An Historic Vote Ushers In A New Era


— by Ben Rosen

Strength, unity, diversity, longevity, community, tradition and Jewish continuity were the overarching guiding principles that governed the discussions between negotiating teams from Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy (JBHA) and Perelman Jewish Day School (PJDS) over the past several months.

Working in partnership, Perelman Jewish Day School, Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, all agreed that a unified middle school would not only maximize community resources, but also provide exciting and expanded opportunities for students — educationally, socially and financially.

More after the jump.
During the past several months, both institutions, their leadership and administrations engaged in intense discussions focused on creating and enhancing an educational system based on best-practices and the combination of best features currently offered by both schools. PJDS, JBHA, and the Federation are committed to the priority of providing first rate day school education to as many children as possible – an education grounded in deep Jewish traditions and exceptional academics.

On Tuesday night, December 18, 2012 history was made in our Greater Philadelphia Jewish community when the Boards of JBHA and PJDS voted, during their respective meetings, to unify their two middle schools. In September 2013,   The Schwartz Campus in Bryn Mawr will welcome students and parents to the new Robert M. Saligman Middle School of the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy.

The newly unified Middle School will be pluralistic in its philosophy offering at a minimum a Conservative-based religious practice track as well as the religious tracks currently offered at JBHA, and familiar to PJDS families, in order to appeal to a wider variety of students. The Middle School will also offer academic programs suited to a wide spectrum of learning styles and abilities, including reasonable accommodations for students with special needs (such as the OROT program).

Cecily Carel, Ira Schwartz, and Elliot Norry

Both institutions agreed to work together along with the Federation to raise significant resources to enhance and support the entire K-12 day school system including:
a) Offering incentives for increased enrollment,
b) Providing free transportation to the school from points north and east,
c) Creating a state of the art home for the newly formed middle school,
d) Offering generous financial aid and merit scholarships.

Sherrie Savett, President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, commented:

Both institutions must be commended for their tireless efforts in this process. Their shared vision for a strong, robust and vibrant community day school system prevailed and led us to this momentous day. I applaud Cecily Carel and Elliot Norry and their negotiating teams for their steadfast leadership and dedication to the children of our community.    

Cecily Carel, Chair of the Board of Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy praised the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia adding:

Federation has been an invaluable asset to us in this process, when called upon, providing guidance and strategic input. Moreover, Federation and its leadership have agreed to garner significant resources to make this partnership a reality. We owe a debt of gratitude to Ira Schwartz for his contributions, especially in recent days, that resulted in both teams agreeing on a plan to unify the schools.

I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to partner with Elliot Norry on this most momentous journey and applaud him for his visionary leadership, together with his unwavering commitment to our Jewish community.

Elliot Norry, Chair of the Board of Perelman Jewish Day School commented:

We engaged in our joint discussions believing that we could create a more seamless K-12 day school system grounded in rich traditions, superior academics, with a focus on affordability, sustainability and improved access. While many collaborative models were thoroughly examined during this process, the PJDS board believes that we have achieved the best possible outcome for the broader Jewish community. We have also learned a great deal about our respective institutions that will undoubtedly further improve and enhance our collaborative efforts. I want to thank Cecily Carel for her partnership and her exemplary leadership.  The future of our day schools is extremely bright and we look forward to creating a strategic alliance with JBHA as the process of creating a unified middle school unfolds.

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