Hundreds of Hebrew Academy parents, alumni, faculty and staff will celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary on Thursday, June 21 at an elegant gala dinner at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim. Guests of honour will include Jewish community pillars and Hebrew Academy builders Louis and Malca Drazin – who will be recognized with the Keter Shem Tov (Crown of a Good Name) Award – and Alvin and Lauren Suissa, recipients of the Nedivut Lev (Generosity of the Heart) Award. Both Mr. Drazin and Mr. Suissa are past presidents of Hebrew Academy; the Drazins’ grandchildren now attend the school as do the Suissas’ children.
Hebrew Academy was founded in 1967 as a result of the merger of two Orthodox congregational day schools, the Adath Israel Elementary and High School and the Young Israel Elementary School. The Adath Israel School, situated on 1500 Ducharme Street in Outremont, was founded in 1941, and was the first Jewish day school in Montreal to graduate a Grade 11 class. The Young Israel School situated on Hillsdale in Montreal was founded in 1951 as an educational outgrowth of the Young Israel Movement, under the guidance of Rabbi Mendel Lewittes. Prior to the merger, the Young Israel School was in dire need of a high school for its children, and its elementary school had limited facilities. The Adath Israel School, meanwhile, had the physical facilities but diminishing enrolment. Combining the resources and populations of both schools made good sense, and Hebrew Academy was born.
“We are so fortunate in Montreal to have the Hebrew Academy,” said Brenda Gewurz, who is co-chairing the gala along with her husband Samuel and is also a Hebrew Academy past president. “It is the only Modern Orthodox school and is also so Zionist. Parents, alumni and all professionals are all so involved and dedicated to the school – this is an excellent indicator of a school with an excellent education for its students and amazing Ruach (spirit). I am so proud to be associated with Hebrew Academy.”
The shift of the Jewish population to the West End of Montreal forced Hebrew Academy to look for new facilities. In 1979 Hebrew Academy rented facilities in Cote St. Luc on Mackle Road. In 1984, a Garderie was established to meet the needs of working parents. In 1990, Hebrew Academy purchased the YM-YWHA (Davis branch) building on Kellert Road. A beautiful new facility was completed in 1992 on that site. That same year, the school launched its Section Française, which extends to Grade 6.
“My all-time favorite memory was the culmination of several years of hard work as our dream of moving into a new facility came to fruition,” said Linda Lehrer, who has served as Hebrew Academy’s sole Executive Director since 1987. “The cherry on top was of course the Hachnasat Sefer Torah with all the HA parents, students and staff. We paraded from our old building to our present building on Kellert and brought in new Sifrei Torah. Now, all these years later, it is so exciting to be part of another milestone as we celebrate HA’s 50th!”
Hebrew Academy was recognized as a “CLC” (Community Learning Centre) by the federal government in 2006 and was accredited unconditionally by Prizmah Center for Jewish Day Schools in 2017.
“We are extremely proud to have maintained our commitment to academic excellence and innovation, fostering intellectual curiosity and inspiring leadership over the past five decades,” said Hebrew Academy Head of School Dr. Kalman Stein, who will begin his third year at the school in August.
“We are equally proud of our alumni’s warm associations with Hebrew Academy as their second home and their choice to send their children to the institution that played such a pivotal role in cultivating their own identities.”