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Synagogue Decides Not to Move on School
Congregation Rodeph Shalom has no immediate plans to build a new Jewish day school in the city following the completion of a feasibility study.
The study found significant interest in a progressive Jewish day school, particularly within the city limits, but Rodeph Shalom leaders determined that the school did not have the backing needed in terms of stakeholders and fundraising.
“I think the findings could have sent us in either direction, and it was really a positive thing, but we are not moving ahead right now,” said Jill Maderer, an associate rabbi at Rodeph Shalom who led focus groups within the congregation as part of the study.
The Philadelphia area has not had a school affiliated with the Reform movement since the Rimon Jewish Day School in Bucks County closed in the summer of 2001.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia provided a $10,000 matching grant to Rodeph Shalom to fund the study conducted by MarketingWorks, a market research firm specializing in education. Participants in the study included Rodeph Shalom congregants and Jewish residents living within the city limits who were either members of other congregations or unaffiliated.
Rodeph Shalom leaders and the research professionals also gathered information from schools affiliated with the Reform movement outside of Philadelphia. The study was conducted over the spring and summer.
Rodeph Shalom is in growth mode. It is in the midst of fundraising for an $18 million renovation and expansion of its building on North Broad Street, which dates back to 1957.
Maderer said the synagogue consulted with an architect about whether a new wing — featuring a multipurpose room, administrative offices and a child care center — could be used for a day school should the congregation decide to move on the idea at a later date.
“We felt like we needed to do one thing at a time, do it well and table” the school for the time being, Maderer said. The congregation has reached about 80 percent of its fundraising goal, and construction is expected to begin this fall.