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January 21, 2012 - Community Day School Winter Gala

What: Reception, Dinner and Dancing

Where: Omni William Penn Hotel

When: January 21, 2012

Time: 7:00 PM Reception, 8:00 PM Dinner

Presenting Sponsor(s): UNDERWRITING SPONSORS: Allegheny General Hospital, Dr. & Mrs. Yram Groff, Pool City, Colin & Jackie Rosenberg, Edgar & Sandy Snyder, JCC Pittsburgh

Gala Chairperson(s): Stefani Pashman & Jeremy Feinstein

Executive Director: Head of School: Avi Baran Munro

Sponsors: GOLD SPONSORS: Giant Eagle Foundation, Jewish Healthcare Foundation, Reed Smith SILVER SPONSORS: David & Barbara Burstin, The Perlow Family, Barbara & Danny Shapira, Howard & Nicole Valinsky, Drs. Lois & Gary Weinstein and Family, UPMC Health Plan BRONZE SPONSORS: Rabbi Aaron & Dr. Michelle Bisno, Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC, Andrew Stewart & Carole Bailey BAR SPONSOR: First Niagara Bank DRAWING SPONSOR: Casa d'Oro, Apex Diamonds/Levy Family PROGRAM SPONSOR: Markovitz Dugan & Associates, Derek Smith INVITATION SPONSOR: Lou & Lori Plung and Josh & Debbie Resnick FAVOR SPONSOR: COCKTAIL PARTY ENTERTAINMENT SPONSOR: Cohen & Grigsby, P.C.

Planning Committee: CHAIRS: Stefani Pashman & Jeremy Feinstein CO-CHAIRS: Julie & Json Lichtenstein, Pat & Alan Siger, Nancy Wilson CHAIRS EMERITI: Carole Bailey & Andrew Stewart, Alisa Fall, Stuart Kaplan, Kristen Keller, Avrah Mendelsohn, Lisa Rudick, Sheila Soloman AD BOOK CHAIR: Janice Bahary

Steering Committee: CHAIRS: Stefani Pashman & Jeremy Feinstein CO-CHAIRS: Julie & Json Lichtenstein, Pat & Alan Siger, Nancy Wilson CHAIRS EMERITI: Carole Bailey & Andrew Stewart

Blacktie Photos by: Jill M. Kummer

 Community Day School Winter Gala with Co-Chairs Stefanie Pashman and Jeremy Feinstein
Community Day School Winter Gala with Co-Chairs Stefanie Pashman and Jeremy Feinstein

The Roaring 20's arrived in Pittsburgh in a big way on Saturday as the Community Day School held it's Annual Winter Gala. This elegant evening was held in the Grand Ballroom of the Omni William Penn and featured cocktails, dinner, and dancing to the music of Gary Racan and the studio-e Band.

This year, Community Day School was particularly delighted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) under the leadership of Karen Wolk Feinstein.  The Community Day School Leadership Award honors the roaring impact the JHF has been making in our community for two decades. Whether it has been in the fields of, healthcare, patient safety, education, special needs, or aging, the JHF has made a difference in the lives of all who have benefited from their generosity.   Community Day School has been a proud recipient of their generosity for many years.

In addition, we honored Stuart Kaplan with the Volunteer of the Year Award.  As a parent, board member, and volunteer Stuart has made CDS his number one priority, committing countless hours to help provide quality Jewish education for our community.

On August 30, 2004, another chapter began for a school with a remarkable history on an equally remarkable and historic site. Community Day School welcomed more than 330 students as an independent school. The journey to this day began in 1972 when Community Day School was first organized by a group of parents as a non-denominational Jewish day school, located in the old Hebrew Institute building situated at the corner of Forbes and Denniston Avenues in Squirrel Hill. Beginning with only grades K through 3, under the leadership of principal Jackie Tucker, one grade was added each year through the 8th grade.

Natalie Berman served as principal from 1986 until 1998. In 1988 the school, with an enrollment of 77 students, merged with South Hills Solomon Schechter School, which had 30 students. In 1991, this new school became part of the Jewish Education Institute, a citywide umbrella agency for Jewish education. This time period also saw tremendous growth in enrollment capping at over 390 students. More space was needed as the school grew, and many different sites in Squirrel Hill were considered.

With the intent of building a nursing home, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh purchased the property located at the corner of Beechwood and Forward Avenues which had housed St. Philomena's Church and School since 1922. Here is when the remarkable parallels began for these two educational institutions.

St. Philomena's was founded as the first German Catholic congregation in the greater Pittsburgh region during the early waves of European immigration to the United States. First located temporarily in a building in the Strip District, the parish decided to purchase the property at the corner of Forbes and Beechwood which had been a coal mine and later a farm. John T. Comes, an accomplished Gothic Revival architect in Pittsburgh, was commissioned to design the new church and parish buildings. The school was completed during the summer of 1922, and the rectory was finished in 1923. On September 5, 1923, 73 students taught by four Notre Dame nuns began their education at the school. Within 16 years the student body grew to 369.

Over the years two additional stories were added to the building, a new wing was designed, and a playground, constructed by the parish Men's Club, completed the structure. The school and parish flourished with the guidance of the Redemptory Fathers and Notre Dame Sisters. As many as six masses were held every Sunday. In October 1989 the parish's 150th Jubilee Mass was said at St. Philomena's.

However, the neighborhood demographics had begun to change with fewer families affiliating as members of the parish, and enrollment in the school dropped. The school had to close at the end of the 1990 school year, and the church was deconsecrated on June 30, 1993.

Neighbors of the former St. Philomena's voiced objections to the use of the site as a nursing home, urging that it remain as an educational facility. With the help of City Councilman Bob O'Connor and Mayor Tom Murphy, permission was granted to the Jewish community to renovate the old Catholic school into the new home of the Jewish Education Institute. The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh deeded the property to the JEI and also contributed approximately $3,000,000 from the Renaissance campaign fund to renovate and bring the building up to code. For the better part of a year, interrupted only by the filming of the remake of the movie “Diabolique” starring Sharon Stone, the architectural firm of MacLachlan, Cornelius & Filoni worked on the property. Natalie Berman oversaw the transformation. New classrooms were created, the gymnasium was rebuilt, a kosher kitchen was constructed, windows were replaced, and all new mechanical and electrical systems were installed. A media center made up of a library and two computer labs was added. The former sanctuary, where masses were once held, now houses the Holy Ark where the school's Torah scrolls are stored and where most religious services are conducted. The Middle School acquired its own space on the third floor giving the older students a degree of autonomy and independence. On August 30, 1996, history happily repeated itself as once again a group of parents built two playgrounds funded by the school's Parent Teacher Organization. With the opening of its doors on September 3, 1996, once again a group of children were lovingly educated at a school deeply rooted in a religious tradition and strongly committed to a neighborhood in Pittsburgh.

In 1998, Frank Smizik brought his extensive experience as a public school teacher and principal to Community Day School. He added an interscholastic sports program and other after school extra-curricular programs while continuing to improve the academic curriculum of the school. In 2002 JEI board member Dr. Lois Weinstein chaired the CDS Advisory Committee, which began to explore a return to independent school status. The community made a decision to separate the services division of JEI and the School of Advanced Jewish Studies (SAJS) from Community Day School, allowing Community Day School to have a small, focused board and independence. The subcommittees that she assembled began to revise the school's mission and vision statements, planned new admission and marketing materials, created an alumni association, and formulated a new development and marketing campaign. With the assistance of Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and an outside consultant, Community Day School became independent on June 23, 2004.

At the end of the 2004 school year, Frank Smizik retired, and Avi Baran Munro became the Head of School. She has a long history with Community Day School, having served as Education Coordinator and Lower School Head for six years, and as Teacher Development Coordinator at the JEI for several years as well.  All four of her children have graduated from Community Day School. 

Community Day School currently enrolls students in Grades K through 8, who come from a variety of cultural, economic and religious backgrounds. The school is the only Conservative Jewish day school in the city and appeals to a diverse and pluralistic Jewish population.  Numerous students are new Americans coming from Israel, the former Soviet Union, and other countries.

For more information about the Community Day School, please log onto their website at:


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