A Full Day's Studying
A day in the life of the Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit.
attend morning minyan (prayer quorum). But at
JAMD, it's a matter of choice.
The school offers at least two concurrent services
Today, Guyer, whose family belongs to the
Conservative Adat Shalom Synagogue, chooses the
so-called "egalitarian" minyan, in which female stu-
dents take turns leading the service. Some, like 10th-
grader Danniell Nadiv of Huntington Woods, also -
choose to wear tefillin and tallitot (prayer shawls).
Leading today's egalitarian minyan are ninth-grad-
er Ilyssa Tackel and 10th-grader Josh Cohen, both of
West Bloomfield. The chanting — all in the original
Hebrew and Aramaic — is hushed and rapid, alter-
is 7:30 a.m. Monday, the first day back to
school after spring break, and Jonathan Guyer
of Huntington Woods is considering the
characteristics of triangles.
Guyer, a junior at the Jewish Academy of
Metropolitan Detroit, has attended the multi-stream
Jewish high school since it opened with 53 freshmen
and sophorhores in August 2000. Today, he's agreed
to let the Jewish News tag along.
Like nearly two-thirds of the JAMD students,
Guyer came straight to th'e school from Hillel Day
School of Metropolitan Detroit, so he's always
had to deal with a curriculum that combines
Jewish and secular studies.
But studying Hebrew and religion 40 percent
of each day hasn't cut into his mastery of other
subjects. Starting with his honors pre-calculus
class, his schedule at JAMD includes two
advanced-placement classes as well as advanced
Biology and third-year Spanish. On the Jewish
studies side, he also takes the school's highest level
of Hebrew and both Bible and Rabbinics (sacred
writings and philosophy).
Despite a schedule of advanced classes, he finds
time to play guitar, edit the school paper and
spend eight hours a week after school learning
life-saving skills to prepare for a summer as life-
guard at Camp Tamakwa in Huntsville, Ontario.
With calculator in hand, he watches as teacher
Michael Weiss rapidly draws a 70-degree angle
and plugs in the lengths of the two sides.
A Ph.D. candidate in mathematics at the
University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Weiss has
been on the JAMD faculty since the high school's
first year. He teaches both Bible and math.
His first-period pre-calculus class has 16 stu-
dents, about average for the 112-student school.
"There's definitely things you miss in a small
school," Guyer says, "but, at the same time, the
teachers are great and you get their full atten-
Compared to his first year at JAMD, the school
is huge, he says.
"But I just got a letter from Rabbi Buckman
[JAMD head of school] saying he read my
As his Hebrew teacher explains requirements for the final
English paper and he liked this point and that
junior Jonathan Guyer takes notes — in Hebrew.
point," Guyer says. "What other principal would
do something like that?"
A Time For Prayer
It's 8:20 a.m., time to lay aside graphing calculators
and empirical proofs to lay tefillin.
In Conservative and Orthodox congregations,
men strap the small leather boxes containing parch-
ment scrolls to their arm and forehead when they
nating with silent davening.
A few students in the back of the room don't par-
ticipate, but Guyer takes a place near the front.
Guyer frequently attends the more traditional
mechitzah minyan, in which women sit separately.
"In the mechitzah minyan, only men lead the
services and read Torah," he explains. "There is a lit-
tle more singing here. Plus, in the other one, the
pace is faster."
On Tuesdays and Fridays, the school holds a dis-
cussion minyan, and there's also an occasional learn-
ers' minyan, especially helpful for those who came to
the JAMD from public school.
In addition, students lead a weekly minyan at the
Fleischman Residence, a home for senior citizens
located a few yards from the school on the Eugene
and Marcia Applebaum Jewish Community Campus
in West Bloomfield.
On An Advanced Track
After minyan, classes follow in rapid succession
until the 3:30 p.m. dismissal.
The school uses a modified block schedule, in
which students attend single periods of every class
on some days, while other days are devoted to
larger blocks of fewer classes. On Mondays, stu-
dents have a single period for each class, and
Guyer's next class is Hebrew.
This is Modern Hebrew 6, the most advanced
the school has offered so far. Because so many in
the class are juniors, there will be a seventh-level
Hebrew class during the 2003-2004 school year.
Teacher Cobi Sacerdoti, who earned her Ph.D.
in Hebrew language and literature from U-M,
speaks only Hebrew in class. Everybody in sixth-
level Hebrew went to a local day school — Hillel,
Yeshivat Akiva, Yeshiva Beth Yehudah or Beth
Jacob School for Girls — or was brought up in
Israel, Guyer says.
Along with the majority of its students, the
Jewish Academy imported some of its teachers
from Hillel. Among them is Carim Calkins, who
came to the school after a detour as assistant prin-
cipal at South Lyon High School.
For Guyer's class, Advanced Topics in Biology,
Calkins has prepared a two-column chart outlin-
ing the differences between meiosis and mitosis,-
two forms of cell division. It's a lively class, with
digressions into related fields of poison ivy, insect
bites and sexually transmitted diseases.
A quick visit to his locker and Guyer is ready for his
next class, Advanced-Placement American History.
"U.S. History is probably my favorite class," he
says. "We discuss things in depth — really in
depth. Like comparing the elections in the 1800s
to elections today or the situation with the United
States in Iraq to the Philippines.
"You can do that with only 12 in the class. And
Mr. Gutman is an outstanding teacher."
Jerry Gutman, who has 40 years experience in
public education, remembers teaching Guyer's older
sisters at the Center of Advanced Studies and the
Arts, which brought together students from five
Oakland County public school districts.
Today's discussion focuses on the 1960s — the