By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS — More than 250 people attended the Sunday, Nov. 8 ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the original groundbreaking of the Schultz Rosenberg Campus — which houses Akiba Academy of Dallas and Yavneh Academy of Dallas.
Spirits were high and the weather was nice as a special torch-lighting ceremony was conducted honoring those responsible for the groundbreaking — particularly the Schultz and Rosenberg families.
Jay Kleinman, Yavneh board president, said the lion’s share of the anniversary praise truly does belong to the Schultz and Rosenberg families, visionaries who realized that a school like Yavneh — which had three different campuses before their intervention — needed a permanent home.
“They wanted to grow the school and show some level of foundation — a single place they can study day in and day out,” Kleinman said. “Ten years later, we’re celebrating this success. It is incredible and speaks to our commitment and the strength of our current and former students and alumni.”
Dr. David Portnoy, Yavneh head of school, expressed similar sentiments.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to practice the ancient Jewish value of Hakarat Hatov, expressing gratitude and appreciation for the vision and dedication of those who came before us, laying the fertile seeds that have enabled us to flourish as a school community,” Dr. Portnoy stated in a written message to his students.
Dr. Portnoy said this anniversary was a celebration of two “nationally recognized, thriving Jewish day schools that offer facilities and infrastructure that rival other private school campuses.”
A good portion of the accolades were directed toward the many others who made the success of the campus possible: school faculty, board of directors, the Parent Teachers Organization, the Jewish Federation and its partners, students and alumni.
The multifaceted ceremony began with a treasure hunt and a diamond dig led by the Yavneh Student Leadership Council.
Then came the 10 Carat Torch Lighting Ceremony, with participants from both schools, from alumni, and from the Federation and the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation.
Lizzy Rosenberg Greif, daughter of Ann and the late Marcus Rosenberg, said the candle event held poignancy and great significance for her and the rest of the audience.
“It was really thought out,” she said. “What I really liked about it is, these people who lit the torches weren’t random people. They were people who were meaningful to the campus and existence of both schools on every level.”
One of the wonderful things about the dedication was the incredible sense of community that was demonstrated to everyone involved, emphasized Tammie Rapps, Akiba head of school.
“It was a wonderful moment for me when I saw a woman who was expecting holding a torch with a toddler in her arm,” she said. “It really gave me a sense of generation passing to generation. I came to Akiba only last year, I came to the dream late but to see how it has evolved and enriched the Dallas Jewish community has been wonderful.”
As part of her remarks during the ceremony, Rachel Berke, Akiba board president, announced that Akiba Academy had received a generous gift from Ann Rosenberg for a new fully-funded playground for children age 3 through eighth grade.
“The new playground will be named in loving memory of Sheri Rosenberg Kantor, who sadly passed last May,” Berke elaborated. “In addition to being a beloved daughter, sister, wife and mother of three, Sheri is arguably Akiba’s most accomplished alumna.”
Sheri Rosenberg Kantor was a law professor and the director of the Cardozo Law Institute on Holocaust and Human Rights and its Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic representing asylum seekers from locations such as Haiti and Darfur, she said.
She won a landmark case on non-discrimination in the European Court of Human Rights, Berke added.
Sheri Rosenberg Kantor was the recipient of the Spirit of Anne Frank Award and named the 2015 Peace Ambassador by the Center for Peacebuilding.
Her authoritative work on the field of atrocity prevention, Reconstructing Atrocity Prevention, was published in September, the Akiba board president said.
“We are both proud and humbled to have her name on our campus and very soon on the lips of our students as they head out to play,” Berke said.
This playground is not to be confused with the infant toddler outdoor learning environment where the ribbon cutting took place.
Jordana Bernstein, early childhood director at Akiba Academy of Dallas, said the infant toddler outdoor learning environment and early childhood outdoor art studio were shining examples of new campus initiatives.
Having the ribbon cutting there “was a really wonderful way to kick the ceremony off,” she said.
During the ceremony, Andy Schultz, son of Howard and Leslie Schultz, was on hand to thank everyone for being there to celebrate the tremendous vision, planning and hard work to create a campus as magnificent as theirs.
During a brief speech, Schultz emphasized there are five absolutely essential elements “that enabled us to realize the dream that we benefit from so much today.”
These, he said, are:
- A vibrant Jewish community, anchored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation partnering on the financing of the construction.
- Committed benefactors and a community of volunteers.
- Teachers and administrators who are the very heart and soul of the institution.
- Beautiful Jewish children who seek a deeper, more meaningful connection to their
- Jewish identity, and to the State of Israel, and
- Jewish parents, who make a tremendous personal sacrifice to provide their children with a Jewish education.
“This commitment in particular must always be remembered,” Schultz said.
Dr. Portnoy touched on the campus “spiritual architect” David Moss, an acclaimed artist whose mission is to enrich Jewish life by synthesizing tradition, beauty, learning, art, and creativity into engaging new forms of expression.
“He is a world-renowned Judaic artist, very attuned to Jewish history and Jewish text and he literally structured out how the campus would work architecturally,” he said. “How blessed we are to be in such magical space every day. It impacts the students.”
The campus, Dr. Portnoy said, is truly a jewel in the crown of the Dallas Jewish community.
“My sense is because it is so modern and beautiful and state-of-the-art, families are really confident our students are getting a world class education,” he said.
Leslie Schultz said she and husband Howard were very pleased with the ceremony.
“I think what is the most exciting thing for Howard and I is that after 10 years, the campus still looks so beautiful,” she said. “In fact, it’s even more so than when we finished the construction — because the trees have grown, the grasses have grown and it all looks so natural. It looks like it belongs where it is.”
Kleinman hailed the progressive environment of the campus, noting that it was established a decade ago for exactly that purpose — to make sure their children have the best and most secure of Jewish educations.
“The campus has been ahead of its time over the last 10 years,” he said.