Center City residents and synagogue leaders are working with Abrams Hebrew Academy to open a Jewish day school next year at Congregation Mikveh Israel.
In order to start the school, which would operate as a satellite of Abrams, located in Yardley, organizers say they must first determine that there is enough demand among Center City families.
The school would initially be open for kindergarten and first grade.
Plans for the co-ed school, along with the construction of an eruv six years ago and plans for a possible mikveh, are part of a larger effort to build a stronger Jewish community in Center City, organizers said. Families living in the area either send their children to the city’s public and private schools or the kids commute to Jewish day schools in the suburbs.
The Abrams satellite school would use vacant space inside the Sephardic congregation on Fourth Street near Independence Mall that the National Museum of American Jewish History occupied before moving into its own building in 2010.
Members and leaders of several Orthodox synagogues in the city, including Mikveh Israel, Mekor Habracha Center City Synagogue and Congregation Bnai Abraham, will hold a meeting to discuss the school and gauge interest on Nov. 6, at 7 p.m. at Mekor Habracha, located at 20th and Chestnut streets.
Abrams director Rabbi Ira Budow estimated that the school, which seeks families of all Jewish backgrounds, would need 15 committed students per class to move forward. He said Center City residents and clergy have discussed opening a school for a few years but until recently, there was not enough interest and they had not found a space.
Budow said that organizers are not trying to compete with any existing day schools, such as Perelman Jewish Day School, with its campuses in Melrose Park and Wynnewood, or Politz Day School of Cherry Hill, N.J. Rather he said they wish to attract families who would otherwise send their children to public or non-Jewish private schools.
“I feel that there may be a Jewish population that we lose down there, that miss the boat on getting a Jewish education,” Budow said. “It really makes sense to me that if you have schools in the suburbs there should be some kind of Jewish educational institution in Center City.”
Morris Levin, a Bella Vista resident who is helping to start the school, sends his oldest daughter, Pardes, to preschool at Bnai Abraham. He said he would like to keep her current peer group together in kindergarten at the prospective Abrams school. A member of Mekor Habracha who also has helped lead restoration efforts at Shivtei Yeshuron-Ezras Israel, an Orthodox synagogue in South Philadelphia, Levin, 36, said he and his family “are choosing to stay in the city long term.”
“Since the eruv went up six years ago, more and more families have been staying in the city,” said Levin, a business consultant. “I think they all just see the benefits of having a Jewish day school.”