Beth Rivkah Academy, a Chabad-Lubavitch-affiliated girls’ school in Montreal, was recently named one of the best high schools in the province, according to a report by an independent educational examiner. It tied for third with two other schools in a ranking of all 459 private and public secondary schools in Québec, and was ranked the most improved secondary school in the last five years.

The Fraser Institute report found that the 133 high school students ranked high in their 2015 academic exams, all conducted in French, including math, history and science—this despite the fact that for most of the girls, French is a second language.

“This is a major achievement,” says Beth Rivkah’s principal Rabbi Yosef Minkowitz. “In the province of Québec, which includes Montreal, the government requires students to receive at least 14 hours of education in French at English schools and 18 hours a week for French schools. We are considered a French school. All of our secular studies—math, science, even physical education—are taught in French. But for most of our girls, English is their first language, so that makes this even more noteworthy.

“I believe we may be the only school in the province where the majority of students are Anglophones and are taking academic exams designed for students whose primary language is French,” he says.

While news of the honor itself wasn’t so surprising to school officials after all the students’ hard work, the way it was delivered was: An employee noticed a television-news crew filming outside the building and contacted Minkowitz. The rabbi went out to greet the visitors and learned that they were there to do a story on the school’s high academic ranking.

Beth Rivkah was started by the Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—more than 60 years ago with about 10 students. Today, it educates more than 500 children—from ages 18 months to 18 years, “from chai to chai,” as the rabbi says—and has always aimed for excellence.

It’s a directive that Minkowitz says come straight from the Rebbe. “The Rebbe said that no student should be left behind, and we feel that if a student comes into our school, we have a moral obligation to do the best we can to help them.

“We have a superb team of dedicated teachers and a resource center that helps students get support for any subjects they need. It’s more than just a room; we have seven different rooms available for one-on-one help or small-group learning,” explains Minkowitz. “It’s a tremendous cost, and the government supports us slightly, but we raise money for this.”

He also made it a point to note the work of executive director Rabbi Mendy Rosenfeld and the school’s board of directors.

The rabbi learned of the honors when a television-news crew arrived at the school. (Photo: Beth Rivkah Academy)
The rabbi learned of the honors when a television-news crew arrived at the school. (Photo: Beth Rivkah Academy)

‘Places That Match Their Values’

It’s this commitment to a thorough education that has won the school accolades from parents and former students. Montreal resident Matti Banon is both; currently, six of her 10 children attend the academy.

“The head staff is extremely dedicated to the well-being of every child, and that has a huge effect scholastically,” she says. “Each child is a gem in their eyes, and if one is having a problem, it’s as if they are the only issue in the school right now. I’m always impressed from that point of view. And I believe this has an effect on the students and their success.”

Beth Rivkah is not the only French-speaking Chabad girls’ school to rank at the top of a scholastic listing. In the spring of 2015, Beth Hanna, a Chabad-Lubavitch kindergarten through 12th-grade educational institution in Paris, was ranked the top high school in the city by Le Parisien newspaper.

Minkowitz hopes that the academic recognition at Beth Rivkah and Beth Hanna will encourage more families to give Jewish schools a try.

“People are looking for places that match their values, but they don’t want to sacrifice secular studies,” says the rabbi. “Here, they see they can have both a complete Jewish education and a proper secular education, so it definitely helps.”

(Photo: Beth Rivkah Academy)
(Photo: Beth Rivkah Academy)
(Photo: Beth Rivkah Academy)
(Photo: Beth Rivkah Academy)
(Photo: Beth Rivkah Academy)
(Photo: Beth Rivkah Academy)
(Photo: Beth Rivkah Academy)
(Photo: Beth Rivkah Academy)
(Photo: Beth Rivkah Academy)
(Photo: Beth Rivkah Academy)
(Photo: Beth Rivkah Academy)
(Photo: Beth Rivkah Academy)