After months of careful planning, two highly acclaimed Jewish schools in Stamford have announced plans to create one comprehensive, unified educational institution. The first of its kind in the state, the newly formed Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy (BCHA), for pre-K through grade 12, will open its doors in September with 50 students in grades 9-12. Initially, each school will remain on separate campuses, the Bi-Cultural Day School (BCDS) campus on High Ridge Road and the Jewish High School of Connecticut on West Main Street, both in Stamford. Plans are under way to combine campuses in the very near future.
Serving students throughout Fairfield and Westchester counties, the Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy of Connecticut is uniquely poised to provide students with a continuum of education designed to lead them toward a future of academic and professional success. Both David Pitkoff, president of BCDS, and Geoffrey Erickson, president of the Jewish High School of Connecticut, were instrumental in structuring the agreement.
According to Pitkoff, “Our two schools agreed to this merger because we wanted to build a pre-K through grade 12 school that represents the best of our community, a school committed to educational excellence and devoted to instilling in our children and grandchildren the values, traditions and excellence we share as a community. That is what this merger is really all about; building community.” Pitkoff will serve as president of the inaugural BCHA, while Erickson will assume the role of vice president.
Built on the stellar academic reputations of its two core schools, BCHA will integrate dynamic and innovative general and Judaic studies curricula steeped in Torah values and a love of Israel. Guided by the precepts of Modern Orthodoxy, BCHA is a community school that embraces students from across the Jewish spectrum. Emphasis is placed on creating young leaders of tomorrow by cultivating within students a pride in their Jewish heritage and a commitment to community service.
BCDS, a 2017 national Blue Ribbon School and the 2015 winner of the prestigious Jewish Education Innovation Challenge Award, was founded in 1956. Today, BCDS boasts an enrollment of 360 students. Graduating 34 students in the class of 2018, 62 percent of the graduates will attend Jewish schools such as Ramaz High School, SAR High School, Solomon Schechter High School of Westchester, Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls, Torah Academy of Bergen County and The Jewish High School of Connecticut.
Jacqueline Herman has been head of school at BCDS for seven years and will remain in this position at BCHA. She shared, “The union of our two schools is truly a historic moment in the life of our Jewish community. It’s heartening to see news of the merger being met with such great excitement and enthusiasm.” Herman continues, “This is a wonderful opportunity to further Jewish education in our area. That is to say, we remain committed to passing on to students the legacy and lessons of our Jewish heritage...But this merger is not just about families with school-age children, it is about our entire community. Because this merger also lays a solid foundation for the future of CT’s Jewish community by showing families considering a move to our area that this is a community in which their children will have access to a superior, well-rounded, uninterrupted, secular and Jewish education.”
The BCDS principal, Rabbi Elisha Paul, will be the madrich ruchani of BCHA.
The Jewish High School of Connecticut opened its doors in September, 2010 and is accredited by the New England Association of Independent Schools. It is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and Prizmah, an organization committed to encouraging Jewish families to choose a day school education for their children. The school is also a member of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC). Students attending the JHSCT come from towns throughout Fairfield and New Haven counties.
Pitkoff explained “those who have been active in Jewish day schools know that we have wasted too many resources often competing for the same group of potential students. Hopefully this merger becomes a model for other community day schools to merge as well. Maybe then we can work together to address the issue of day school affordability, communicate how essential day school education is to our communities’ survival and create joint programs that build our kesher, our connection to each other and to all of Am Yisroel.”
The newly formed Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy is already looking toward the future. Pitkoff sees a future “...that captures the best of who we are, from Einstein to Maimonides, from biblical Israel to start-up nation. Together, from our home here in Stamford to our home in Israel, we hope that everyone will come together and join us as we begin the process of pooling all our talents and resources to create something extraordinary.”
Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy is a recipient agency of United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien.
By Yvette Finkelstein