opportunity to help serve their community and become inspirational leaders for children that may not otherwise have a consistent support system at home. The teens received leadership, classroom instruction, and community organizing training, hopefully exposing them to teaching and social work as potential areas of study once they get to college.

Rabbi Ron Stern, the Director of Social Justice programming at Stephen S. Wise Temple, adds, “this program continues to establish Stephen S. Wise Temple as a leading synagogue for creating meaningful and enduring connections with the broadest spectrum of the Los Angeles community. In order for this project to succeed for a second year, we had to reach out beyond our walls and get the community involved. And the community answered with an overwhelming response, allowing us to make this year's Freedom School even bigger and better. Through this project, Stephen S. Wise Temple has devoted its superior facilities and skilled professional resources to address inadequate educational opportunities for children in Los Angeles. It is our hope that other religious institutions throughout the Westside will be inspired by our efforts and create their own Freedom Schools. Stephen S. Wise Temple stands ready to offer our support.”

Stephen S. Wise Temple is the sacred home to every Jew who wants to be a part of a vibrant and dynamic community – to engage in meaningful learning, to seek inspiration and relevance in his/her own spiritual growth, to care for one another and the world around them, and to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to Israel and our people.

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Ariana West
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