" The turning point in my life was coming to RZJHS because that was when I became a leader. I was empowered by my teachers and I learned how to be a good student. I developed a good work ethic, I took initiative, and I got to shape a lot of things that are still in existence at RZJHS today. I definitely wouldn’t trade my unique experience for anything."
By: Steve Sadin
Honoring founding staff and two key donors, Chicagoland Jewish High School (CJHS) in Deerfield celebrated its 10th Anniversary Saturday by raising money to bolster its scholarship fund to offer a quality education to anyone wishing it.
Ken and Andy Saffir of Highland Park were initial benefactors when the school started with 25 students and have been instrumental guiding it to its success with an enrollment of 168 sending graduates off to top colleges.
Social worker Dr. Gary Auslander, Rabbi Ruven Barkan, Director of Building and Administrative Services Inez Drazin, Maintenance Engineer Alex Kosarev, Science Department Chair Ann Levinson, Modern Language Department Chair Claudia Linda, and Marla Snyder, a teacher, were all part of the institution when it opened its doors and are still there.
The seven staff members were honored along with the Saffirs as more than 750 people gathered to help build the school’s scholarship fund according to Marketing and Communications Manager Tara Seymour.
“You are the school’s past, present and future,” founding Head of School Roz Stein said to the Saffirs as they were honored. “You are responsible for having offered, to date, eight graduating classes the opportunity of a strong Jewish and secular education.”
Ken Saffir recognized the difficulties he and others had with their idea more than 10 years ago. Most people in the northern suburbs were happy with the public school education their children received making the task that much harder.
“No one could imagine where the money would come from to pay for the chemistry labs and other heavy infrastructure, both physical and personnel, needed by a high school,” Ken Saffir said. “There was a shortage of trained Jewish educators and they seemed impossible to hire.”
When it came time to honor the teachers and other staff members, Brad Schneider of Deerfield, whose son Adam graduated last year, explained how it was done with a role reversal. The teachers were honored in the same way they fete students at graduation.
“At graduation every senior has one teacher address them like the rabbi does at a bar mitzvah” Schneider said. “Tonight seven alumni are speaking to seven teachers. That is what makes this place special.”
Lynn Schrayer of Highland Park, one of the evening’s co chairs, explained the significance of devoting the evening and its fundraising effort to the scholarship fund.
“Despite the challenging economy, our student body is growing year after year after year,” Schrayer said. “Over 50 per cent of our families receive some form of financial assistance. From the first day CJHS opened its doors until today, we have never turned away a qualified Jewish student for financial reasons and we plan never to do so.”
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