After extensive, wide-ranging conversations within Greater Rochester’s Jewish community, the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation will create a Campus for Jewish Education dedicated exclusively to lifelong Jewish education. The $10.5 million facility will also be home to three separate schools now in different locations.
This is believed to be one of very few, if any, campuses nationally that serve diverse denominations within a metropolitan community in this way.
“Jewish life and education are watchwords of the Farash Foundation, as they were for Max and Marian Farash,” said Nathan J. Robfogel, chair of the Foundation’s board of trustees. “The campus will create a much-needed hub of life-long learning for everyone: for individuals and groups affiliated with different Jewish denominations and congregations and for Jews in our local community who are not affiliated with any particular synagogue. At the same time, we will immediately and significantly improve the facilities available to these three schools.”
Robfogel noted that the Farash Foundation will continue to make significant grants to organizations throughout Monroe and Ontario Counties under the category of “Jewish Life” in 2013 and continuing years.
“This is the single largest gift the Foundation has made to date,” said Holli Budd, Foundation executive director. “And it signals the way in which the Foundation is moving toward truly transformational giving for our area.”
“The creation of the campus for Jewish education is a milestone for communal cooperation,” said Yossi Prager, North American executive director of the Avi Chai Foundation, whose mission is to strengthen Judaism, Jewish literacy, and Jewish tradition. “The sharing of the campus by three day schools should signal to the field new possibilities for collaboration and cost savings and will also, I hope, lead to similar experiments in other communities.”
The Farash Campus for Jewish Education will be owned and managed by its own, separate nonprofit organization. Judy Azoff, former assistant executive director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester, will serve as interim executive director of the new entity. Over time, an endowment will be established to allow the campus to operate in perpetuity.
Plans call for the two-story facility in the Town of Henrietta to include 25 to 30 classrooms along with a 250-seat auditorium/sanctuary, gym, kosher kitchen, multipurpose rooms, shared science labs and art studios, exhibit space, and a community Jewish library.
The campus will be designed to accommodate Jewish education in all of its aspects. It will be available, for instance, for independent study groups; for a Jewish athenaeum; for new models of supplemental Jewish education; and as a gathering place for individuals who are not fully engaged in Jewish life.
The three Jewish day schools to find homes at the new campus are Derech HaTorah of Rochester, Hillel Community Day School, and Ora Academy. Each school will continue to function in dedicated space as a distinct, separate entity with its own educational philosophy, faculty, and governance. All schools will share the common spaces and services such as the gymnasium, kitchen, and auditorium. The schools will not be charged rent, but each will contribute toward operating costs.
“As important as anything was to have the participation of all stakeholders in this project,” said Kenneth D. Bell, Foundation trustee who helped to formulate the business plan for the new campus. “We looked at a lot of different possibilities for creating a campus that would strategically serve everyone well, not just now but in anticipation of future needs.”
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COMMENTS FROM THE COMMUNITY
Lea E. Goldstein, Principal, Derech HaTorah of Rochester:
“The Farash Foundation’s commitment to building this new campus shows their understanding of the transformative impact of effective education. On behalf of the students, parents, faculty, and administration of our school, I would like to thank and recognize those who have worked so hard to make this dream a reality.”
Derech HaTorah of Rochester is a traditional, orthodox day school with 93 students in grades K-8. Since its founding in 2004, the school has occupied space at Bishop Kearney High School in Irondequoit.
Chaye Kohl, Head of School, Hillel Community Day School:
“The Campus will provide us with a state-of-the-art facility where we can provide an education that will prepare our students even more efficiently than we do now, and it will be wonderful to be part of this larger community initiative.
“Hillel teaches and models respect for all Jews and the members of the world community. By sharing a building and campus, we are going to live that principle even more authentically.”
Founded in 1948, and currently located in Brighton, Hillel is open to Jewish children of all denominations and has 64 students in grades K-8.
Rabbi Eliezer Y. Lehrer, Headmaster/Executive Director, Ora Academy:
“This is a tremendous opportunity for educating our children on how to work together. The Farash Campus for Jewish Education will involve the full spectrum of Jewish people collectively, collaboratively working for the future of our people and for the transmission of the traditions of our parents and grandparents.
“The Campus eases the worry about the school’s infrastructure arrangements, which allows us the opportunity to focus our attention even more on the girls’ education. There will be great synergy in working with the other schools.”
Ora Academy, established in 1996, is the only high school for Jewish girls in upstate New York. Located on East Avenue in Rochester, the school enrolls 15 girls in grades 9-12.
Marshall Lesser, Past President, Jewish Community Center:
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Note: This release was edited December 19, 2013 to reflect updated information.