Driving across the Twin Cities during the fall colors is always beautiful. Especially beautiful when crossing the river. Each day, during the school year, the Kaplan family did just that on their way to the Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School.
“Twenty minutes, that’s all it was, except for snow days,” said Jennifer Kaplan, a parent of two Heilicher alumnae, who happens to live in Mendota Heights. “Some people may not think about the car rides as a good thing, but the car rides allowed me to have dedicated time with my children. We were able to talk about what happened in their classes, what was going on with their friends, and what kind of homework they had for the night. It was a great touch point for us as a family,” Jennifer said.
The Kaplan family’s journey with day school began when Jennifer and her husband Bob were exploring kindergarten options for their elder daughter Naomi. “We were looking at our local public school and realized the class sizes were just too big,” Jennifer explained.
“So Bob and I started exploring small private schools in our area and enrolled Naomi at the Talmud Torah of St. Paul near our home. We loved that they provided small classes and an educational environment that integrated Judaic and Hebrew studies into the normal school day.”
Six years later, when looking at middle schools, the Kaplans once again considered both public and private school options. They ended up deciding that day school was still their preferred choice and enrolled both of their daughters, Naomi and Bella, at the Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School. Naomi graduated in 2013, and Bella in 2017.
“Our girls loved their experience at both day schools,” Bob said. “They were able to develop a strong personal identity rooted in the Jewish traditions that carried them through the years.”
While at Heilicher, the Kaplan sisters took part in many after-school activities like soccer, Spanish club, student council, and choir. Heilicher’s small size meant they could participate in the activities they wanted. They were encouraged to do what suited them, and it allowed them to try a variety of experiences.
After Heilicher, Naomi and Bella went to public high schools. “Not only did our girls get a great personal foundation at day school, but their academic grounding allowed them to take honors and accelerated courses throughout high school,” says Jennifer. In fact, Naomi was able enter her freshman year at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities with college Hebrew language credits.
“On a personal note, day school was special because we were able to make so many friendships with parents and families who shared our values,” Jennifer shared. “When Naomi started school, we didn’t realize we were missing this type of community in our lives. Not only did our daughters make some of their best friends, but we made ours.
“Our hope is that our story will encourage other families to consider what a day school education can offer. We are so grateful that our girls were able to get such a well-rounded education, and we hope others will love it as much as we did.”
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