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February 20, 2014 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2014-02-20

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metro >> on the cover



Keri Guten Cohen I Story Development Editor

Central Heart


The significant gifts come from fami-
lies that have historically been leaders in
the community. The William Davidson
Foundation in Southfield is providing
funds for the launch of the tuition grant
program, and the William and Audrey
Farber Philanthropic Endowment Fund
at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan
Detroit will provide for extensive renova-
tion of the school's interior.
"I'm still pinching myself:' said Steve
Freedman, head of school. "On one hand,
we have the Farbers catapulting us into a
`this century' school, while the Davidson
Foundation is helping us address cost and
sustainability, which is a huge national
"How lucky for Hillel and the Detroit
Jewish community to have such visionary
leaders who understand the importance
of Jewish day schools. We all should be
Embracing the twin concepts of Jewish
education and Jewish identity, the Farbers
also have given significant gifts to Temple
Israel's Susan and Rabbi Harold Loss Early
Childhood Center and to Akiva Hebew
Day School in Southfield. The Davidson
Foundation recently awarded $500,000
for a digital learning program at Frankel
Jewish Academy in West Bloomfield.
"Audrey and I deeply care about the
Jewish people, Jewish identity and Jewish
education:' said Bill Farber, a pharmacist
and pioneer in generic pharmaceuticals.
"Our hope is that by supporting Jewish
education, we may positively impact the
Jewish identity of many children and their
families for generations to come:'

Dreaming Together

For 18 years or more, educators have been
talking about what 21st-century schools
will look like, said Freedman, who gath-
ered his teachers and professionals in the
last year or so "to dream and imagine a
`this-century' school:'
"Learning is social:'
Freedman said. "We
need to make sure our
kids are prepared with
the 'three Rs: and also
with skills essential in
today's world:'
The group agreed
Hillel students must
graduate with what they
call the 7 Cs: critical
thinking, collaboration,
creativity, community, character, com-

Local philanthropy
will help Hillel gain
21st-century edge.

Adding Skylights and
Solatube Fixtures will
provide natural light into
the Heart from above

Operable Glass Wall
to Library

Quiet Lounge


Central Learning

Breakout Area

Admin Front

Fireplace and

Breakout Area


Removing the
existing toilet
rooms would
provide natural light
into the Heart



Hillel Day School of Metro Detroit I Master Plan

January 21st, 2014 I © Fielding Nair International

munication and core Jewish values. They
also agreed the school environment that
will promote this type of learning must be
comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, flex-
ible and contain spaces for collaboration
as well as quiet reflection both inside and
outside the building.
The group of dreamers came up with
a document outlining how they'd like the
school to look. Then they found Prakash
Nair, a school architect based in Tampa,
Fla., who is considered a futurist, vision-
ary and a global expert in designing
21st-century schools. Among many proj-
ects worldwide, his firm, Fielding Nair
International (FNI), had renovated Hillel
Academy (preK-8) in Tampa and the new
Bloomfield Hills High School.
In mid-November, Hillel's board voted
to fund a master space plan and to hire
FNI to execute the design. Nair and FNI-
Michigan architect James Seaman worked
with the school — after gathering infor-
mation from focus groups and meetings
with stakeholders — and came back with
floor plans in late January. After a little
tweaking, the plan was ready.
Nanci Farber of Franklin and Rabbi
Harold Loss of Temple Israel, acting as the
Farbers' philanthropic adviser, met with
Freedman to see how the Farbers might
help Hillel. The timing was perfect. Nanci
participated in all the FNI meetings — as
mother of twin daughters in the fifth grade

and also to gather information for her in-
laws. Hillel has been a family legacy. Her
husband, David, has three children and all
are Hillel graduates.
"It's a beautiful design plan and the staff
and students are excited:' she said. "I came
in with Bill to the last meeting to see the
plans and he said, 'Yeah, let's do it: It's a
very personal thing for our family with so
many roots there ... To be in this position
to give back is tremendous:'
Bill Farber said, "I am especially happy
that my children have chosen to work with
Audrey and me in our family's philan-
thropic giving:'

Breaking From Tradition

Farber's gift will fund the first three of four
So, what will be different? A lot.
At most schools, learning takes place the
old-fashioned way — in little boxes called
"The whole notion of educating kids
in traditional classrooms is obsolete
architect Nair said. "It's a remnant of the
industrial age where kids are widgets in a
factory. You run them through and expect
all children to come out the same, to be
good at this specific curriculum.
"But there's a major fundamental flaw;
in a factory, to get uniform output you
need uniform input. With schools, one
student may be marathon runner and one


a rocket scientist.
"Children have different personalities,
aptitudes and talents:' Nair said. "A school
should feel like a comfortable, happy place
to be, not institutional. We have to change
the physical building — it's the envelope
where 21st-century education happens:'
A goal is to create teacher teams and
learning communities, with interdisci-
plinary learning that involves math and
science and literature and art. In this
environment, Nair says, each child is doing
something different at a different pace and
all teachers become resources.
"Hillel was already ready:' Nair said.
"Teachers want to work together and are
already trying. If you walk through the
school, you see it's very
student-directed. But,
ultimately, there is only
so much you can do
when trapped in a box:'
Of the $10 billion
spent annually on school
construction in this
Prakash Nair
country, Nair says 90
percent is spent on the
traditional "cells and
bells:' He is encouraged by schools like
Hillel that initiate change and set stan-
dards others can learn from.
Phase I of the project will be Hillel's
Central Heart, a gathering space that lends
a sense of community with a fireplace and

Dreaming Big on page 10


February 20 • 2014



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