A Yeshiva Grows in Oak Park
By Vivian Henoch, Editor myJewishDetroit
December 1, 2012
It’s a rainy morning in November, but you’d never know it from the bright smiles and sunny moods we find at Yeshiva Beth Yehudah’s Meer Preschool.
The Meer Preschool is a busy place, accommodating more than 220 children between the ages of three and five. Crossing the “trike lane,” sidestepping zooming little ones at play indoors, we follow the Preschool Director, Mrs. Rivka Goldberg, into one of the kindergarten classrooms where the children are seated quietly, attentively listening as their teacher explains how a Sefer Torah is handwritten on parchment.
This is where it begins.
Mrs. Goldberg’s pride and enthusiasm are evident as she describes how the preschool has more than doubled in size, growing at a rate of 20 new students per year. For every child at the Meer Preschool today, there’s likely to be three or four other siblings in the school system, if not now, then soon.
A growing need
A 13,000 square-foot facility, located next to the Yeshiva Beth Yehudah Boys’ School on the Newman Campus in Oak Park, the Meer Preschool was built over a decade ago. Though it was considered a sizable facility, adequate for the needs at the time, the school stands at capacity today, utilizing every square foot of space for classroom needs.
The growth of the community is reflected throughout the Yeshiva system. In both the Boys’ and Girls’ School, for instance, the first through fourth grade classes are now 50% larger than the fifth through eighth grades.
“Clearly there’s a need in the community for building a new facility,” explains Yeshiva Beth Yehudah Chairman of the Board Dr. Maury Ellenberg. “Our population is growing considerably, and our current space is simply insufficient. With this thew wonderful facility, we anticipate with God’s help, being able to accommodate the continued growth we are experiencing.”
Due to space and zoning issues, the current Meer Preschool building itself cannot be expanded. Similarly, the Bais Yaakov Girls’ School has nearly doubled its student population since buying the former B’nai Moshe facility, on Church Street in Oak Park, with the assistance of the Jewish Federation.
As a result of the Yeshiva’s growth, and combining the two needs, the Yeshiva has embarked on a major project to build a new school for both the Meer Preschool and Girls’ High School on land leased from the Federation and United Jewish Foundation at the corner of Ten Mile and Church Street, alongside Temple Emanuel in Oak Park.
Building on a solid foundation
“The Federation purchased the Ten Mile Road property several years ago to preserve it for the Jewish community,” explains Dorothy Benyas, Federation’s Chief Financial Officer. “Over the years, the Federation and the United Jewish Foundation have made significant investments in the important Oak Park and Southfield areas. Building and supporting our schools are top priorities.”
From vision to blueprints to ground breaking, the school building project has been on a remarkable fast track, made possible by a strong management team in place including Todd Sachse, United Jewish Foundation President; Douglas Etkin, United Jewish Foundation Past President; Lee Hurwitz, Real Estate Committee Chair; Gary Torgow, Yeshiva Beth Yehudah President; and Rabbi Eli Mayerfeld, Executive Director. The new 55,000 square-foot building is designed by French and Associates and being built by Rand Construction to house both the Preschool and High School on separate floors. The school is scheduled for opening before the 5774 academic year in August 2013.
Advancements in design and amenities
The first floor of the new building will house a state-of-the-art preschool, including 14 classrooms, an expanded resource room area, a large outdoor playground for the children, a gym and a multipurpose room. The new facility will give the preschoolers more room to play, while staff will use the area for instructional play and specialized learning.
The second floor of the new building will house the Bais Yaakov High School. Having a completely separate entrance from the preschool, the high school will be constructed with numerous high tech amenities in classrooms, science labs, computer labs, a media library, a resource room, a student lounge and a multipurpose dining room.
The preschool building project committee is chaired by Mr. Ephraim Singal and the Bais Yaakov building committee is chaired by Mrs. Elana Berlin. Both Mr. Singal and Mrs. Berlin and their committees have worked extremely hard, together with the Yeshiva administration and representatives of the United Jewish Foundation Real Estate Committee, along with architects, builders and design teams, to build a beautiful facility.
Dr. Ellenberg is excited by the progress and pleased with the growing Oak Park and Southfield area. “We’ve built a community where people want to be. We can give the Jewish Federation a lot of credit for that. Detroit has become a destination city where people want to live and raise their children. The schools are excellent, the community is very supportive and Detroit has become a draw for many young families.”