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Schools Debut With Fanfare

An Orthodox Jewish group unveils three state-of-the-art facilities for girls in West L.A.

March 29, 2004|Jean Merl | Times Staff Writer

Perched on one of the scores of white folding chairs set out along a closed-off stretch of West Pico Boulevard, 8-year-old Adeli Shabtay waited in the blazing noon sunshine Sunday, eager for a first look inside her new school.

"I want to see inside the new building, and I want to see my classroom," Adeli said. She is a second-grader who had come from the San Fernando Valley with her family to celebrate the opening of Schneerson Square, home to a group of girls' schools focusing on the spirituality of Jewish women.

The imposing four-story brick building was named after the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a leader in the prominent Lubavitch sect of Orthodox Judaism and in Chabad, a large network of education and social services. Chabad's 47,000-square-foot Bais Sonya Gutte Campus houses the Kraines Family Early Childhood Center, the Bais Chaya Mushka Elementary School and the Bais Rebbe Junior High.

Together, the three schools will enroll more than 1,000 girls, 80% of whom will attend on scholarships.

On Sunday, Israel's chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, helped dedicate the new West Los Angeles building, in the heart of Los Angeles' Jewish community. Mayor James K. Hahn and Councilman Jack Weiss joined other government representatives in the dedication with Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, director of West Coast Chabad-Lubavitch.

With a street fair offering children's rides, music featuring singer Avraham Fried and plenty of speeches, Sunday's opening ceremony had a decidedly festive, upbeat air. Metzger even joked about the Victory Furniture store across Pico Boulevard from the new campus.

"Look behind you," he urged the hundreds who had gathered in the street for the ceremonies. "You already have a victory here!"

The big attraction, however, was clearly the campus, a collection of airy, light-filled classrooms outfitted with modern furniture and the latest technology.

School designers toured campuses throughout the Los Angeles area for the best ideas, said spokesman Daniel Ferszt as he showed visitors around the schools. "Everything is state of the art," he said, leading the way past an impressive cluster of playground equipment and into the first floor, featuring preschool classrooms.

The second floor includes a library and a "special needs" classroom for children with physical or learning disabilities. The third floor belongs to the junior high set, with a modern cafeteria and a computer lab full of new Dell flat-screen monitors.

An indoor-outdoor gymnasium, with eye-popping views of the Hollywood Hills, occupies the entire fourth floor.

As he led the visitors to the elevator, Ferszt mentioned that his 4-year-old daughter was going to start kindergarten at the new school in the fall, and she and his wife were waiting downstairs for a look around.

"Once she sees this, she is not going to want to wait," he joked. "She will probably drive us crazy till she can start here."

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