Students at a newly built school aimed at preparing young men to become rabbis begin moving into their new dormitory this week.
Classes are scheduled to begin Tuesday at the new four-acre campus of the Lubavitch Yeshivah-International School for Chabad Leadership at West 10 Mile near Greenfield.
The new 45,000-square-foot facility, which cost more than $5 million to build, will house the 180 males, ages 13-19, expected to enroll this year. During the 14-hour school days, they'll study traditional academics as well as the Torah, the Jewish Bible.
The school is relocating from its campus on Nine Mile Road near Coolidge to a bigger, high-tech facility that has more modern amenities.
Pupils study at the school for six years. Tuition is about $12,000 annually. A typical day starts with studying Hasidic philosophy in preparation for religious services. Students then go to prayer before breakfast.
Academic studies take up most of the day, which also include lunch periods and recreational sessions. . Group gatherings also are held for students and staff in the evenings.
The Oak Park school, named in honor of Harry and Wanda Zekelman, the late parents of the school's main benefactors, Alan and Lori Zekelman, is among 10 such schools in the world and draws students from around the globe.
"This is a special kind of school," said Alan Zekelman, a Bloomfield Hills philanthropist, as he toured the new facility last week. "Students come here and get this wonderful education."
Zekelman said most of the students who attend the 47-year-old institution are at least bilingual and that Yiddish and Hebrew are their primary languages.
Students stay on campus, which includes a two-story dormitory, a huge study hall and a library.
The new school also will feature a cafeteria and dual Kosher-certified kitchens, one for meats and one for dairy, in keeping with Jewish dietary guidelines.
A Torah scroll to commemorate the new facility's opening is being completed in Israel and is expected to be presented in the next couple of months when a dedication ceremony is planned for the school's opening.
The school adheres to a form of Judaism known as Chasidic. It is a spiritual movement in Judaism that has roots in Russia.
Rabbi Yossi Deren, who heads a Lubavitch congregation in Greenwich, Conn., has two sons, 15-year-old Menachem and 14-year-old Levi, who attend the school.
"Of all the schools, this one stands out in regards that it takes the expectations (of the leader of the Lubavitch movement) very seriously," Deren said. "The school was founded upon a very meaningful standard and that is that it we can have the highest expectations for ourselves and our children and actually achieve those expectations."
Rabbi Mendel Stein, development director of the school, said its placement rate is high. Graduates become rabbis and Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries who are placed in outreach missions throughout the world.
There are an estimated 78,000 Jews in Metro Detroit, according to the 2005 Detroit Jewish Population Study cited by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.
Rabbi Lazer Lazaroff, head of a Lubavitch congregation in Houston, has a 15-year-old son, Naftali, who attends the school. Another son graduated two years ago.
"We feel it's important to have the kind of training the Yeshivah in Detroit gives to the kids," Lazaroff said. "They do a fine job of inspiring the kids in the way of life and values we have."
Naftali, who said he likes the school and meeting other boys from around the world, is happy he will be settling into a newer facility.
"I think it's going to be a nice thing," said Naftali. "It's going to help the freshmen out. Kids will be able to concentrate more on learning."