BJH: I am here today with Rabbi Meir Khaver of Tashbar in Baltimore, a fantastic K-8 school in the heart of our community. How are you today, Rabbi?
Rabbi Khaver: I’m doing great. Thanks for asking, and thanks for having me!
BJH: Let’s get right to it, Rabbi. Tell me about Tashbar – how did it start? What’s it all about?
Rabbi Khaver: Well, really, it was sort of an accident. A few Rebbeim got together and saw a community need. Some local boys needed to learn, and we learned with them. It was small, warm, and close-knit, and the children were happy. Word got around, and we grew. Five years later, we’re a full-fledged school!
BJH: Did that small, close-knit feeling stay alive in the school?
Rabbi Khaver: 100%. That’s what sets us apart. I should clarify, though, that I believe every school in Baltimore has its place, and we work together with the other schools to ensure that each boy is getting what he needs. At Tashbar, it comes down to a child feeling that someone cares about his personal growth and learning and will be there to guide him toward success.
BJH: Can you tell me more about that? How do the students gain that feeling?
Rabbi Khaver: It just has to be genuine. If we care, they feel it. If we think that they can succeed, they feel it. Usually, within a day, often less, a new student absorbs this and even expresses how good he feels to be in Tashbar.
BJH: That’s quite impressive! It sounds like the boys feel comfortable and know they can be accepted as their authentic selves.
Rabbi Khaver: Yes, that’s exactly right. You know, a lot of times, a student may have been flailing to keep afloat in an environment that just didn’t cater to his success. Perhaps the schoolwork was too overwhelming or he may have felt like he was being pushed into a direction that wasn’t for him. At Tashbar we meet the boys wherever they are. Once they experience that, they naturally become comfortable. This, we believe, is the way to spur true growth.
BJH: I’m getting the picture—sounds one-of-a-kind! How many boys are in the school?
Rabbi Khaver: Right now, about 55. Next week, there might be a few more coming.
BJH: I’m sorry, can you explain that? Didn’t registration close many months ago!?
Rabbi Khaver: We have an open registration policy. If a boy needs a school and we think we can do the job, we tell him to come immediately.
BJH: Now that is something I’ve never heard of. I’m genuinely impressed.
Rabbi Khaver: It’s just how we see things. We have a very small teacher-student ratio; six Rebbeim for our group of 55 students, and more hands-on staff as needed.
BJH: I’m sure it’s not easy to maintain that type of individualized attention.
Rabbi Khaver: You know, we realized early on that to succeed, we needed to feel free to move away from the classic school setup in some areas. We need to teach our boys to have accurate expectations of themselves—and that means they need to know themselves.
BJH: Can you explain that a bit more?
Rabbi Khaver: Sure. Let’s use our afternoon program as an example. The boys aren’t divided by grade; it’s more by skill level. The boys do a lot of their work independently with the staff checking in on them to help them stay on task. Each student has a box of materials set aside for the afternoon but two boys are not necessarily assigned the same work. One boy might have more advanced English while another boy might have more advanced math. We think through what each child needs.
BJH: And what results do you see because of this difference?
Rabbi Khaver: The students learn how to succeed themselves. They get it done because their goals are attainable and realistic to them. They’re also super motivated…because honestly, we have amazing incentives. Our program includes trips, prizes, special lunches and more!
BJH: That’s fantastic. Let’s mention something about your upcoming campaign. I hear it’s the first one for Tashbar? Well, Shehecheyanu! Please, tell me about it!
Rabbi Khaver: It’s going to be January 21-22. In part, this campaign is aimed at keeping our amazing program open to every child who needs us. We know that so many more children can use our school—and we need to be ready for them. Often these amazing children, whose potentials are as big as the world, may need something more, something different to help them uncover their unique abilities. As a community, it is our Achrayis to reach every child and offer him the chance to thrive and learn Hashem’s Torah.
BJH: OK, I’ll mark the date. Thanks again for being with us today. We wish you tremendous success on the campaign!
Rabbi Khaver: Amen!