Making the Dream a Reality . . .
In September of 1979, Donna Klein Jewish Academy, then known as South County Jewish Community Day School, opened its doors with 50 students grades 1 through 6. The school was founded by a group of visionary parents led by Shirley Enselberg, who, at a parlor meeting, first discussed the need for Jewish education in South Palm Beach County. As the first president of the school, Mrs. Enselberg was instrumental in helping secure the necessary seed money through the benevolence of the Palm Beach County Jewish Federation. With humble beginnings as a satellite campus of the Jewish Community Day School of Palm Beach and strong community ties, the dream of our school became a reality as it began to thrive at a temporary location at Temple Beth El.
The very next school year was marked by the transition of our campus to a new, enlarged building at 414 NW 35th St. At this east Boca location, an adventure in education truly began as South County Jewish Community Day School began to take shape. By September of 1982, enrollment grew to 65 students, and Principal of the School, Burt Lowlicht, emphasized the importance of “educating the total child” and the need to address “three spheres in education: the cognitive skills, the social-emotional skills, and the Judaic sphere.” This cutting-edge approach to education has been fundamental to our school’s mission and values since the inception of our institution.
The following year was commemorated by the expansion of the Day school to include a middle school division and a very special “likboa mezuzah” (the placing of the mezuzah) ceremony. Principal Burt Lowlicht reiterated one of the major themes of the day: “To bring a Judaic forum into the community and the lives of the children demonstrates the spiritual meaning of their education. The fact that Reform, Orthodox, and Conservative rabbis participated in a community Day School religious function, teaches through example what can be accomplished when all denominations of Judaism come together to support Jewish education.”
By the late 1980s, the South County Jewish Community Day School began to solidify its reputation as a pioneering institution for Jewish education in South Florida. Under the leadership of David Gamliel as Head of School, the Day school crafted its signature Hebrew and Judaic programming and grew to enroll close to 200 students.
In 1987, the school was renamed Donna Klein Jewish Academy, by Sam Klein in honor of his late wife, Donna, who loved the children of our school and was often seen reading stories to them. Mr. Klein’s generous gift of $1 million dollars boosted the Federation’s capital drive to $6.5 million, almost enough to begin construction of the Richard and Carole Siemens Campus, which would become a new home for our growing school.
Seventy-three-year-old Klein said he hoped the gift would help make the school and campus a reality: “You know, the greatest moment of my life will come when the doors of the school open . . . It’s not important if the children or anyone knows who made the school possible. What is important is that the school will be there, so future generations of children can be made aware of their Jewish heritage.”
Coming of Age . . .
Once it was firmly rooted in the heart of the Richard and Carole Siemens Jewish Campus of South Palm Beach County, Donna Klein Jewish Academy (DKJA) truly began to flourish. By August of 1994, under the leadership of Dr. Leon Weissberg as Head of School, the academy grew to enroll over 500 students and solidified as a K–8 institution. The generosity of Jacob and Anita Penzer allowed for the Upper School to thrive, and the magnanimity of Solomon and Rose Turetsky allowed for the addition of a Kindergarten. That same year, under the tenure of Dr. Weissberg, the new campus was enhanced by a build-out in the form of an Arts Center, housing a Learning Resource Center Suite, a state-of-the-art Computer Suite, an Art Suite, and a Drama Studio. On the eve of its 10th Annual Scholarship Ball, DKJA celebrated with pride a student body that had increased ten-fold and honored both Shirley Enselberg and Marianne Bobick, first president of DKJA and first president of the Federation respectively, for their “vision and foresight” that forged “the consciousness of Jewish education in the South Palm Beach County Jewish community.”
By 1996, DKJA was well-known for its “extraordinary reputation” and “phenomenal growth” as it approached almost two decades of institutional excellence. That year, Dr. Weissberg welcomed in new Head of School, Dr. Daniel Kahn, who endeavored to build a comprehensive interdisciplinary program, with a challenging and intellectually rigorous curriculum, blending Judaic and Hebrew studies with secular studies.
Another milestone was reached in 1998, when DKJA expanded to include the high school division, which began at a temporary location on 95th Avenue South. In just three years, with the addition of a high school, enrollment swelled close to 700 students with a faculty and staff of over 100. The 2001-2002 school year was celebrated with immense pride and spirit as DKJA graduated their first high school class of seniors and was awarded a $10,000 Bookshelf Grant from the AVI CHAI Foundation as part of the Jewish Day Schools for the 21st Century Project. Head of School Karen Feller noted, “We feel a rush of pride in our growing school. As we set sail in a new direction with our high school students moving into their new home, we see another vision come to life. Our visions come to life because of all of us who share a common goal and believe that our hopes for a brighter and better future lie in the children, our future American and Jewish leaders.”
Building a Legacy…
As DKJA continued to thrive as a true K–12 institution, our school was sent a “guardian angel” in the form of Ms. Linda Rosenblatt Kaminow, President of the Claire and Emanuel G. Rosenblatt Foundation. Her exceedingly generous charitable efforts allowed for several major developments of our school. In early 2005, Ms. Kaminow arranged for a gift that funded the Claire and Emanuel G. Rosenblatt Technology Program K–12. The following year this investment in technology resulted in DKJA’s nomination as Florida’s first SMART Board Showcase School, featuring interactive white boards in every room. Ms. Kaminow further donated and arranged for the Claire and Emanuel G. Rosenblatt Scholarship Fund. In Fall of 2009, DKJA announced plans for the relocation of the high school to the former Adolph and Rose Levis Jewish Community Center Administration Building. This milestone was reached thanks to Ms. Kaminow, who arranged for the largest gift in DKJA’s recent history that enabled expansion of the high school to the main campus in a fully renovated and reconfigured academic building able to accommodate 175 students.
In the spring of 2011, DKJA proudly renamed its high school the Claire and Emanuel G. Rosenblatt High School, to honor our benefactor’s beloved parents, (Claire and Emanuel G. Rosenblatt, Of Blessed Memory), who were committed to Jewish education and continuity. Ms. Kaminow, often referred to as “the biggest heart in the world,” is a special member of our DKJA family, and her gifts will help ensure that our students will be prepared for their role as Jewish leaders in the 21st century.
The spring of 2015 ushered in a new era at DKJA, as esteemed Head of School Mrs. Karen Feller retired and welcomed our current Head of School, Mrs. Helena Levine to her new role. With new leadership and fresh vision, the Academy prospered with years marked by continued growth. In May of 2015, DKJA was recognized by the Franklin Covey organization as the only K–12 Jewish day school in the world to become a Leader In Me Lighthouse School. Moreover, DKJA and the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County expanded their partnership to enhance collaboration and reinvigorate a cherished relationship that has existed since the inception of our institution. Through the generosity of several community contributors and JFS, our most recent 2015–2016 build-out was made possible. In 2015, we inaugurated a new playground on campus and a state-of-the art ceramics studio. The following year was marked by the unveiling of a beautiful new Prayer Space Pavilion, as well as the grand opening of our state-of-the-art Makerspace, including a television studio where our students broadcast the daily morning announcements.
In recent years, DKJA has continued to build strength in the heart of the local community. Under Mrs. Levine’s leadership DKJA has developed relationships with many outside agencies such as Florida Atlantic University and West Boca Medical Center. These collaborative partnerships have supported the Engineering, Medical, and Legal Studies programs at the Claire and Emanuel G. Rosenblatt High School and continue to enhance the growth of our school’s programing. Today, DKJA flourishes as one of the premier K–12 Jewish day schools in the country. We welcome you to step onto our campus and feel the energy of a diverse, inclusive community joined in the love of knowledge and the joy of learning. We invite you to learn from our inspirational instructors and to discover an education of extraordinary power and purpose that will cultivate the next generation of Jewish leaders.