October 2007

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Lynne and Leonard Barrack were honored at the dedication ceremony at the site of the new Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, named in memory of Barrack's late older brother. (Photo: Bonnie



The Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
Would Akiba by any other name be as educational?

-- Lynn B. Edelman

Just before the dawn of the Jewish New Year, more than 300 members of the Philadelphia Jewish community joined together to celebrate the official launch of the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's new Radnor Campus.

The re-naming ceremony was held September 10.

Founded as Akiba Hebrew Academy, the oldest community Jewish secondary day school in North America, the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy will begin interior remodeling of the campus, located at 270 South Bryn Mawr Avenue in Radnor Twp., in early 2008. School leaders anticipate welcoming students to its new 86,000 square foot home in September 2008.

"This ushers in an exciting new era in the school's 61-year history," said Rabbi Philip D. Field, head of school.

The name change comes as part of a $5 million gift to the school from the Barrack Foundation started by Leonard Barrack, chair of Federation’s Board of Trustees. Barrack and his wife, Lynne, are foundation directors.

The gift requires 90 percent of the funds to go toward providing scholarship support. The remaining 10 percent will go toward attracting high-quality faculty members through salary enhancements, stipends and bonuses.

"As an Akiba alumnus, I have always held my alma mater in very high regard," Barrack said.

Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy students Jessica Nussbaum and Zachary Pomerantz present Leonard and Lynne Barrack with a special memento of the renaming ceremony. Leonard Barrack played on the school's basketball team while an Academy student.
The school is being named in honor of Barrack's older brother, Jack, who was killed in a 1960 plane crash along with their father, Morris Barrack.

During his emotional remarks to the audience, Leonard Barrack described the loss of his brother and father as "devastating". At the time of their deaths, the then-17-year-old was beginning his freshman year at Emory University. He returned home to help comfort his mother.

Barrack said he is grateful to his parents, who came to this country as immigrants from the Ukraine, for their commitment to securing a quality education for their four children.

"My father had no formal education, he spoke no English and he had just $25 in his pocket when he and my mother arrived in this country. What my parents did understand was that here, in America, they had the opportunity to earn a living, to live without fear of pogroms and Czarist oppression and most importantly they would be able to educate their children," said Barrack. He explained that the gift was his way of paying tribute to his parents' selflessness and ensuring that future generations of Jews will have access to "a solid educational foundation steeped in Jewish ethics and ideals."

The Greater Philadelphia Jewish Community celebrated the renaming of Akiba Hebrew Academy, the nation's oldest pluralistic Jewish Day School as the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy. Marking this milestone are (from left): Ira M. Schwartz, Federation president; his wife, Elaine (Newtown Square); Beryl D. Simonson, (Center City) immediate past chairman, Federation Board of Trustees; Leonard Barrack, chairman, Federation Board of Trustees and his wife, Lynne of Bryn Mawr; Jay Dorsch (Wynnewood), president of the Academy's Board of Directors and Rabbi Philip Field (Merion Station), Head of School.
He hopes that the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy's new state-of-the-art facility with its expanded capacity for student enrollment, will help to attract the region’s "brightest and most talented young people."

"Today our community draws a line in the sand. No longer will we accept decreasing enrollment, increasing tuition and a lack of competitive facilities in our Jewish day schools," Barrack stated. "From this day forward, let this ceremony represent a time of change, a reversal of decline, a new vision of the future for our community and our children."

Rabbi Field noted, "We are extremely pleased that the Barrack Foundation award will help make this academically excellent Jewish day school experience more accessible to a broad range of students."

The Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy will be the lead tenant at Federation's Radnor Campus, which was purchased from the American College in June.

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice invites its readers to share their perspectives on this and any other of our articles at letters @ pjvoice.com.

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