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SUHI Project: Jewish Day School Wellness Initiative


Jewish Day School Wellness Initiative


Based on findings from the Jewish Community Health Survey, SUHI and other community-based partners began working on the most important objective of the overall project – addressing priority health problems with targeted interventions.  One topic - elevated rates of childhood obesity - was chosen as a top concern because it affects the majority of children in the community and because it foreshadows serious health consequences for the future.  To address this issue, a school-based wellness initiative was developed specifically for day schools.  The initiative was a joint effort between the Associated Talmud Torahs school system, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, and SUHI.  It was generously funded by the Michael Reese Health Trust and the Polk Bros. Foundation.

Project Plan:

The Jewish Day School Wellness Initiative was first implemented as a pilot project in two schools in the target community, Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov and Yeshivas Tiferes Tzvi.  After the successful two-year pilot project, the initiative was expanded to include three more day schools – Akiba Schechter, Arie Crown, and Hillel Torah during the 2008-09 school year. Following this, all other interested ATT schools were invited and 4 new schools were added.  For the first time, high schools were invited to participate and both Lubavitch Girls High School and Hanna Sacks Girls High School chose to be a part of the project

The initiative focused on the following six areas: family involvement, school environment, health education, physical education, staff wellness, and mental health.  Participating schools were required to form a school wellness council, write a school wellness policy, and implement changes or activities in each of the target areas. In addition, a planning process was implemented to examine all health-related services in the day schools, including mental health, nursing, special education, and wellness. We expect that the participating schools will continue to make healthy changes for their students and we hope that this project serves as a model for Jewish schools across the country.

Project Updates:

Health education materials collected, adapted, or developed for the project are available three ways:

    1) Selected materials can be accessed through the Associated Talmud Torah's website:   


    2) Classroom materials can be found at the Walder Education Pavilion of Torah Umesorah.

    3) Materials can be requested through Julie Gordon, Director of REACH (Resources for Educational Achievement,      

        Collaboration and Health), Joy Faith Knapp Children’s Center, 3145 W. Pratt Blvd. Chicago, Il 60645; P 773-467-


 A summary of the project model was recently published to help day schools in Chicago and elsewhere implement wellness programs.  This guidebook can be downloaded here.

The full initiative ended on June 30, 2010.  Currently, the Jewish Federation of Chicago, the Associated Talmud Torahs, and individual day schools are continuing to improve school wellness through smaller grants to schools and larger organizational changes.



Contact Information:

For more information regarding wellness-related efforts in Chicago day schools, please contact Julie Gordon, Director of REACH (Resources for Educational Achievement, Collaboration and Health), Joy Faith Knapp Children’s Center, 3145 W. Pratt Blvd. Chicago, Il 60645;  773-467-3772.