Profile of new Jewish history teacher Julie Tonti


Photo courtesy of Julie Tonti

Julie Tonti has joined the Jewish history department as Rachel Bergstein's replacement until she returns from maternity leave.

Imagine having to wake up at 3 a.m. to research a Holocaust-related question from a student as well as new material from three different curriculums every night, and then coming to school bright and early the next morning to teach the newly-learned material to five high school classes. For new Jewish history teacher Julie Tonti, this is a reality every day of the week.  

“It’s kind of crazy, but I like it. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, and I’ll read for an hour.  Even last night, I was up from 3:30 until 4:45 reading material for class.”

Tonti has been hired by CESJDS to replace Jewish history teacher Rachel Bergstein, who is currently on maternity leave. Tonti is serving as a long-term substitute for all of Bergstein’s classes. Bergstein is expected to return from maternity leave once Spring Break is over.

Tonti had previously taught Jewish history at JDS over a decade ago. She lived in Fairfax, Virginia at the time, so she decided to leave her job at JDS and begin teaching at Gesher Jewish Day School in Northern Virginia.  

After teaching Jewish history at Gesher for nine years, Tonti decided that her children should be exposed to a more religious Jewish community.  

“We realized that we would need to leave Virginia if we wanted to have a more rich Jewish life for our family,” said Tonti.  

Seeking a more religious community and stronger Jewish presence for her family, Tonti moved to Shepard Park, Washington, D.C.  When she was offered a job to take over for Bergstein, Tonti was excited to return to her old school and community.

“I love it so much. I think the students are the best, and I am really inspired by how hard-working they are and how active they are in other aspects of their life,” Tonti said. “I feel like I am here for the students.”

While Tonti enjoys teaching, she would like to branch out more and explore other hobbies and activities. She particularly enjoys doing yoga and teaches yoga as an elective to middle school students at JDS during the week.  

Additionally, Tonti teaches yoga for six hours every Sunday, and will soon receive her yoga teaching certificate.

“Everyone’s just so stressed all the time, so I really like yoga because it gives people a chance to relieve their stress, and everyone leaves the yoga class so relaxed.”