Pomp, Circumstance Ruach
Akiva's 29th graduation class is small in number, but large in enthusiasm.
he 2003 graduation ceremony at Yeshivat
Akiva took place at the end of a long day,
a day that had seen the dedication of the
school's campus in honor of the Schostak
family and the installation of a student-made mosa-
But, even though there were only two students in
Akiva's senior class, the school community turned
out in force for the occasion.
"Yes, we have only two graduates," said Dr.
Charles Domstein, secular studies
principal at the 288-student
school in Southfield. "But look
around this room — it's a cele-
bration for many, many people."
Both Yakov Shamailov, born in.
Azerbaijan, and Avigail Platt,
born in Israel, had come to Akiva
"We know this was not an easy
road to take," Dr. Domstein said.
"We know there were language
barriers, classes that were difficult
for you. But you strived — you
struggled — you succeeded."
Shamailov, who came to the United States as a 10
year-old, began at Akiva four years ago. "Since being
in this country, I've been in four different school
systems, including both secular schools and a boys'
yeshivah," he said. "And I can say, without a doubt,
this is the place that has best prepared me for the
The son of Inna Peysakhova, he will attend Wayne
State University in Detroit while working part-time.
Avigail Platt is the third of five children of Dr.
Murray and Ruth Platt. The family came from Israel
in the fall of 2001, so Dr. Platt, a dentist, could
have a heart transplant. Avigail will be returning to
Israel, where she will complete her national service
by working with children with learning disabilities
and then go on to an Israeli university.
Rabbi Yigal Tsaidi, Akiva's educational director,
compared the graduates to the biblical figures who
bear their names.
Like Avigail, wife of King David, Platt is "diligent
and gentle," he said. "But for all her gentleness, if
something is not clear, she is not afraid to ask hard
questions; she will persevere until she is absolutely
sure of the answer."
Shamailov, like the biblical figure Jacob, learned
that, "if you will do the work, everyone will support
you. God himself will support you."
An Upward Trend
In 2002, Akiva graduated 23 students; next year's
class will have 15-19, said Rabbi Tsaidi, who, along
with Dr. Domstein, took over leadership of the
modern Orthodox day school in August 2000.
Morale problems in the late 1990s had con-
tributed to the enrollment decline in the class of
2003, after an attempt had been made to segregate
boys from girls.
When Rabbi Tsaidi came to Akiva, the three
remaining members of the 10th-grade class had left
after the previous administration had been unable to
devise a creative solution to meet their educational
"I myself do not believe in telling kids to look for
in-depth analysis of the school by Israel's Bar-Ilan
University. The Meer family presented the school
with a new gymnasium.
In January 2001, Akiva earned accreditation from
the Michigan Non-Public School Accrediting
This year, the school's allocation from the Jewish
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit was $418,000,
with an extra $62,700 from Federation's Shiffman
Day School Tuition Fund.
Rabbi Tsaidi and Dr. Domstein are "a great team,
said Akiva President Marc Jerusalem. "They try very
hard to find the educational solution for each child,
Akiva graduates Yakov
Shamailov and Avigail
Platt with Rabbi Yigal
Tsaidi, Akiva principal.
Benefactors Elyse and
Jerry Schostak accept a
gift fro m Marc
Jerusalem at the June 16
another school," Rabbi Tsaidi said.
Since 2000, enrollment has risen from 244 to its
present 288. Classes in the primary grades are espe-
cially large, and a third section of nursery school had
to be formed.
In June 2001, Akiva received an endowment of $1
million from the Schostak family; the endowment's
earnings are matched annually by the United Jewish
Foundation of Metropolitan Detroit.
A grant from the Loewenthal family financed an
instead of saying, 'You're a third-grader; here's the
This summer, Akiva leaders are seeking solutions
to a problem that would have seemed unthinkable
three years ago — they need more classrooms for
their burgeoning enrollment.
Rabbi Tsaidi is confident that this year's tiny grad-
uating class is a fluke that will not reoccur.
"But we do not appreciate a class because of its quan-
tity," he said. "To us, each child is a whole world." ❑
Canadian Jews Compile Census Data,
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
1 ewish officials hope that
newly released census data
will give them a more corn-
prehensive picture of the
Canadian Jewish community,
helping them prepare better for
the community's future needs.
UIA Federations Canada, the
umbrella organization for 11 fed-
erated Jewish communities across
the country, has paid about
$300,000 to the federal census
office, Statistics Canada, for the
detailed numbers on the size,
shape, age and other variables for
communities across Canada.
Dubbed the National Jewish
Demographic Study, the project
constitutes "the largest comprehen-
sive demographic study ever under-
taken of the Jewish community in
Canada," according to research
coordinator Charles Shahar.
In the 2001 census, 348,605
Canadians identified themselves
as Jewish by ethnicity and
329,995 as Jewish by religion.
According to Shahar, the num-
bers indicate a total of 370,520
Jews in the country, reflecting a
growth rate of 4 percent in the
population since 1991.
Overall, that growth "has not
been spectacular" when compared
to the 129 percent rise in
Canada's Muslim community and
the 89 percent rise in its Hindu
community, Shahar said, noting
that most of those communities'
gains came from immigration.
Roughly three-quarters of
Canada's Jews are concentrated in
Toronto and Montreal — 48 per-
cent in Toronto and 25 percent in
Montreal — the figures show.
While the Toronto communi-
ty increased in number by about
10 percent since 1991 to
179,100, Montreal dropped 8
CENSUS on page 16