RANDOLPH, NJ – Parents, students, teachers, benefactors, trustees and leaders gathered on Thursday, Sept. 4 at the newly renamed Gottesman RTW Academy in Randolph, formerly the Hebrew Academy of Morris County.
The name change recognizes a $15 million challenge gift from the Gottesman Family Supporting the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ (JCF), and honors the founding families: Michael and Midge Rubenstein, Charlotte and Alvin Turner and Betsy and Morty Wertheimer, (RTW).
Gottesman Academy, located on Dover Chester Road in Randolph, obtained 5 acres next to its 12-acre property to build the new structure. The two-story building is expected to be 43,000 square feet, nearly double the size of the current school. The old building will be demolished and replaced with a new parking lot and sporting fields. Currently, 175 students from pre-K through eighth-grade attend the school.
After an introduction of the important contributors to this project, Moshe Vaknin, the director of the school welcomed Randolph’s Mayor, Jim Loveys.
“Randolph is filled with Jewish tradition and heritage." Loveys said. "The Gottesman RTW academy preserves the opportunity for Randolph and the surrounding areas to obtain an exceptional Jewish education.”
Loveys thanked the academy for everything that they provide to the Randolph community, and wished everyone success with the new facility on behalf of the Randolph Township Council.
Steve Levy, treasurer of the Board of Trustees, began what seemed to be an already learned chant among students, “RTW, RTW, RTW,” as students chanted along.
Hundreds from the crowd then used markers to sign their names on a banner of the new school name, which will hang on a beam in the new art room of the soon to be $23 million building. It is projected that the building will be ready for the 2015-16 school year.
The $23 million includes a $15 million donation from one couple, Jerry and Paula Gottesman of Morris Township. “We are deeply honored that, because of their depth of commitment to this school, Paula and Jerry agreed to let the school bear their name,” Levy said earlier this month. “We will carry it well into the future.”
Everyone was given the opportunity to sign. Then it will be laminated and sealed for eternity, said Director of Marketing Naomi Bacharach.
“We wanted to do something to memorialize this beautiful day, something that everyone coming into the new building will be able to see.”
Some coming from New York and Westchester were the grandchildren and children of the founders. Andy Rubenstein came to honor and represent his grandfather Michael Rubenstein. Judith and Philip Turner, daughter and son of the Turners both graduated from the former Hebrew Academy.
Judith Turner said, “Life is so short and it’s so powerful that someone who is gone is still a member; it is an amazing emotional bond. We should be so lucky to have such strong friendships to create this together.”
The Hebrew Academy was founded in 1967 in the basement of Morristown Jewish Center and moved to Boonton and Succussunna before finding a permanent home on Dover Chester Road in 1980.
President of the Board of Trustees Gregg Russo wants The Academy to be embraced by the community. “It is a great opportunity for Jewish families and kids to obtain a great sense of themselves, and their culture and history.” said Russo, whose goal is “to transform the school from being a secret to a community resource.”