From N.Y. Times by Vivian Yee:
In the boys’ classroom at Lamplighters Yeshivah in the Hasidic Jewish stronghold of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Montessori number-counting boards and decimal beads share space with Hebrew-learning materials. A colorful timeline on the wall shows two strands of world history in parallel: secular on the left, Jewish on the right. A photo of the grand rabbi of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement hangs above a list of tasks that children perform individually: make a fractions poster, practice cursive, learn about the moon’s phases.

Into the classroom on a recent morning came Rivkah Schack, one of the school’s principals, holding a tool whose form, if not its content, would be familiar to any Montessori teacher: a small nomenclature booklet in which the students were to write words from the Bible by hand and illustrate them. In secular Montessori, the booklets might be used to teach botanical terms; here, they were for Hebrew.

“Not to mix our metaphors, but that’s our holy grail,” said Ami Petter-Lipstein, the director of the Jewish Montessori Society, based in Highland Park, N.J., as Ms. Schack gathered a few pupils around her on the rug for a group Hebrew lesson.

For an educational movement trying to use a century-old pedagogical method developed by an Italian Catholic, Maria Montessori, to teach Jewish tenets, mixing metaphors is the point. Arguing that the traditional Jewish day-school model they grew up with is outmoded and too clannish for 21st-century Judaism, a new generation of parents and educators are flocking to Montessori preschools and elementary schools that combine secular studies with Torah and Hebrew lessons.

Daniel Septimus, who attended a modern Orthodox school but now identifies as a traditional egalitarian Jew, said the schools he had attended were “purposely insular.”

“We knew there was a big, wide world out there where people did different things, but it was kind of scary, and we were supposed to have limited contact with it,” he said.

His son Lev, 3, attends Luria Academy in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, a Montessori school that proudly advertises the religious diversity of its students. “I think this is just more realistic,” Mr. Septimus said. “Ultimately, our kids are going to live in diverse and multicultural communities.”

In Brooklyn, whose more than 600,000 Jews include secular Jews in brownstone Brooklyn and Hasidic Jews in Borough Park and Williamsburg, four Montessori schools have opened in the last decade. Each is tailored to a different group: one is for Hasidic girls in Borough Park, another for Hasidic boys in Midwood; Lamplighters’ students are mainly Chabad-Lubavitchers, while Luria’s students range from secular to Hasidic.

Both Luria and Lamplighters have expanded to accommodate growing demand.

Jewish Montessori schools, which began to catch on about 15 years ago, have also surged in popularity across the country. In Boca Raton, Fla., there are centrist Orthodox, Chabad Orthodox, Reform and Conservative Montessori preschools; Orthodox day schools have started Montessori programs in Houston and Cincinnati; and several New Jersey towns with large Jewish populations now have Montessori schools. The American Montessori Society says there are more than 4,000 Montessori schools in the United States; most are private (and secular, although some are associated with other religions) but a few are public. Ms. Petter-Lipstein said her group was tracking more than 40 Jewish Montessoris in North America and about 30 in Israel.

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