The opening of a new Jewish school in Plainview last week has brought some continuity to students of the religious school that formerly operated on that site for years.
The Mercaz Academy opened in the building formerly occupied by the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County.
“It’s been a very seamless transition,” said Shanee Kirschenbaum, 34, a social worker from Plainview, whose two oldest sons had been students at the Hebrew Academy and have, along with their younger brother, just started classes at Mercaz. Kirschenbaum said she was “very grateful that our community was able to create the school.”
The school is open to Jewish students from preschool through sixth grade and splits class time between secular academic studies and Orthodox Judaic studies. More than 140 students are enrolled, its president Jeffrey Lichtman said in an interview. The school has established an assistant principal to focus solely on general studies.
“We wanted to tell parents unequivocally that we are going to be providing a top-notch, secular education without cutting corners,” Lichtman said. “There is going to be, you know, an excellent program in English and math and science.”
Parents who have enrolled their children in the school “are declaring their interest in making sure that their children will grow in appreciation of their Jewish roots,” he said. Beyond their secular studies, students “learn about all sorts of different aspects of Judaism and our history and heritage,” including the study of Hebrew and the Talmud, Lichtman said.
Talks to buy the building began in 2018 and 2019, Lichtman said, because the Hebrew Academy had decided to consolidate its operations and expand its campus in West Hempstead. Talks continued through 2021 when an agreement was reached for the new school to open this fall, Lichtman said. He declined to give the purchase price for the Hebrew Academy — whose sale has yet to close — but said the entire cost is being paid by two families, one in Plainview and another outside the community. Annual tuition varies, depending on financial aid, but is generally about $15,000 to $18,000 for sixth-grade, for example, Lichtman said.
“After a wonderful partnership that has seen immense growth and increased demand for Orthodox Jewish education on Long Island, HANC is refocusing its efforts in Southwest Nassau County by expanding its elementary school campus, and relocating its middle school to a new facility to be built in West Hempstead,” the two schools said in a joint statement on Mercaz’s website. “Mercaz Academy will proudly build upon HANC-Plainview’s strong foundations and will be the new educational center for current HANC-Plainview students from over 17 zip codes within an 18-mile radius.”
Kirschenbaum said she and her husband had gone to Jewish day school themselves, and keeping their boys in a religious school was the right choice.
“We wanted that traditional Orthodox education for our kids, but without the sacrifice of great secular education,” she said. “Our main goal is to be knowledgeable and appreciative Jewish Americans.”
MERCAZ ACADEMY’S RELIGIOUS PROGRAM
Kindergarten — Students begin reading Hebrew
First grade — Students learn prayers in Hebrew, from a prayer book
Second grade — Students begin to read the Hebrew Bible, along with commentaries
Fifth and sixth grades — Students begin to read the Talmud from the original sources
SOURCE: Mercaz Academy