Hebrew Charter School Movement Shows Signs of Growth — and Growing Pains

With Schools in N.J., N.Y., Fla., Calif. and More on the Way

Hungry for Hebrew: Students at the Hebrew Language Academy in Brooklyn interact in class.
Courtesy of the Hebrew Language Academy
Hungry for Hebrew: Students at the Hebrew Language Academy in Brooklyn interact in class.

By Andrew Brownstein

Published February 09, 2014, issue of February 07, 2014.
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Less than a decade old, the nascent Hebrew charter school movement is experiencing growth and growing pains.

The most visible sign of the movement’s expansion is the appointment of Jon Rosenberg — an experienced civil rights attorney and not-for-profit manager — to be the first president and CEO of the Hebrew Charter School Center, a network of six schools that is headquartered in New York City. Lauded for his fundraising expertise, Rosenberg said his goals include opening more schools across the country.

“I want to chart an expansive vision of what this network of charter schools and the Hebrew charter school movement can do,” he told the Forward in a telephone interview.

Rosenberg replaces Aaron Listhaus, former chief academic officer of New York City’s charter school office, as head of the organization. Listhaus will retain the title of executive director of the center, and he will focus on academic support for its schools.

The transfer of power underscores HCSC’s shifting priorities. While well known as an educator and as the leader of the center’s Hebrew immersion program, Listhaus has little experience raising funds. Rosenberg, by contrast, doesn’t even speak Hebrew. HCSC officials, however, noted that during his tenure as CEO of Repair the World, a national organization supporting Jewish service-learning programs, the organization’s budget nearly doubled, rising to $5.5 million from $3.1 million.

One HCSC official said Rosenberg’s appointment “represents the next phase of the organization.”

“It became clear that the lead professional of the center really needed to be someone with experience growing an organization and needed to have a different skillset,” said the official, who asked not to be named. “Jon is not an educator. He is by experience a lawyer and knows the charter school space very well. He’s really smart. He understands organizational growth, and he has experience raising money.”


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