FJA looks back at its expansion and success as a Jewish day high school.
he idea of building a school like
Frankel Jewish Academy from
scratch was so audacious many
doubted it could be done well, if at all.
Now, 13 years later, FJA is celebrating its
bar/bat mitzvah year by continuing to
grow and surprise — and with a celebra-
tion April 30 honoring donors Jean and
Samuel Frankel's contributions to Jewish
The school's founders "felt there was
a tremendous void for a Jewish day high
school [that has a dual curriculum, is col-
lege preparatory and non-denomination-
al]:' said former president Steve Shanes,
"but there were many in the community
that doubted us. And there are many in
the community that still doubt us. But,
year after year, we surprise them. Each
week I come by here, I see something that
I haven't seen before. And I can't stop smil-
ing. It's just wonderful."
FJA has expanded in myriad ways: from
51 students in 2000 to close to five times
that number today; from modest perform-
ing arts productions to award-winning
plays at the Berman Center; from a hand-
ful of sports teams to more than a dozen,
including the only all-Jewish ice hockey
club team in the nation, and more.
The school has regularly raised the bar
in innovation, with moves such as inte-
grating iPads school-wide in 2011 and
offering classes in entrepreneurship and
Just as importantly, FJA has grown
from a tiny school with a limited student
base and an uncertain future to a pillar of
the community that attracts a wide array
of students, from every part of Jewish
Detroit. Fully 40 percent of this year's
freshman class of students comes not from
local Jewish day schools, but from public
schools and other private schools.
on to study at noted institutions of higher
learning in the United States and Israel.
Afterward, most remain in the Metro
Detroit area; some even work at FJA. As
alumni marry and start to raise children
here, they envision sending their kids to
FJA one day, too.
"It is a great source of pride for the
Detroit Jewish community that one of the
nation's top Jewish high schools is located
in our city:' said Head of School Rabbi Eric
Grossman. "So many of FJAs faculty and
students, myself included, have come from
all parts of the country and the world to
be part of this unique and dynamic educa-
tional and religious community.
"Our founders dreamed of a school that
could offer secular academics on the level of
the best private schools, and Jewish studies
that would prepare students to be lifelong
learners, and attend the top Jewish studies
programs and yeshivot. I see them look at
the school now, the way all parents look at
their children at their bar or bat mitzvah,
and say, 'I can't believe how much you have
done in such a short time. Imagine what
you will accomplish in the next 13
FJA students: front: Ben Canvasser and Jeremy Cohn, West Bloomfield; Aviv Lis,
Farmington Hills; Emery Weiss, West Bloomfield; Asaf Pollock, Huntington Woods.
Back row: Danielle Keith, Farmington; Samantha Goldsmith, West Bloomfield;
Anil Nadiv and Jesse Adler, Farmington Hills; Erica Kelman, Southfield. Standing:
Samantha Grosinger, Farmington Hills; Sarah Broner, West Bloomfield; and Rabbi
Eric Grossman, head of school.
At the heart of the school's success is
its foundation in the "four pillars" of open
intellectual inquiry, commitment to the
study and practice of Jewish law, ardent
Zionism, and a deep appreciation for
America and Western civilization.
As Jeffrey Weiss, father of FJA graduate
Kenny Weiss, said of his son's transition
to college: "The academic excellence at
FJA not only opened the door for my son
to attend a wonderful college but, more
importantly, opened his heart by instilling
priceless Jewish values:'
The hundreds of FJA alumni have gone
On April 30, a fundraising
celebration of the late Jean and
Samuel Frankel's contributions to
Jewish education will be held at 7
p.m. at the Berman Center for the
Performing Arts in West Bloomfield.
Remarks by U-M Prof. Zvi Gitelman.
Tickets are $118 and $36 for FJA
alumni. Patron tickets start at
$1,800 and include a strolling dinner
at 6 p.m. Contact Tim Burke at
(248) 592-5263 ext. 235 or tburke@
Frankel Jewish Academy milestones
Parents meet to discuss the creation of a
Jewish day high school.
Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit
grants $750,000 in matching funds for the
school being planned.
Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit
opens its doors to 51 freshmen and
JAMD is housed in the basement of the West
Schostak family donates $1 million.
10 April 25 • 2013
Enrollment increases to 91 students in
School moves to portables.
Enrollment increases to 113 in grades 9-12.
Frankel family donates $20 million.
School receives !SACS accreditation.
First senior class trip to Israel.
First commencement ceremonies.
Enrollment increases to 212 students. School
renamed the Jean and Samuel Frankel Jewish
Academy of Metropolitan Detroit (FJA).
School moves into 50,000-square-foot
facility on the second floor of the JCC.
Rabbi Eric Grossman appointed new head of
First wedding of an alumnus.
First baby born to an FJA alumnus.
With enrollment up to 228, school celebrates
its bar/bat mitzvah year.