The Abraham Joshua Heschel School (AJHS) is a pluralistic Nursery to 12 Jewish day school in New York City named in memory of one of the great Jewish leaders, teachers, and activists of the 20th century and dedicated to the values that characterized Rabbi Heschel’s life: intellectual exploration, integrity, love of the Jewish people and tradition, and a commitment to social justice. The Heschel School is a pluralistic, egalitarian community that includes families from a wide range of Jewish backgrounds, practices and beliefs.
Unlike other Jewish Day Schools or other religiously affiliated schools, The Abraham Joshua Heschel School is unique in that it had a much more liberal ideology. It was founded on the principles of Abraham Joshua Heschel who marched for civil rights with Martin Luther King Jr. He believed in Judaism as a tradition for connection to a singular ineffable being without criticizing people who believed in other things. The school emphasizes diversity amongst its students and their differing religious traditions as well as amongst the ideas brought up by its students. The leadership values those who think differently and encourages debate.
Other "Heschel Schools" are located in Los Angeles, California and Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Despite having similar names, the three schools are otherwise unrelated.
The Abraham Joshua Heschel School was originally housed in three buildings: The Early Childhood (kindergarten and pre-school) Center and lower school was located on West 89th Street, the middle school on West 91st Street, and a newer high school on 60th Street (opened in 2001). In the summer of 2009, it was announced that construction would begin on a new building at 61st Street and West End Avenue, adjacent to the high school building, which would house the Early Childhood, lower school, and middle school divisions. The planned new facility was referred to as the "One Campus Plan," and construction began in 2009. The new facility would include space to expand the number of classes in Kindergarten through 8th grade, and the school began running extra classes starting with the class entering kindergarten in the 2010-2011 school year.
The new facility, officially known as the Ronald P. Stanton Campus, opened on time for the 2012-2013 school year, on schedule and under budget.
On December 18, 2013, the school announced that Columbia Law School Professor Ariela Dubler would take the helm as Head of School in 2014 when longtime Head of School Roanna Shorofsky retires.
In early 2015, Heschel High School head Ahuva Halberstam announced that she would be leaving her post at the end of the academic year to help found another Jewish school. She was replaced by Rabbi Noam Silverman, formerly the Principal of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School in Palo Alto, California.
Students of the Heschel High School commute from all boroughs of New York City, as well as from the New York metropolitan area, including New Jersey, Connecticut and Westchester. Additionally, students' countries of origin have included Switzerland, Ukraine, Russia, Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Austria, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
All students at the Heschel School study Jewish topics (Tanakh, Talmud, and Hebrew) as well as secular ones throughout the day.
Relations between the student body and the high school administration are handled in part by the student government, known as the SGA (Student Government Association). The SGA also works with the faculty and outside groups to arrange activities for the students, and in particular plays a major role in planning the annual Shabbaton weekend trip.
Clubs constitute a large part of the social life at The Heschel High School. Most clubs are supervised by a faculty member. Some clubs, such as College Bowl and Art Appreciation, are completely student supervised.
Also included in the clubs category are committees that exist within the High School. Such committees include Student Government. These groups are not open to participants, but rather representatives are elected by the Student Body.Student Association
Student Admission Representatives- SARs
The Heschel Helios is the official student produced newspaper of the Heschel High School. The namesake of the newspaper follows with the high school's heat theme (the sports team is the Heschel Heat). Helios is Greek for "sun". The student club aims to produce eight issues per school year. The club goes through a complete traditional newspaper experience. The process includes "slugging" articles, writing the articles, producing images or graphics for feature articles, peer editing of editorials and articles and finally, layout and printing, the involved students get a full experience of how a newspaper operates. The newspaper's motto, "We stand for what we utter," was chosen in the Winter of 2005 and is an original quote from the school's namesake, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.
The High School is a "laptop school." All students are required to obtain a laptop to use as a learning tool throughout their education. Teachers are equipped with laptops, and all classrooms contain smartboards.
The Heschel Heat is the name carried by the various sports teams that play for the High School. The teams include boys and girls basketball, girls volleyball, tennis, baseball, soccer, floor hockey, track and field, and ultimate frisbee.
The Heschel Heat boys junior varsity 2008-09 basketball team won the school's first Yeshiva League basketball championship.
In nonathletic areas, Heschel has clubs for debate, Model United Nations, mock trial, and Junior State of America. The school also has a college bowl team, known as the Heschel Velociraptors, and a mathematics team. The Velociraptors have been extremely successful, leading the New York City division within the Yeshiva League and representing it in the championships in the 2012-13 and 2014-15 seasons.