A Sixty Year Anniversary for Jewish Education

A Sixty Year Anniversary for Jewish Education

Rabbi & Mrs. Edelman receive an award from Harold Grinspoon & his wife Diane Troderman. Click on image for more.

by Rivka Chaya Berman - SPRINGFIELD, MA

November 10, 2006

American cultural icons like Dr. Seuss and basketballs were born in Springfield, Massachusetts, and when Lubavitch of Greater Springfield celebrated its 60th anniversary this week, it claimed iconic status in the realms of Jewish education and unity.

At the anniversary banquet dinner, an announcement of a $1.5 million building campaign for Chabad of Greater Springfield’s Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy sent ripples through the crowd. LYA ’46 alum, Oscar Plotkin, chair of the event, and Jeffrey Kimball are among the forces behind the initiative to enhance the school’s award-winning library, science lab and preschool.

LYA, distinguished as the first Jewish day school to receive accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, is the flagship of Lubavitch's educational activities, which include a NAEYC accredited preschool, Hebrew school, Hebrew High and adult education classes. The Hebrew school offers an “education that has inspired passionate young Jews,” said Susan Kline, President of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, whose children attended the Hebrew school.

When LYA opened in 1946, public schools reigned as a gateway to prosperity and acceptance in America. Fulfilling the mission set by Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, to start a Jewish Day School, required creativity and persistence. Pinchus Veiler, a Chabad chasid, would wiggle his way in through front doors, stride over to the piano, and play a few classical pieces to warm parents up to the idea. Rabbi David Edelman, Chabad-Lubavitch emissary with his wife Lillian in Springfield for over 50 years, said times have changed. “Now parents are proud that their children go to Yeshiva,” he said. The problem today is intermarriage, and the solution, said Rabbi Edelman, is Jewish education.

LYA Principal Rabbi Noach Kosofsky said Rabbi Edelman’s presence as a “person of peace and kindness” is key to Chabad-Lubavitch's endurance and growth. Springfield’s Jewish community of 12,000 has grown up with Lubavitch. Three orthodox synagogues are in the area, and there is a Holocaust resource center, JCC, Jewish nursing home and free loan society. The support of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation provides sizable day school tuition incentives to Jewish children in Western Massachusetts. Innovative holiday programs offered by Chabad have received Grinspoon grants. Chabad-Lubavitch “has a place in the mainstream community. It is viewed as a partner,” said Esther Kosofsky, Director of the Resource Center for Jewish Education and a Chabad respresentative. A mark of Chabad’s position as a community player is LYA’s inclusion as a beneficiary of the Federation of Western Massachuetts’ annual campaign.

Mark Dindas, Executive Director of the Springfield JCC, was quick to laud Chabad-Lubavitch for its role as a resource when JCC Maccabi Games were hosted in Springfield and for its work with Russian Jewish immigrants. “I personally enjoy working with Rabbi Kosofsky because we very often see eye to eye on things, and we all feel we are in this line of work for the same purpose.”

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