Westchester Torah Academy is making history. On Sunday, January 13, parents, students, dignitaries, rabbis and friends gathered at WTA’s new campus at 150 Stratton Road in New Rochelle for its milestone groundbreaking. Riverdale and Westchester rabbis and representatives from the city of New Rochelle stood with the community in support of the future of Jewish education for this generation and beyond.
The eight-acre campus was graced with the presence of Rabbi Reuven Fink of the Young Israel of New Rochelle, Rabbi Shmuel Greenberg of the Young Israel of White Plains, Rabbi Don Margulies of the Riverdale Minyan, Rabbi Daniel Rosenfelt of the Fleetwood Synagogue, Rabbi Eli Kohl from the Young Israel of Stamford, Rav Tomer Ronen of Yeshivat He’atid, New Rochelle Deputy Mayor Barry Fertel and former New Rochelle Councilwoman Shari Rackman.
At the groundbreaking, Rabbi Fink of YINR, rabbi for the past 36 years in the New Rochelle community, spoke about the importance of this day toward the future of Jewish education, using the phrase “זה היום עשה ה’ נגילה ונשמחה בו” (“zeh hayom asah Hashem nagilah ve’nismacha bo, this is the day that Hashem has done, and we shall rejoice in it”) to pay gratitude to the foundation of the first Jewish day school campus in New Rochelle. Deputy Mayor tinues to grow within the community, especially with the growth of downtown New Rochelle — now, the North End of New Rochelle is also showing signs of growth. WTA Board Chair Brian Kalb addressed the large crowd explaining how WTA’s mission continues its journey into the realm of affordable Jewish education that started six years ago. Finally, Deganit Ronen, WTA’s principal, explained the roots of the word “even” (אבן), a stone — or cornerstone — which if its letters are taken apart, represent parent (א for אבא, father, and אמא, mother) and child (ב for בן, son, and בת, daughter and נ for נחד and נחדה, grandchild) with the stone serving as the foundation for today’s generation and the generations to come. Principal Ronen emphasized how unique WTA is, for the depth with which parents and grandparents are involved in their children and grandchildren’s education. The cornerstone of WTA has always been to continue the legacy of educating this new generation of Jewish children, just as our parents and grandparents provided a Jewish education for us.
Six years ago, WTA began its humble roots in classrooms at Temple Israel of New Rochelle. A mere few minutes’ drive from there, the new campus is an expansive eight-acre property that will continue to serve the school’s needs to be an affordable Jewish day school that embraces a philosophy of student empowerment and personal growth.
Currently situated on the campus is a mansion and a carriage house. The carriage house will be renovated to serve WTA’s early childhood using a fresh and modern design flow, enabling WTA’s youngest students to benefit from a small personalized learning environment, while being able to also utilize other facilities on the greater campus. The larger mansion will be modernized to maintain its natural beauty and grandeur, but also to accommodate a beit midrash, library, Makerspace / STEAM lab, music room and other common areas that embody the core of Torah study, individualized learning and technology.
A new two-story and 16,000 feet building will be constructed with ten classrooms, a lunchroom / gym / auditorium, additional offices and a middle school wing with a gathering area. The building has been specially designed to allow lots of natural light, serving as a bright open structure, to enhance WTA’s innovative, individualized blended learning educational model.
WTA’s Board explains the campus as displaying a “turn of the century beautiful mansion in conjunction with a new construction of a brand new building,” allowing them to “build old world charm into a new modern aesthetic” which “will allow us to integrate our contemporary and cutting-edge learning-style and designing it so it lends itself to the flow of what the modern-day student and educational curriculum demand requires in a school of the 21st century.” Observing other schools in the country that incorporate a similar mission and have erected new structures to accommodate growth, WTA is able to “recreate what is going to be the paradigm of the future of education,” integrating “STEAM and technology spaces, open flow and design in allowing collaboration and project-based learning.” Students will be able to break into study areas with a “relaxed modern concept and learning-style for collaborative brainstorming and / or social interaction.”
Principal Ronen explains that WTA’s constructions is all focused on “education by design,” creating a foundation that aligns with the school’s mission and educational model.
By Tamar Weinberg