Morah Hanna is the Head of Judaic Studies at Hillel Community Day School in Rochester, NY. She has a master’s degree in Jewish history and a teaching certificate in Hebrew as a second language. Hanna has been a teacher and educator for over 10 years. In Israel, she taught Hebrew, history, heritage, and the Bible in elementary and high school. At Hillel, she teaches Hebrew, holidays, Torah, and prayer to grades 1 & 2.

Sonia Newman

Sonia is the Principal of Hillel Community Day School in Rochester, NY. She possesses a wealth of knowledge in Secular Education, Special Education, and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Her training in America’s Choice, a renowned national program for standards-based education, further enhances her expertise. With a permanent certification in Pre-Kindergarten through Middle School from New York State, she holds a Master of Education from SUNY Brockport and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Hunter College in New York City.

Prior to her remarkable journey in public education, Sonia excelled in executive retail leadership and customer service in the bustling city of New York. She also spent seven years as a dedicated instructor at a nationally recognized school of modeling and personal development in both New York City and San Francisco.

Sonia and her husband Keith are proud parents of two Hillel alumni who graduated from the school in 2010 and 2014.

Strengthening Engagement With Israel and Our Community

We were all shocked and pained by the events that occurred in Eretz Yisrael on October 7.

Since the majority of our school’s Judaic studies team are Israeli educators who came to teach at a Jewish school in the US out of a sense of duty and a desire to unite, support and deepen the connection between American Jewry and the State of Israel, we were seriously discussing how to move forward. While we are going through a tough period, we believe that we can make a positive impact and reinforce the bonds of belonging between the State of Israel and its citizens, as well as between the students, parents and greater community.


Embracing Our Jewish Mission for Israel

We regard our objective as a worthwhile and crucial mission that will mold and shape our people’s future generations as well as Jewish history. The relationship between the State of Israel and the Jewish communities around the globe, in the United States and in our neighborhood is currently very important, and to support our Israeli brethren at this trying time, we must be strong and unified. We communicate to our community that our power lies in our unity and oneness as Am Yisrael.

Last Tuesday, we began the school day by educating our students about the current war in Israel in an age-appropriate level, informing them that our soldiers serve as the State of Israel’s guardians and protectors. We included a special prayer for the State of Israel and its soldiers with our daily prayers. We also made cards to send to the Israeli soldiers, hoping to provide them support during this trying time. 
We also sent encouraging letters to kids in Israel. We distributed Shabbat candles to our community on Friday. Our students composed messages for Israel’s peace on a miniature replica of the Western Wall that we had constructed. Our longer-term plans include our students recording a special song in our podcast room, which we hope to share to help lift the spirits of the Israeli people. We are also going to begin gathering donations for the State of Israel, which we will then forward to the Israeli soldiers and civilians.
As a result of the love and encouragement we receive from our community, families, parents, students, teachers, and staff, we feel even stronger than ever.


School Ties to the Jewish Community

There are close relations between the local Jewish community and Hillel School. Among the initiatives we run are the following:

  • Our older students go to a nearby Jewish preschool to read Hebrew stories to the children, celebrate festivals with them, and do many other activities.
  • One of our programs involves the school’s pupils visiting a nearby senior Jewish home. We gave the locals a happy new year and Jewish holiday season with a parade in the run-up to Rosh Hashanah.
  • The children helped create our enormous Sukkah, which we welcomed the community for supper on Sukkot. 
  • We went on an annual Sukkah Hop, which involved visiting the Sukkahs of several local synagogues in our neighborhood.

The educators that make up our Judaic team are driven to impart knowledge of Hebrew, Torah, daily prayer, Parshat Hashavuah, Judaism, Israel, and Jewish history to the children. The future generation’s devotion to the Jewish faith, the Torah, its values, and its commandments, as well as Israel’s legacy, are significantly influenced by our department of Judaic studies.

The faculty of Hillel School prays for the restoration of peace to the State of Israel and its population, for the troops of the State of Israel, and for all our Jewish brethren around the world. May all the soldiers and captured civilians return speedily and in peace.

.ה’ עוז לעמו ייתן, ה’ יברך את עמו לשלום
May the Lord grant strength to His people, May the Lord bless His people with peace. (Psalms 29:1)

Am Yisrael Chai!