48 years ago, my parents took my sister, my brothers and I to the groundbreaking for the newly renamed Ida Crown Jewish Academy. It was an historic event, one that some of you still remember, and on that day, sitting on the dais was Rabbi Shlomo Rapoport, z”l, the longest serving principal of our school and the man whose warmth, talent and care shaped the Academy; Rabbi Menachem B. Sacks, z”l, the executive director of the ATT, the who single handedly raised the funds to build HIS Academy; Paul Rosenberg, z”l, the chairman of the building committee whose dedication to the entire community was legendary; Rabbi Leonard C. Mishkin, z”l, superintendent of the ATT, who created our day school system; Ida Rosen, z”l who approached Dr. Edward Crown, z”l with the idea of naming our school for his mother, and so many others, too numerous to name.
And now 48 years later to be here – celebrating the ground breaking of the new Ida Crown Jewish Academy, standing before a new generation of lay and professional leadership is truly beyond belief! On behalf of my colleagues, my administrative team, Danny Harris, Dr. Jeremy Kahan, Dr. Shelley Green and Rabbi Louis Fleigelman, and my extraordinary development team, Jane Best and Deva Zwelling, and ALL of our staff, our teachers and our students – thank you for joining us, thank you for believing in us, and thank you dreaming WITH us of what the Ida Crown Jewish Academy can, and will be – a school dedicated to Torah, dedicated to chesed and community, dedicated to academic excellence, and dedicated to Medinat Yisrael.
Yesterday, we read the Torah portion of Lech Lecha, the story of our forefather Abraham and his first encounters with God and with the Land of Israel.
And it is at the end of chamishi where we find God taking Abraham outside, and telling him to look up to the heavens וספור הכוכבים – and count the stars – if you are able to count them! And God added – So shall your offspring be!”
And while it is true that the simple explanation of this text is that God was promising that the Jewish people would be as many as the stars, Rabbi Meir Shapiro, the great leader of Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin explained it differently. He said, that God was asking Abraham to do the impossible, to try to count the uncountable.
But as He did, God promised Abraham, that “So shall your offspring be” – that the Jewish would always be willing to try the impossible, ignore the odds, and try to count the stars.
More than a decade ago, when we began dreaming of a new Academy – people told us that it was an impossible dream – a quixotic quest beyond our reach. But still we dreamed and we tried. And while a bubble may have burst and there were some bumps in the road, we’re finally HERE – because you shared our vision of creating a new Academy for the 21st century and especially because of VERY, VERY good friends, people who believed in us and our school.
To the Crown-Goodman family, and especially to Lester Crown and Corky Goodman – you have inspired us and our entire community with your dedication to all Jews, and your belief in the importance of Orthodox Jewish education. May you continue to lead us for many years to come.
To the Jewish Federation and especially to Dr. Steve Nasatir, Jeffrey Cohen and Donna Kahan – your friendship, guidance and hard work on our behalf made this day a reality. Because of you – we are here, and because of you, our community is strong and vibrant and committed to a Jewish future.
To Rabbi Morris and Delicia Esformes, we are honored to be building a campus that is a tribute to the memory of the late Philip Esformes, a man of quiet determination who created a family of distinction, and whose memory will serve as a blessing for all of us.
To the Associated Talmud Torahs of Chicago, to Steve Landes, President and its professional leadership Rabbis Mordechai Raizman and Avraham Moller and – 72 years ago, together with the leadership of the Hebrew Theological College you created our school – we have been together ever since, and together we will continue this relationship as we move together into our new school Thank you for your wisdom and leadership!
And to our campaign chairmen, Jacques Gliksberg and David Strulowitz and to Dov Pinchot – wow! you did it. You ignored the odds, led our campaign and helped us count the stars! We could have never done it without you! Mazal tov – to you, to us, and especially to all of our future students who will benefit so much from this NEW Academy – as we continue forward in our mission of inspiring Bnei and Bnot Torah to thrive in the modern world!
And now it is my great honor to call upon the Rosh Beit Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council and the Av Beit Din of the Beit Din of America, a man who we look to for guidance and for inspiration, HaRav HaGaon, Moreinu HaRav, Gedalia Dov Schwartz, shlit”a