In the midst of expanding its campus, Talmudical Academy will celebrate a monumental anniversary, marking its centennial as a hub for Torah learning in mid-September.
“We’re the community school of Baltimore, not just another school in Baltimore,” said Alex Wertenteil, who has served as chairman of the yeshiva’s board for three years. “And we’ll continue to be that community school for the next 100 years and beyond.”
To honor its historical milestone, the Pikesville-based learning institution will host a banquet at Martin’s West from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 10. Approximately 1,000 attendees, ranging from alumni to faculty, are expected to make an appearance at 6817 Dogwood Road.
Although the staff has long anticipated this day, it goes without saying that there are numerous Baltimoreans — some of whom attended the educational facility 50 years ago — that employees are unaware of due to a database that only goes back so far, said Rabbi Yaacov Cohen, executive director of Talmudical Academy.
“We want to get to know them again,” Cohen said. “Whether they’re new or old faces, they’re still part of the school’s community.”
Talmudical Academy, founded by Rabbi Avraham Nachman Schwartz of Lloyd Street Synagogue, has made leaps and bounds since it first opened in 1917. From a humble beginning, when the school’s six enrollees learned in a second-floor city apartment, to an established campus with more than 1,000 students on Old Court Road.
The 100,000-square-foot center, recognized as the nation’s third-oldest Jewish day school and the first outside of New York City, went through a series of name changes before it was deemed Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim — Talmudical Academy of Baltimore. After bouncing around to various locations, including a residential building on Aisquith Street and a 12-acre site on Cottage Avenue, the school began operating at its current facility with just 450 students in 1968.
Over the years, the influx of students presented an issue: The nearly 100-year-old school had outgrown its educational space. In addition to attending classes in campus buildings, young Baltimoreans have been learning in a dozen or so trailers.
“Trailers have to go,” said Rabbi Yaakov Lefkovitz, director of development for Talmudical Academy. “We need to build for the future.”
With that overarching goal in mind, the wheels were put in motion for an expansion project roughly five years ago, thus beginning a $22 million endeavor set to be complete by fall 2018. The campus will have an additional 75,000 square feet of learning space, featuring a new early childhood center and high school building, complete with classrooms, libraries, study halls, playgrounds and more.
In the meantime, students eagerly await the day when the gravel-ridden streets, beeping of construction trucks and citrus orange cones scattered across campus are no more. The up-and-coming instituion will become a green space complemented by vibrant flowers, sturdy trees and grassy patches — a stark contrast to the school’s current state.
The September banquet will honor lifelong supporters of the yeshiva, including donors, alumni and those who have invested their time without anything in return. In addition to a slew of other Jewish professionals, former AIPAC president Howard Friedman as well as new building donors Emanuel Friedman and Norton Foxman will be recognized at the celebration.
“We want to continue to enable every single student to reach their potential,” said Rabbi Yehuda Lefkovitz, who has served as president of Talmudical Academy for 30 years. “And we hope that our students — regardless of the field they enter — will maintain a lifestyle infused with Torah and continue to serve the Jewish community with respect and dignity.”
For alumni looking to reconnect with Talmudical Academy, email TA@talmudicalacademy.org.