The Chai Life – Celebrating 18 Years with Paul Penna Downtown Jewish School By Leslie Sinclair

Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School will raise a glass with 500 guests on May 16, 2016 to celebrate its 18th anniversary, also known as Chai. In Judaism, an 18th anniversary is particularly auspicious as Chai corresponds with the number 18 and means “life”. The highlight of the school’s Chai celebrations, the evening is an opportunity for the school to reflect on how far it has come since its inception and reconnect with alumni and past supporters.

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“Our goal is to bring our founders, our alumni, our current and past community together with the greater Jewish community,” says Danielle Keystone-Adler, Co-President and Chair of the Board of Directors and Co-President of the Chai Life Celebration. Friends of the school can expect a special evening of theatre and music featuring the Jersey Boys. Jordan Banks, Managing Director of Facebook Canada, is the keynote speaker for the event, and Wendy and Elliott Eisen, known for fostering the Jewish community, will be honoured.

Paul Penna DJDS is a dynamic senior kindergarten to grade six school situated within the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre at Bloor and Spadina. Its unique program integrates Judaic and General Studies with artistic expression as a learning tool.

“When we develop curriculum, it is around big ideas,” explains Principal Dr. Daniel Goldberg. “In a sense, the big ideas have to be life lessons that students can carry forward and that will benefit them into the future.”

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The integrated approach at Paul Penna DJDS mirrors real life. Elements like science, Judaics, history and language arts are woven into units that explore these big ideas from different vantage points.

“In a grocery store, you don’t say, ‘I’m having a science moment because I’m reading a label, and now I’m at the cashier, this is a math moment,'” elaborates Dan. “You have the experience of going shopping.”

The school is also deeply committed to the concepts of social justice and Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world. This extends from students understanding that they must comfort other children to the school’s initiative to sponsor a Syrian refugee family. Incorporating the Jewish element so that it is relevant to students’ everyday living is another top priority.

As well, according to Sheri Rapp, who heads up Marketing and Admissions, the school highly honours diversity. “We embrace different lifestyles and a variety of approaches and practices to living Jewishly,” she says.

Kensington Market, the Annex, and Bloor and Spadina, areas where the Toronto Jewish community was originally rooted, have seen a significant resurgence in recent years. At the heart of that growth is Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School, the only Jewish day school in downtown Toronto.

Funds raised by the Chai Life Celebration will be put toward subsidy funding for families, technology and enhancing the rooftop play area.

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For tickets and more information about the Chai Life Event: CLICK HERE or email: ChaiLifeCelebration@djds.ca or Call 416-928-3537 ext. 670


LESLIE SINCLAIR is a freelance writer in the St. Clair West Village. Leslie loves to write about people and subculture.

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