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.

Unification: Saligman Middle School of the Barrack Hebrew Academy

Standing to the right: Cecily Carel, Ira Schwartz, and Elliot Norry

The Greater Philadelphia community is witnessing the unification of two of its Jewish middle schools: the Perelman Jewish Day School’s Robert M. Saligman Middle School with the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy’s (JBHA) middle school.  

This morning, Cecily Carel and Elliot Norry, the presidents of the Barrack and Perelman Boards of Directors, notified the community of the unification:

Pleased to share the news that Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy and Perelman Jewish Day School Boards of Directors 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.

Working in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, both Boards 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.”

The terms of the unification follow the jump.
According to a letter released by PJDS, “a unified middle school will allow for greater class sizes, more effective use of community resources, and will expand educational opportunities for our students.

Here are some important details about the upcoming unification, based on commitments made by JBHA:

Location and Timetable

  • Robert M. Saligman Middle School of the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy will open its doors to students at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.
  • The school will be located on the Schwartz campus in Radnor, home of the JBHA, in a newly renovated Athletic building, maintaining our philosophy to keep our middle school in a separate facility. A Bet Knesset will be added by August 2014.

Staffing and Curriculum

  • Susan Friedman will remain Principal of the unified middle school, with the majority of her faculty also remaining at Saligman.
  • The middle school will continue to adhere to a student-centered curriculum focused on the educational and social needs of early adolescents.
  • The school will be pluralistic, offering students the opportunity for a Conservative-based religious practice track which includes daily prayer, along with the religious tracks currently followed at JBHA. The 8th grade Israel trip will be offered for at least the next two years.
  • The middle school will continue to offer programs for a wide spectrum of learning abilities, including special needs programs (such as the OROT program).

Financial Information and Transportation

  • Tuition and fees will be set at the same amount currently charged by Saligman, with increases limited to 2% or CPI until the end of the 2017-18 school year.
  • JBHA will provide equivalent financial aid packages, unless a family has experienced a material financial improvement.
  • The middle school will offer free transportation to those affected by the move for the next five years.

Governance and Collaboration

  • While the middle school will operate under the sole ownership of JBHA, Perelman representatives will sit on the JBHA Board, numbering 20% of the voting members. JBHA representatives will likewise sit on Perelman’s Board, numbering 15% of the voting members.
  • A Middle School Management Committee (MSC) will provide board level oversight of the middle school. The MSC will consist of two members of from among the PJDS-designated JBHA Board members, and two members from among existing JBHA Board members.  The fifth member of the MSC will be chosen by the PJDS-designated members and will act as Chair of the MSC.
  • Perelman will be paid $2.5 million over five years to enhance K-5 enrollment.
  • Perelman and JBHA will work together to advance a K-12 system that helps bolster the Jewish identity of our students and ensure our community’s future”.

The official public announcement was made this afternoon at 4:00 PM, in front of the future home of the unified middle school, the Barrack Mitchell Building (Athletic Building).   Working in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, both Boards 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.

Best of Both Worlds: Center City Living & Affordable Jewish Education

I love Philadelphia! It is such an exciting and dynamic place to live and raise a family. Many young couples assume that as soon as their children reach school age, they should resign themselves to their fate and move to the suburbs.  This assumption, however, is no longer valid.


Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy (JBHA) is making it possible for families that reach this juncture to make a different choice. With its outstanding academics, international student body, commitment to making private school affordable for middle income families, and convenient accessibility by Philadelphia bus and public transportation, JBHA provides the best of both worlds: Center City living and a stellar college preparatory private school education infused with timeless Jewish values and learning.

  • Originally founded in 1946 as Akiba Hebrew Academy, Barrack is an independent college preparatory day school for students in grades 6-12.
  • Located on a 35-acre campus in Bryn Mawr, PA, Barrack provides a rigorous dual curriculum of College preparatory and Jewish studies in modern facilities to students from all Jewish backgrounds.
  • The Barrack educational experience is diverse and international. Students from five continents are enrolled at JBHA, and English is often not their mother tongue.
  • Students who do not have a Jewish day school background thrive at Barrack. Hebrew is taught on all levels.
  • Barrack’s stellar academic program is complemented by timeless Jewish traditions and values. Commitments to repair the world and work for social justice are hallmarks of a Barrack education.
  • Barrack Middle School students enjoy a warm, welcoming nurturing environment and are inspired by talented and involved teachers to develop the intellectual and emotional skills that prepare them for a seamless transition to high school and for continued success.
  • Barrack 11th graders have a unique opportunity to study abroad for a trimester in Israel on the Alexander Muss Campus, strengthening their identity and forging strong ties with the land, language, people and culture.
  • Barrack students earn high SAT scores, and Barrack seniors are traditionally accepted to their first choice, top-tier colleges and universities.
  • Barrack offers a wide array of extracurricular programs, including award-winning art, drama and music programs; over 54 Clubs; student publications, science, robotics and engineering electives, and student government/leadership opportunities.
  • Barrack fields 18 sports teams, including squash, lacrosse, tennis, baseball, basketball, softball, soccer, swimming and track and field. This year the Girls’ lacrosse, tennis and soccer teams won championships.
  • Over 2, 600 Akiba-Barrack alumni play leading roles in all walks of life at home and around the world.

Affordability: Barrack is committed to middle income affordability, and has generous scholarship funds available for this purpose. The application process is welcoming and respectful.

Convenient Transportation: It is very convenient to commute from Center City Philadelphia to JBHA.

  • Students may travel to Barrack via bus, provided by the school. This bus is free for middle school students, and is subsidized for high school students.
  • Barrack is also easily accessible via the SEPTA rail system. Students living in Philadelphia are eligible for a voucher for public transportation from the city. A round-trip shuttle bus is provided from the Bryn Mawr train station to the school. Alternatively, it is only a 15 minute walk from the station to the school.

Starting a family does not mean that you have to give up the life you lead in the city. With the educational opportunities offered by Barrack Hebrew Academy, you can have the best of both worlds. You can continue to enjoy your exciting urban life, and your children can benefit from an outstanding, affordable private school education. My children do! For more information about JBHA, please feel free to contact¬†Jennifer Groen, JBHA’s Director of Admission and Strategic Engagement: [email protected] or 610-922-2350. She looks forward to hearing from you!

Losing my Seventh Grade Teacher: Stan Diamond (z’l)

Stan Diamond taught me about Civil Rights, Cuba and how to think for myself.

— by David Bedein (Akiba class of 1968)

This past Shabbat, when our family held its perennial discussion about our  apprehensions about  Iran, and the possibility of a nuclear threat, I told my cantankerous seventh grader, Ruchama about what it was like to be a seventh grader during the Cuban missile crisis, exactly fifty years ago  I talked to Ruchama about our Core class at Akiba, and about our seventh grade teacher, Mr. Stan Diamond, who taught us in the seventh grade about how to think for ourselves.

I distinctly remember the discussion in Mr. Diamond’s Core class like it was yesterday, almost verbatim, fifty years later.

I now know, from my work with people in traumatic situations, that you often remember the intimate details of traumas as they took place, especially when you experience such events at an impressionable age.

We were all frightened of what might happen.

I was already, at 12, following the news with great interest

Mr. Diamond asked us what we thought was going on.

More after the jump.
I stood up in class to say that  President Kennedy was fighting to stop Cuba’s Castro from violating international agreements – to which Mr. Diamond asked: “which international agreements?”, to which I
responded: “The Monroe Doctrine”, to which Mr. Diamond asked; “And who signed on to the Monroe Doctrine”, to which I responded: that the US declared the Monroe Doctrine to stop foreign powers from invading Latin America,  to which Mr. Diamond responded with a question: “So was there really an international agreement with another country that the US was responding to”, which made us realize that the US was acting on its own, for better or worse.

From that moment on, I was skeptical about the use of US power.

And throughout that year, as the Cuban Missile Crisis resolved itself, Mr. Diamond guided our class through the nascent civil rights movement.

Mr. Diamond introduced us to CORE, the Congress for Racial Equality, where he was active.

Mr. Diamond stressed, over and over, that civil rights was important because of the “dignity” that everyone deserved.

After Shabbat, I sent a letter to Mr. Diamond, asking if he remembered our lively discussion during the Cuban Missile Crisis exactly fifty years ago this week, and to thank Mr. Diamond, half a century later, for having the patience to inspire me and other  youngsters to develop an independent mind, and to rely on facts, not on assumptions, to understand what is going on around us.

Indeed, one of Mr. Diamond’s trademarks was to get us to write facts on 3 by 5 cards, with the fact on one side and the source on the other side.

One could easily say that Mr. Diamond planted in me the seeds to be the social worker and investigative reporter that I am today.

To this day, when I oversee students of investigative journalism, I invoke Mr. Diamond’s “fact card method” although no one would know what a 3 by 5 card looks like today.

But placing the fact next to the source represents the  basis of journalistic integrity

On Monday night, I helped an Ethiopian Israeli named Aleli Admasu, who was sworn in at the Knesset with a speech on the subject of “affirmative action” for Ethiopian Israelis, to give Ethiopians the
dignity that they deserve in Israeli society.

I was thinking of Stan Diamond at the Knesset.

And when I got back to the office, the first e-mail waiting there was a message from my sister, who learned at Akiba two years after me that Stan Diamond had died.

It was if Stan Diamond had visited my home, the Knesset, and my office, while en route to heaven.

At a funeral, a person’s body is buried. That person’s soul and legacy live on.

And so it will be with Stan Diamond, who will always be my seventh grade teacher, the man who taught us about Cuba, civil rights, dignity…and the importance of checking your sources.

Stan Diamond inspired young people to think for themselves.

That will be his legacy.

Israel Behind The News
Funds Needed to Continue Proactive News Investigations

  • Dangers of Further US Aid to the PLO Army
  • Threat of Planned PLO Army Deployment in Hebron and Jerusalem
  • UNRWA and PA for War Curriculum, financed by US and the West
  • Conflicts of Interests of Israeli businesses invested in the Palestinian Authority

Rabbis Bless Republican & Democratic National Conventions

Rabbis offered benedictions at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. Last night Rabbi David Wolpe offered the closing benediction at the Democratic National Convention, capping a night on the heels of the keynote speech by President Bill Clinton and the roll call vote which officially renominated President Barack Obama.

Rabbi David J. Wolpe is the spiritual leader of Temple Sinai in Los Angeles and a Philadelphia native. He teaches modern Jewish religious thought at UCLA. He was a graduate of the Akiba Hebrew Academy’s class of 1976.

Jewish day school does more than educate. It helps shape character. Its influence reaches far beyond the years we spend at school. I am glad and grateful for my knowledge, pride and passion for Jewish life and that is my legacy from Akiba Hebrew Academy, now Barrack.

Rabbi Wolpe is the author of such books as Why Faith Matters, Why Be Jewish?, Healer of Shattered Hearts and the national bestseller Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times. He was named #1 Pulpit Rabbi in the U.S. by Newsweek magazine, and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by The Jerusalem Post. Rabbi Wolpe writes for many publications, including The Jewish Week, Jerusalem Post, Los Angeles Times, and He has appeared as a commentator on CNN and CBS This Morning and has been featured on the History Channel’s Mysteries of the Bible.

Last week, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik offered the benediction at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Rabbi Soloveichik is the associate rabbi at Kehilath Jeshurun, a modern Orthodox synagogue in Manhattan, New York. His colleage, KJ’s spirtual leader, Rabbi Haskal Lookstein, is according to Mondoweiss “a sometime Obama ally. He [Rabbi Lookstein] delivered a prayer at the National Cathedral at the Obama Inaugural Run-up, and took heat from other Orthodox Jews for setting foot in a church. He attended the Rabin funeral with Bill Clinton. But Lookstein lately met with Obama and slammed him afterward.”

Jewish Day School Grants and Scholarship Now Available For All Ages

The Kohelet Foundations’s Jewish Day School Collaborative will award a limited number of tuition grants and scholarships Jewish day school students in nursery, elementary, middle and high school for September 2012.

These grants and scholarships ensure that more children realize the dream of an education rich in Jewish values and responsibility, where they achieve academically, while connecting to the world through a Jewish lens. Engaged, passionate and committed, they are tomorrow’s leaders.

Each student will receive up to 33% of tuition at day schools throughout Greater Philadelphia and South Jersey, up to $5,000 for lower and middle school and up to $8,500 for high school.

These grants and scholarships are multi-year and are offered to new and existing day school students of all denominations. Qualifications and details vary based on grade level.

Don’t wait another minute to give your child a Jewish day school education.

A limited number of grants and scholarships available at all day schools in Greater Philadelphia/South Jersey:

Barrack Multimedia Museum of Czech Jewry opens Sunday, May 1

Opening in Partnership with Centropa coincides With Holocaust Remembrance Day, May 1.

— by Beverly Rosen

Highlights: Over 70 Six-foot Story Panels, Student Videos, and Guided Tours

All during the spring trimester, Barrack Hebrew Academy 9th graders researched Czech history; the richness of Jewish life in Czechoslovakia prior to the Holocaust, including vibrant music, theater, and art scenes, in addition to daily life; the horrors of the Shoah; and life after World War II. They turned their research and photos into larger than life story panels and videos based on key historical happenings, personal family histories, and interviews with Holocaust survivors and children of survivors to create the Barrack Museum of Czech Jewry.

Pictured (left to right) are 9th graders Jacob Reich, Sarah Wolfson and Avi Gordon.

More after the jump.

The student exhibit, that will be displayed throughout the school, will be complemented by six-foot story panels from Centropa, an organization based in Vienna, Austria dedicated to keeping the memory of Jewish life alive in Central and Eastern Europe. The multi-media exhibit debuts with a Community Opening Night reception, program and guided tours by student docents on Sunday evening, May 1, 7:30 pm at Barrack and coincides with nationwide Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies. The exhibit runs through Friday, May 6

The exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Igor Laufer, a special friend and member of the Akiba-Barrack family and a Czech survivor. The Opening Night program includes a student tribute to Mr.Laufer; welcoming remarks by Dr. Steven M. Brown, Head of School; greetings from Peter A. Rafaeli, the Honorary Czech Consul of Philadelphia; a presentation by Hannah Lessing, General Secretary of the Austrian National Fund for Victims of National Socialism and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor; and instrumental and vocal performances of Czech music by Barrack students.

Ninth grade docents will provide guided tours of the exhibit on May 1 and throughout the week. “Area schools and community groups will be invited to tour the exhibit,” share faculty advisers Ivy Kaplan and Lilach Taichman. “The community also is invited to Opening Night,” adds Sharon Levin, Humanities Department Chair. For details, contact [email protected]

Barrack Hebrew Academy provides a dynamic dual curriculum of college preparatory and Jewish studies to students from all Jewish backgrounds in grades 6-12.