By Lisa Woolfson
Ohr Chadash Academy, an Orthodox Jewish day school with students in preschool through eighth grade, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
“The 10th anniversary marks a wonderful milestone for OCA,” said Deborah Rapoport, who has served as the head of school since July of 2019 and who resides in the Falstaff neighborhood. “Anniversaries are ideal times to reflect on how far we have come as a school and to plan ahead for the future.”
She said they are planning a special project to commemorate the 10th anniversary.
“Over the next 10 years, we hope to continue to grow as a school community and continually improve our ability to provide the very best educational experience for our students,” Rapoport said.
OCA opened its doors in 2011 after the closure of Yeshivat Rambam, another Orthodox school that had been part of the Baltimore community for more than 20 years. That first year, there were under 100 students at Ohr Chadash Academy.
Today, there are just under 300. This year also marks the third graduating class.
Cheswolde resident Lanie Carter has been involved with the school since the beginning. Her oldest child started at OCA during its first year.
“Parents pitched in, and in the beginning, we were cleaning desks, setting up classrooms and just doing whatever needed to be done,” Carter recalled.
As Carter was already so involved in the school, she decided it was a natural step to become a board member, which she did six years ago. Now, she is the first vice president and will become the president in June.
“When you’re part of something brand new, there’s that level of uncertainty and there’s no data to look back on to say this is how it’s going to be and this is how it’s going to turn out,” she said.
The years passed by much more quickly than Carter expected. Her eldest, Dani, has since graduated from Ohr Chadash Academy. Her other children, Sammy and Dahlia, currently attend OCA and are in sixth and third grade, respectively. Carter said her children are all very different, but the school has been able to help each of them succeed.
“It’s amazing to me that it’s only been 10 years in one respect because we feel like it’s been around and part of us and part of the community forever,” she said.
Rabbi Mordechai Bennett, who also resides in Cheswolde, joined the school in the 2014-2015 school year as a fourth- and fifth-grade rebbe and is now the middle school principal.
“OCA is a really warm and welcoming place,” he said. “I love coming to work in the morning and interacting with my colleagues.”
He says the welcoming environment at Ohr Chadash Academy extends beyond the adults working there to the children attending the school.
“I have a daughter in the 3-year-old class and over the weekends when there isn’t school she wakes up and asks, ‘Is there school today?’… She wants to be with the morahs, she wants to be with her friends,” Bennett said. “It’s a happy place where real learning takes place and real growth takes place.”
Bennett says the 10th anniversary is “a momentous occasion.”
He has loved seeing the school grow from a start-up to what it is today.
“You know, I’m very excited for the next 10 years,” he said.
Lisa Woolfson is a freelance writer.