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February 27, 2014 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2014-02-27

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metro >> on the cover

Building A Future

Farber gift to Akiva to benefit teachers, students in a new educational facility.

Shelli Liebman Dorfman I Contributing Writer


The donation comes from the William
and Audrey Farber Philanthropic
Endowment Fund at the Jewish Federation
of Metropolitan Detroit.
"Mr. and Mrs. Farber were looking to
make a 'transformational gift' and with the
counsel of their philanthropic adviser, Rabbi
Harold Loss [of Temple
Israel], they identified a
substantial investment
in Akiva's future as such
an opportunity:' Opperer
said. "The Farbers and
Rabbi Loss clearly value
the importance of having
a robust Jewish commu-
Josh Opperer
nity. We see the Farbers'
generosity extending to
many schools and agen-
cies, and we're thrilled that they recognized
the critical position in our community that
Akiva plays:'
Scott Kaufman, Federation's CEO, said,
"The Akiva initiative is twofold: to improve
or replace its current facility, which is lim-
ited in its use and plagued by disrepair; and
also to make a significant investment in its
educational programming. The Farber gift
already has inspired others from within the
Akiva parent body and also members of the
broader Detroit Jewish community to con-
tribute to this effort, and that's exactly what
the Farbers intended:'
Since the announcement of the gift six
months ago, pledges have brought the cam-
paign close to $5 million, with a goal of $13

For The Teachers

"Despite its rich 50-year history, Akiva has
perennially been limited by insufficient
funding:' Opperer said. "Being fiscally
responsible, Akiva has no debt, but to make
that so, it has had to pay its teachers well
under market, forego important teacher
development programs and leave too many
vacancies unfilled. The school adminis-
tration has developed a plan to make the
school what it can be, but implementation
of that plan will cost approximately $1 mil-
lion more per year than the school's current
bare-bones budget can support:'
According to Akiva's head of school,
Rabbi Tzvi Klugerman, who oversees the
educational branch of the campaign, "With
(the) gift, we are poised to enter the next


February 27 • 2014

50 years with a renewed commitment to
parallel excellence that integrates the Judaic
and general studies curricula of our modern
Orthodox, Zionist school.
"In addition to the
increases to teachers'
salaries and benefits,
Akiva will also be imple-
menting new curricular
initiatives in science,
technology, engineering
and mathematics for the
school and high
school, and increasing
the focus on mathemat-
ics in the elementary school:' Klugerman
said. "Most importantly, we will be provid-
ing our faculty with regular, ongoing and
quality professional development and men-

More Akiva Students

Akiva was the first Jewish day school to
become a Detroit Jewish Federation agency,
with a $440,344 allocation this year.
The school's enrollment averages 300
students per year. With a large class gradu-
ating from Akiva's Lowenthal High School
last year, current enrollment is 255 students,
among them third-generation Akiva stu-
This figure includes an influx of modern
Orthodox families who have moved to
Metro Detroit in the past five years through
a campaign overseen by Akiva parents Dr.
Howard and Michal Korman and Ari and
Monica Fischman, all of Southfield. The
group works to attract new families by
offering loans, job and home location assis-
tance and other welcoming incentives.
To date, 60 new families that include 90
children have moved here, typically to the

A rendering of the new Akiva building

area near Young Israel of Southfield, located
on Lahser between 11 and 12 Mile roads.
Almost all are Akiva candidates.
"These are mostly young couples under
35 years old, often just starting their
families:' Howard Korman said. "They are
professionals for the most part: doctors,
lawyers, educators and entrepreneurs:'
They have come here from 13 states,
Israel, Canada and Puerto Rico.
"They move to Detroit due to a favorable
cost of living, easier commutes and, most
importantly, the presence of an afford-
able Zionist, modern Orthodox, college
prep preK-12 day school. Without Akiva,
the majority who moved in over the past
five years would not have even considered
"Strengthening Akiva to include the lat-
est advances in education hence becomes
critical to not only attracting families but
also retaining them:'
The group also is working to bring Akiva
alumni back to the Detroit area; 15 of the 60
new families include Akiva graduates.

Construction Plans

The current Akiva building stands on the
Schostak Family Campus in Southfield.
Originally a church, it was bought by
Congregation Beth Achim and expanded
before it was purchased by the United
Jewish Foundation, the banking and real
estate arm of Federation, which made it
available to Akiva for the past 12 years.
When the school ran out of space in 2008,
classrooms were added in the building's
lower level.
"After much study, it was determined
that building a new building on the current

grounds makes more sense than putting
expensive Band-Aids on the current build-
ing:' Opperer said.
The new building will be constructed
on land to the west of the current school,
owned by the United Jewish Foundation,
but leased to Akiva.
As the tenant and also a proud
Federation agency, Akiva has worked
and will continue to work closely with
the United Jewish Foundation and Jewish
Federation to ensure that all interested
parties are in synch:' said Dan Mendelson,
Akiva president.
"We have been working for several years
to study and address short- and long-term
facilities' limitations, both due to lack of
functional, efficient space and also because
of the type of deterioration that is com-
mon with aging facilities. We also have
studied the state of Akiva's academic offer-
ings, taking note of the areas where we
excel, but focusing on the areas where we
want to improve.
"We've looked at several different
options, from modest repairs to compre-
hensive overhaul, to facilities in other
locations to a new facility on our current
At this point, we anticipate that the
most cost-efficient and otherwise prudent
course will be to construct a new facility,
with segments tailored to the needs of
each of our four school divisions — early
childhood, elementary, middle school and
high school — on the current campus,
with our current facility remaining opera-
tional during construction."
Akiva planners are working with
architect Paul A. Corneliussen of French
Associates Inc. in Rochester.
With a look ahead to Akiva's 50th
Anniversary Jubilee Dinner on Sunday,
June 8, and then to the next 50 years,
Mendelson said, "The Farbers have given
a transformative gift to Akiva. It is the
largest educational catalyst in the history
of the school. The spark of the Farber
gift will help strengthen our school and,
indeed, the entire Detroit Jewish commu-
nity for generations to come:'

For information on Akiva Hebrew

Day School, or to make a gift to the
campaign, payable over a five-year
period, contact Jordana Wolfson at
Jordana.wolfson@akiva.org or (248)
386-1625, ext. 222.

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