In 1962, a small group of visionary men and women founded the Hebrew Academy. Fifty years ago, in 1964, Founding Principal Shraga Arian, z”l, gave his now famous “Dream Little Children” speech. It concluded with these words that adorn our hallway and continue to shape our vision:
This is the heritage we bequeath to you.
This school was not established to leave you untouched, uninspired.
Ours is more than an institution devoted to pursuing excellence in General studies and in Hebraica.
We have built this school so that you can dream dreams, see visions, and do wonders.
As a member of our Jewish community – and parent of alumni – I agreed to become president of Bet Shraga’s Board to help guide its journey. Were Shraga Arian on our strategic planning or development committees today, he would likely insist that while we plan, we consider the current make-up and needs of our Jewish community, the natural and technological factors that keep changing the world, and most importantly, our parents’ hopes and dreams for their children.
The Board and Administration of Hebrew Academy are indeed considering these questions as we craft a vision for our second half-century. Last year and this, the school’s new academic leaders and faculty have turned the educational program around. High standards in both General and Judaic Studies are the necessary foundation of our plan. As priority #1, this is well-underway – and receives focused attention every day. As one parent said to the head of school, “This is the program I want for my child. These are the teachers I want my child to learn from!”
This year, we continue connecting with current members while broadening the circle of influence to include the Jewish community’s religious, cultural, philanthropic and organizational leaders. Many of Hebrew Academy’s leaders are, as Hillary Clinton would say, on a Listening Tour. The Jewish Life Committee is checking in with synagogue rabbis and leaders about what their congregants want the school to accomplish. Development Committee members, with Head of School Rhonda Rosenheck, are seeking input into our business-plan-in-formation from donors and local leaders knowledgeable in many aspects of communal life.
How does Hebrew Academy matter to its grandparents, parents and children? How does it matter to the people in our community – and those who are considering locating here? What can Hebrew Academy do both to further meet its members’ needs and to strengthen the Jewish community? We are asking these questions of many stakeholders in the Capital Region’s vibrant and diverse Jewish community, to inform our vision of a sustainable future for Hebrew Academy as a superb school that fulfills its role as an essential pillar of the community. I would like to hear what you have to say about these issues.
Sandor Schuman, President