Ariel Zaltzman
Former Hebrew School Director

NELLY TSIRULNIKOVA.jpgPlease tell us a little about your career.
I am an educator who has taught Jewish subjects in various Jewish educational institutions. I was the director of the Kachol Lavan Hebrew Sunday School, then the director of educational programs at the Darchei Noam synagogue, and now (I am the director of the JRCC Hebrew School.)

Where have you lived over the years?
I was born in Israel. In 2001, my family and I moved to , where I taught Hebrew and Jewish traditions at Akiva Academy in Youngstown, Ohio. Sixteen years ago we moved to Ontario. We first lived in Hamilton and then moved to Toronto. Two years ago we settled in the North York area.

Why did you choose North York?
Our daughters decided to become independent and moved out, and my wife and I thought it was time for us to downsize our house for an apartment. We chose the North York area as it is only half an hour from the city center, and is also close to our workplaces. In addition, it is very important for us that there are many Jews around; we have always preferred to live where our community is. In general, I love Toronto as a city in general: it is very green with many parks for walking. It's great that huge parks and recreation areas are located in the center of residential areas.

Where does your family come from?
My grandparents lived in Ukraine. They made Aliyah to Israel one hundred years ago. My father's family was originally Orthodox. People called my grandfather a rabbi, but I don't think he was an official rabbi. In the past, many older religious people were often called rabbis. My parents were born in Israel, in Tel Aviv. I also grew up in Tel Aviv, and when I got married and had two daughters, my family and I decided to move to the US to teach Jewish studies.

What do you do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
I love cycling, hiking and playing African drums. I love to travel and discover new places. I enjoy getting to know the life of people in different parts of the world.

If you had the opportunity to make "L'chaim" with anyone in history, who would you choose, and why?
I would choose Moses, the prototypical leader of the people. He led the Jews out of Egypt for a long time. The process of this Exodus and forty-year wanderings in the desert were a difficult test for him and for the people. As a leader, I believe he did an unbelievable job. He was a great politician. He knew how to find a connection between the Almighty and the children of Israel. He was a role model, always empowering those around him to rise to the occasion. Moses always knew how to overcome his weaknesses, what the head of the people should be, and how to communicate with the Almighty. He was the first true leader of the Israelites. Moses possessed great humility, had tremendous respect for people, and knew how to deal with them. I feel like he and I would have a lot to talk about.

When did you start participating in JRCC programs?
Two months ago, when I started my job as director of the JRCC Hebrew School. I am responsible for all the operations of the school, including the recruitment and retention of students, making sure they are motivated and engaged, educational and entertainment programs, budget, and marketing.

How do you feel about JRCC programs? What do they mean to you?
The JRCC is focused on serving Ontario’s Russian-speaking Jewish community. This is a well-known organization, and I like the devotion and enthusiasm with which JRCC staff convey traditional Jewish values to the people of the community, to help them integrate into a community with a rich Jewish life. The JRCC Hebrew School has great teachers. They work selflessly to make educational programs as impactful as possible, and at the same time interesting for children. I find it very important to participate in the JRCC programs as it gives me the chance to meet people, get to know the community, and tell them about our Hebrew School.

What are your plans for the future?
I want to focus all my knowledge and efforts to build on the success of the JRCC Hebrew School, so that as many Jewish children as possible receive a Jewish education that meets the highest standards. I also want to continue doing what I love and hope that the coronavirus will not affect me.