More than 60 years ago, a visionary group of parents conceived a bold undertaking. They desired to establish a yeshiva for the entire Jewish Community of Staten Island where boys and girls would receive the highest quality Jewish education combined with excellence in general studies. The result of this noble effort was the Jewish Foundation School of Staten Island.
It began March 1, 1954, when the school came into existence in a trial term at the Jewish Community Center. There were 19 children in a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, led by two teachers and an assistant.
As much as the founders had prayed for its success, they weren't yet convinced that the idea of a quality private day school would take hold on the Island, but when a full term opened that September, enrollment had risen, a third teacher had been added, and there was now an English department and a first grade as well as the others.
By the beginning of 1956, the school went through second grade. Professional educators who visited praised both the Hebrew and English departments and noted that children of 6 were able to read the Bible in perfect Hebrew and translate -- with understanding -- into fine English.
It was clear that a Jewish day school on Staten Island was a viable concept. And, with the indicated growth of enrollment, it was time for the school to find permanent quarters of its own. Eventually, in the foreseeable future, the founders hoped there would be a brand new building to house the school.
Meanwhile, the school would move to its own temporary quarters at 300 Vanderbilt Avenue, Clifton.
At the dedication ceremonies held there, April 8, 1956, the late Max Levy, the school's first president, and in a very real sense, a pioneer in Jewish education, noted that the efforts of the JFS were consistent with a tradition that went back to the days of Ezra -- some 450 years before the common era--when Jewish schools were established throughout Judea and Babylonia.
Mr. Levy paid the $1.00 a year rent, after which the late Samuel I. Gross, a prime architect of the idea of a day school here, expressed regrets at not having had that privilege. Then he and his late wife made the first pledge toward a new building. The deed for the parcel where the school would be built was donated by the late Abe Solor, a director, who received a bronze plaque in appreciation.
It was in June, 1957, that ground was broken for the first Jewish Foundation School building. By May, 1959, the beautiful edifice was completed. The School, which had begun five years earlier in rented rooms and carried its educational materials in a bus on wheels, dedicated its new building valued at a quarter of a million dollars. The School, located at 20 Park Hill Circle, was named in honor of Samuel I. Gross, with the official name being Yeshiva Tiferes Shmuel Ezra.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history...the growth and development of the School...its widespread recognition as a producer of what one N.Y.U. professor referred to as "harmoniously educated members of their country and their faith."
Many of the founding fathers have passed on to their eternal reward. Their names-- Irving Cohen, Jack Cooperstein, Michael Grae, Samuel I. and Regina Gross, Benjamin Grossman, Sam Grunin, Max Levy, Abraham Moskowitz, Meyer Pave, Julius Rubenstein and Abraham Solor -- compose an honor roll of dedication. Their absence is sorely felt, but their spirit endures.
In 1991, the school moved from Park Hill Circle to our present site of 7 acres, at 400 Caswell Avenue. The school consists of 25 classrooms, a lunch room, resource rooms, library, computer labs, an infirmary, outdooor fields, basketball courts and playground equipment. The adjacent building was successfully completed in 2004 and currently houses our spacious and beautiful gym, Beit Knesset, state of the art Science Lab, Financial Office, and 12 additional classrooms.
Our superb facilities are only an outward reflection of the wonderful and proficient teachers who continue our magnificent legacy of accomplishments and achievements. Walking down the halls, you can still see many familiar faces; Mrs. McDermott is teaching the children of her former students as are Mrs. Cohen, Morah Galila, Mrs. Feit, Morah Auerbach, Morah Freitag and many others who have been on staff these past 20 – 25 years.
The Jewish Foundation School’s acclaimed Early Learning Center (Toddlers, Nursery, Kindergarten and Primer, ages 2-5) and the The Jewish Foundation School’s Primary (Grades 1-3) and Middle School (Grades (4-8) are located in our state of the art campus at 400 Caswell Avenue (Caswell and Cambridge Avenues) in the heart of Staten Island. The Jewish Foundation School’s more than 400 students, representing more than 250 families reflecting the entire Jewish population of Staten Island, Brooklyn, and New Jersey are served by a faculty and staff of more than 80 professionals.