The Politz Hebrew Academy in Northeast Philadelphia, an Orthodox K-8 school that has grown steadily over the past half decade, is poised to open a new building in the fall.
The new building, which is costing between $1 million and $2 million, is being funded by the Kohelet Foundation, the philanthropic organization started by David Magerman, a businessman and computer scientist who has given millions to local Jewish day schools.
The new, 10-classroom facility — which stands adjacent to the school’s main building —will house boys from the first to eighth grade. After kindergarten, boys and girls at Politz are split into separate classes.
Politz was founded in 1982 at a nearby synagogue and, since 1986, has been housed at a nearly century-old former Philadelphia public school. Four years ago, a structure was added on to the original building to house classes for girls.
For several years, the boys had learned in an annex that, according to several sources, was in bad condition. The annex was demolished to make room for the new building.
Holly Cohen, executive director of the Kohelet Foundation, said the organization is “providing a safe, dry school space.”
The growth of Politz’s student body over the past five or six years, from around 270 students to roughly 330 now, is one reason for the new addition, according to Bessie Katz, who has led the school since it opened
in 1982. Katz and others said the increase is due to an overall growth in the Orthodox population in the region.
But Katz also attributed the development to the view among the school’s leaders that it is religiously preferable for boys and girls to learn in separate buildings.
Katz described Politz as a “right-wing” Orthodox institution and said that its particular philosophic and religious outlook attracts families from far beyond the immediate neighborhood.
Politz is one of very few Orthodox elementary day schools in the area. The others include Cheder Chabad, the Politz Day School of Cherry Hill and Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia in Wynnewood. Torah Academy, with about 275 students, separates boys and girls into different classroom after fourth grade, though they are in the same building.
Politz’s new, one-floor structure will have a large beit midrash for Torah study and prayer.
The red brick former public school that was built in 1915 will continue to house the administrative offices as well as kindergarten classrooms.
“The new facility,” Katz said, “will enhance the quality of everything. It will be a new level of achievement.”