Shalom Academy Charter School

It’s a common trope: the lottery winner who discovers his or her fortune to be less of a than a blessing than it first appeared.

Now, some New Jersey parents whose children won spots in Shalom Academy Charter School’s admissions lotteries this winter and spring are wondering if they were so lucky after all.

With the first day of classes two months away, much about this brand-new Hebrew charter school in Englewood, which many Jewish parents had hoped would solve their tuition-related financial challenges, remains unclear — including whether it will actually open.

“If it does miraculously work out, it’s going to be chaotic the first year,” said one Teaneck mother who recently decided to turn in a contract to keep her child in a local yeshiva even though the child had one of the 160 spots at Shalom, which is tuition-free and open to children from Teaneck and Englewood.

The mother, who asked not to be named, added, “We were happy with the yeshiva anyway; it was just a matter of the money.”

The K-5 school’s founder, Raphael Bachrach, has not responded to repeated requests for an interview.

Growing numbers of parents, many of them Orthodox Jews who would otherwise have enrolled their children in yeshivas, are voicing concerns about whether the new Hebrew-immersion school will open — and if it will offer a quality educational program...

...many parents complained that their calls and e-mails to lead founder Bachrach have gone unreturned, that the location for the school has yet to be announced and that they have received only minimal information about the staff hired so far. There has also been no recent information provided about Hebrew Options in Public Education, a nonprofit (also run by Bachrach) that was to offer an optional after-school Judaic studies program.

“I wouldn’t send my dog to a kennel that I know this little about,” said one Englewood mother who decided to pull her children from the charter school and instead enroll them in a yeshiva.

Like most other parents interviewed, she asked not to be named, explaining that Bergen County’s Orthodox community is tight knit and she is reluctant to get ensnared into a public conflict...

According to one source, Bachrach has not even shared information with the six other founders listed on the charter application, saying he is reluctant to send e-mails for fear they could be subpoenaed in the EPSD’s lawsuit...

One father of children registered for Shalom Academy told The Jewish Week, “Charter schools are supposed to be more responsive, more transparent than public schools, but ... Shalom Academy is actually operating with less transparency and responsiveness than public schools. They don’t seem to understand they are operating a public institution.”...

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