Since being elevated to head of school in 2015, Frankel Jewish Academy’s (FJA) Rabbi Azaryah Cohen has been reconnecting the high school to the broader community while reaffirming the inclusive vision associated with its origins (“Community Reconnect: FJA Head of School works to build bridges that will benefit the school and beyond,” Oct. 12, page 18).
We applaud Rabbi Cohen’s efforts, and those on his board of directors who support his outreach, and ongoing commitment to excellence in secular and Jewish studies. We are also grateful for their re-embrace of its community school model, nationally acclaimed when it welcomed its first classes of students in 2000.
The Jewish News Foundation’s William Davidson Digital Archive (www.djnfoundation.org) contains hundreds of articles that collectively tell the story of the Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit (its prior name), including its founders’ dreams, receipt of critical financial support from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, the many successes of its students and changes at the school following founding Head of School Rabbi Lee Buckman’s departure in 2009. We encourage you to read our editorial on page 41 of the June 27, 2013, edition to gauge the depth of discord that had existed between the school and significant portions of the community.
Rabbi Cohen’s efforts are creating more opportunities to advocate and recruit students for the school. Current enrollment of 176 is down about 20 percent from just a few years ago and remains over-dependent on a pipeline of eighth-grade students from Hillel Day School.
Another important step for FJA is to once again accept its allocation from Federation’s Annual Campaign. While the school is listed as a beneficiary agency of the Federation, an anonymous donor has provided FJA with the dollars Federation would have allocated to the school during the past three annual budgeting cycles. Annual campaign dollars that would have directly benefitted FJA were instead steered into the community’s safety and security program. There is no precedent for a beneficiary agency of Federation declining to directly accept its allocation once, let alone three times.
Federation’s Annual Campaign remains one of the Detroit Jewish community’s most enduring and unifying endeavors. Gifts from thousands of donors — small and large — go into one pot. After assessing needs, a cadre of community volunteers allocates these dollars for maximum impact. This process enables all, even an $18 donor, to feel they have a stake in the success of such beneficiaries as Jewish Family Service, JVS, Tamarack Camps, Yeshiva Beth Yehudah, BBYO and Jewish Senior Life. Currently, FJA is not in that mix.
We look forward to cooperating with FJA as we report on its achievements and challenges … and are heartened by the efforts of Rabbi Cohen and his lay leadership that are enabling the entire community to assist the school and celebrate its successes.