Politz to Get a Face-Lift

For the past 23 years, the Politz Hebrew Academy, an Orthodox day school in Northeast Philadelphia, has served young boys and girls as a home away from home. But after two decades in business, it's time for a little home improvement.

Thanks to private contributions, the school is getting a $1.5 million face-lift that will create 11 additional classrooms, along with a new library, science lab, computer room and beit midrash for Torah study.

"There is definitely a need for improvement," observed Reuven Horowitz, who has four children in the school and who sits on its board of directors.

Founded in 1982, Politz currently has an enrollment of 288 students. Come September, it is expected to have more than 300.

The facility operates on a site of a former Philadelphia public school; the oldest part of the building dates back to 1864, and is registered a historic landmark.

According to Esdan Kaplan, chairman of the board of directors, when it rains, the building leaks – not through the roof, but through the walls.

Moreover, he explained, in a four-classroom structure simply known as "the trailer," students study in an environment that lacks running water and bathroom facilities.

"It's horrible, literally horrible," exclaimed Kaplan. "I can't wait for the bulldozer to come through!"

Yes, the trailer is going to be razed to the ground.

Kaplan laid out the plans for renovation at a June 29 groundbreaking ceremony held on the school's ballfield. Parents, teachers, donors and students turned out on the overcast morning one week into summer.

Shmuel Dear, who this academic year will have four children in the school, has reason to look forward to improvements. "This is something they should have done a long time ago," said Dear, who added that his family relocated from New York because of the programs at Politz. He said that he had a difficult time finding an Orthodox school that could accommodate his son's learning disability.

"They have a great resource room; it's magnificent," he said.

Cornerstone gifts to the day-school's capital campaign came from the Erlbaum Family, Oscar and Vivian Lasko, and the Lasko Foundation.

"My family has always valued Jewish education," said Gary Erlbaum, vice chair and board member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, "and was quite moved to see the trying physical conditions that the students were experiencing."

Work is set to begin in August and last until spring 2006, which could, of course, make for a rather noisy academic year.

As Kaplan remarked: "It's going to be interesting."



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