The Rudlin Torah Academy (RTA) is a religious school. Its educational philosophy and mission are therefore built upon religious principles. The educational program grows directly out of the philosophy. The curriculum is the day-to-day implementation of the school’s educational program.
RTA is committed to a complete and total educational program, with general and religious curricula, consistent with our firm belief that all knowledge comes from the Creator, within a halachic framework. It must be inclusive of all Jewish youth, ever mindful that the acquisition of wisdom is a divine commandment, enhancing Jewish identity, consistent with traditional Jewish methods of teaching and learning, and constantly aware that wisdom requires a willing heart.
Because we believe that every Jewish child requires a Jewish education, RTA is committed to reaching out to the entire Jewish community: conservative, orthodox, reform, and the totally unaffiliated. It is our conviction that every one of these children should receive an outstanding education under our tutelage. This finds itself expressed through RTA’s vision statement – “Stellar Education for Every Jewish Child’.
Further, it is the policy of the school, that no child will be turned away for lack of money. This element in our philosophy guides all admission and financial aid decisions.
The most basic principles upon which the educational philosophy is built are (as stated by Maimonides in the 12th century), “that the Creator, is the Creator and Ruler of all created beings, and that He alone has made, does make, and will ever make all things…that the Creator is One…,” and “that the whole Torah, which we now possess, is the same that was given to Moses, our teacher.” We also believe that His creation is, as He says it is, good; that men and women are created in His image; and that, reflecting His omnipotence, they are endowed with free will.
These few principles can be distilled in the expression “Teaching the Mind, Touching the Heart.”
Because we are created in His image, man’s natural desire is to draw near to Him. Because He has expressed Himself in an intelligible creation, that human desire naturally expresses itself as the desire to know G-d through His creation. And because we are created in His image, there is congruence between His mind and ours, so that the path to knowledge is part of the creation itself. The desire to know is part of human nature, and the child’s receptivity to learning is part of the very plan of creation. “Teaching the Mind” is, therefore, a divine commandment. Teaching and learning are seen at RTA as two sides of a reciprocal relationship in which human nature is given it greatest fulfillment. It should, therefore, be pleasurable for both student and teacher.
Just as it is an offense to the Creator to reject His creation, it is an offense to take the pleasure out of learning about it. There are certain building blocks of learning which must be acquired by rote, which is not always pleasurable (“not always,” because, in fact, young children take satisfaction in developing and exercising their memories, just as they take pleasure in developing and exercising their bodies). It is a challenge to make such learning pleasurable. Beyond that, RTA’s teachers know that they must entice the children along the path of wisdom by nurturing each child’s own desire to know. Our premises lead to the conclusion that, ultimately, learning is the most attractive thing there is.
On the other hand, endowed with free will, we are free, as it says in the Torah, “to turn from G-d and follow the desires of our hearts.” In Jewish tradition, the heart is viewed metaphorically as the seat of our emotions and passions. If our hearts are turned toward G-d, learning will proceed smoothly. If not, however, the best instruction will be of no avail. Either the child will not learn or, worse, the learning will be corrupted; hence we say, “Touching the Heart.”
G-d requires of us “only”, as it says in the book of Micah, “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with [our] G-d.” But even that requires no less than that we know what justice is, recognize the line between it and mercy, and know the way to walk with G-d. Other formulations of what is needed for the best life put much emphasis explicitly on cultivation of the intellect. Either way, Judaism requires mastery of an enormous body of knowledge. Additionally, we must convey to our students the knowledge necessary for skill in the professions and crafts, and for active and responsible citizenship. Thus, RTA strives for excellence bothin General and Judaic Studies.
Our graduates compare favorably with those of other private schools in Virginia. Yet, we are committed to reach all applicants who are interested in our dual program, whether or not they are at a high academic level. There is no elitism, academic or otherwise, in admissions. There is thus an extra burden on our teachers to teach to the whole spectrum of student capabilities.
In addition, initial enrollment at the Rudlin Torah Academy can occur at any grade level, regardless of a student’s previous educational background or Jewish knowledge. If necessary, the school is committed to providing individual attention to bring the child up to grade level or to making other adjustments to allow the student to achieve at his or her highest academic level.
We demonstrate in our educational program that “all Israel is one,” that we care about every single child, and that we recognize that every single child has a unique educational receptivity. Classes are structured by capability when necessary; but the ideal is for all to progress as a whole. All of our pupils learn that they have something to contribute; our brightest learn not only that they have a responsibility to those who are behind them, but also that the one bringing up the rear may be the one who provides the needed insight, or expresses the very question, that opens the way to a deeper level of thought for all.
The creation of the State of Israel is one of the seminal events in Jewish history. Recognizing the significance of the State of Israel and its national institutions, we seek to instill in our students an attachment to the State of Israel and its people as well as a sense of responsibility for their welfare.