By Deb Silverthorn
As the Class of 20-Chai (2018) prepares to graduate from Mesorah School for Girls, its seniors leave with the honor and grace that has defined the school for its chai, its life, its 18 years.
In 2000, Rachel Leah and Shelly Rosenberg’s second daughter was bound for high school and, having already sent their oldest to Baltimore, Rachel Leah Rosenberg wanted an alternative for girls in the Dallas community. Together with a founding group that included Karen and Larry Kosowsky, Aviva and Oscar Rosenberg, and Leah and Jeff Secunda, a dream became a reality.
“There was no alternative to bringing a girls’ school to Dallas. Our parents wanted it, our girls needed it and we as a community were growing and to continue to inspire families to come here, we had to do it,” said Rachel Leah, whose daughter Yocheved is graduating this year, four of her sisters preceding her. “It’s meant a great deal to our families, and I’m very proud of what’s come of the school and its graduates.”
Mesorah students complete Judaic and secular studies, take Advanced Placement courses and partner with Richland College to earn high school and college credit. Many receive local and national academic and merit-based scholarships.
“We’re a college preparatory school with Torah at the forefront, and much more as the backdrop of a very full academic, social and extracurricular education experience,” said Mesorah’s Headmaster Rabbi Avraham Zev Kosowsky, the father of two graduates and one on the horizon. “Our students are immersed in a curriculum designed specifically for them and taught by teachers who are not just experts in their fields, but experts at educating young women. They learn in a joyful environment that develops critical thinking and leadership in its many forms.”
Kosowsky’s first year featured six graduates and 19 students. Today, there are 61 students. While growth is a good “dilemma,” there are hopes to begin a building campaign. The campus is now in an office building at Park Central.
“Mesorah provides not only ‘book learning,’ but learning of life built on relationships,” said Kosowsky, who taught at Akiba Academy before joining Mesorah’s administration in 2003. While now 10 times its initial census, Mesorah’s students and teachers share special bonds in and out of the classroom through Shabbatons, before- or after-school support and late-night phone calls for academic or personal connections. “Our faculty makes itself available at any time, and the friendships last long after our young ladies graduate.”
The tenet of tikkun olam is not taken lightly by students, who yearly amass over 6,000 chessed hours helping in their synagogues, babysitting, tutoring, visiting the elderly and infirm, mentoring others and more. They volunteer for CHAI/Community Homes for Adults, Inc.; Dallas Jewish Community Foundation; Dallas’ Friendship Circle; the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas; Israel Bonds; Od Yosef Chai; Yachad; and other organizations. They’ve used their talents to produce CDs helping others and promote health-issue awareness. They baked 2,000-plus challah rolls during Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
“Mesorah has been a draw for those looking to move to our community, which has grown significantly, and single-gender academic institutions — religious or secular — have significant benefits,” said Rabbi Yerachmiel Udman, director of development, who also teaches in the classroom. “We have done a great job of recognizing the uniqueness of each student and building their strengths through a Jewishly-centered absolutely strong academic practice.”
The school’s Dedicated Day of Learning Campaign has been filled with tributes of “in memory” and “in honor,” “in the merit of good health” and general congratulations.
“This campaign has members of the community near and far supporting us while recognizing individuals close to them, honored truly by educating others,” said Udman, previously the founding rabbi and headmaster of Torah Day School and director of Judaic studies at Akiba Academy, the father of two Mesorah graduates, one this year and four in the future. “The priority is educating our ladies always keying in on how we can build each student with concern for the whole person, teaching them to think globally and scholastically, but also to think for themselves.”
Mesorah’s first graduating class of six (in 2004, Rebecca Levy Chastain, Tsippi Fried Gross, Yulia Dykman Hill, Miriam Lachterman, Malkie Rosenberg Ozeri and Rachel Secunda Sasson) and its 104 other alumni remain connected. Mesorah’s graduates are now lawyers, doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs, homemakers and more. They have graduated from schools ranging from Bar-Ilan University to Columbia Law School. Reunions have taken place in town, New York or Israel — where many have studied or made homes over the years.
On June 10, Leah Esther Broodo, Rachel Broodo, Rachel Dykman, Shani Epstein, Rachel Evans, Chaya Rochel Jager, Chasida Lurie, Rivke Notelovitz, Yocheved Rosenberg, Laya Udman and Tehilla Yachnes-Dear will turn their tassels, becoming alumnae as well.
“We were the first, but the impact the school made on all of us was huge,” said Ozeri, now an art teacher at Torah Day School of Dallas. “While the school has grown, the approach to connect with each individual remains. It’s not about schooling four grades of students, but about each student at the right level. There is a mix of students in many classes and from that comes friendships that last.
“The older we get the more about our identity we have to discover. Who each of us will be comes from asking questions and being with those who set examples,” Ozeri added. “Mesorah has always allowed a freedom of expression and helped its students develop a love for learning.”
For more information or to make a Day of Learning dedication, visit mesorahhighschool.org.