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In the quiet morning hours before nearly 1,000 community members descended on the new Ida Crown Jewish Academy, a small group of committed donors gathered in the Beit Midrash to form the first minyan on the new Esformes Family Campus. Among the prayers of Chanukah and Rosh Chodesh, the group sang Hallel, “This is the day the Lord made, rejoice and be glad in it.”

It was a powerful service on a spectacular day.

Speakers at the long-awaited dedication of the new building all spoke amid the light of the menorah, focusing on a similar message: the importance of Jewish education and the Academy’s integral contribution to the entire Jewish community.

The Village of Skokie Mayor Van Dusen welcomed Ida Crown Jewish Academy to Skokie saying that despite the dreary weather, “Today is a beautiful day in Skokie.” He went on to say, “Quality is the one word that describes Ida Crown. The quality of teachers, the quality of parents, the quality of administrators and the quality of your graduates.”

“This is a great day for the entire Chicago Jewish community. For 73 years the Ida Crown Jewish Academy has been a key gateway institution… It is also wonderful to know that by dedicating this spectacular, beautiful building today, we are helping to ensure that our Chicago Jewish community will continue to remain strong, united and committed to Jewish learning and devoted to Israel,” said Dr. Steven Nasatir, president of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation.

“What has been done here on behalf of you, on behalf of the teachers, the administrators and especially the students, really provides the best secular education and the best Jewish education,” said Lester Crown.

Also speaking were Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz; Flora Weiss, sister of Rabbi Morris Esformes; Steven Miretzky, an ICJA alum, class of ’80 and one of the co-presidents of the ATT; and ICJA senior class presidents, Shoham Benmelech (Read Shoham’s speach) and Ben Kaplan (Read Ben’s speech).

Referring to the dedication’s coincidence with Chanukah, Rabbi Leonard Matanky, dean of ICJA, said, “As much as we celebrate the Academy today, as much as we regale in this new, magnificent structure and the dream of all that it will make possible, we need to celebrate each and every day. Because every day at the Academy, miracles happen as we touch the hearts and the minds of men and women, and as we offer opportunities for growth and achievement that were unimaginable a generation ago.” (Read his full speech)

The new Esformes Family Campus of Ida Crown Jewish Academy, at 8233 Central Park Ave., occupies the former site of the Rand McNally corporate headquarters. It opens for the first day of classes after winter break on Jan. 4, 2016.

In addition to more classrooms, the new building has the latest science and technology facilities; expanded cultural arts, library, sports and extracurricular activities spaces; student and faculty lounges; and a central worship space to accommodate all students.

The building also will house the headquarters of the Associated Talmud Torahs, the governing body for Orthodox Jewish schools in the Chicago area, and the Keshet high school, a program for students with developmental delays.

Lead gifts for the project were provided by the Crown and Goodman Family and Rabbi Morris Esformes, through the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago’s Centennial Campaign, which facilitated the project. The Centennial Campaign is intended to ensure a vibrant Jewish community for the next 100 years.

“This dream would not be a reality without the support and vision of the Crown and Goodman Family, Rabbi and Mrs. Morris Esformes, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, and the strong support of Ida Crown donors. Many thanks to all those involved in this tremendous effort,” said Matanky.

“We are excited that generations of Ida Crown students will have the opportunity to grow and thrive in this state-of-the art facility,” said David Strulowitz, who co-chaired the project’s capital campaign with Jacques Gliksberg.

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