$3m. Challenge Gift from Anonymous Donor
Helps DC’s Jewish Day School Plan Expansion of Grades PreK-6

With expectations of a nearly 30% increase in enrollment in coming years and a $3 million challenge gift from an anonymous donor, Washington, DC’s sole Jewish day school has acquired a second building on 16th Street NW, just minutes from its current location near Military Road.

The Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital (JPDS-NC), the only Jewish day school in Washington, has purchased the school building at 4715 16th Street NW, just one mile south of its current campus (at 6045 16th Street). The two locations will allow JPDS-NC to pursue a phased growth of up to 350 students from its current student body of 273.

In May 2011, following a comprehensive strategic planning process, the JPDS-NC Board of Trustees voted to keep up with current and anticipated demand by admitting three kindergarten classes per year. “Growth was the soundest way to fulfill all three of our goals,” said Janine Goodman, president of the JPDS-NC Board. “We wanted to provide more students with a superb general and Jewish education, ensure financial sustainability into the future, and continue to serve and grow as a pillar of the DC and Jewish communities.”

The three kindergarten classes will combine with pre-K and 1st grades to form an early childhood learning center on the new campus.

In a 2010 survey, current and prospective JPDS-NC parents said they preferred a second campus that was within a 10-minute drive from the current school. Led by Trustee and DC real estate broker Steven Himmelfarb, JPDS-NC found a suitable building only five minutes away. “It was a needle in a haystack,” Himmelfarb said. “There aren’t a lot of buildings zoned for schools for sale in our immediate area. But this one is a bulls-eye.”

The building even has Jewish roots. It was built in the 1920’s by Paul and Anetta Himmelfarb, Steve’s Russian immigrant great-grandparents. “The house was a meeting place for the Jewish community,” Steven Himmelfarb explained. “My great-grandfather and great-grandmother would smile to know this building will again be a focal point for Jewish life in the city.”

Assisting JPDS-NC with the $3.9 million purchase price is a lead challenge gift of $3 million from an anonymous donor. Of those funds, $1 million is an outright cash gift and an additional $2 million is available to match gifts from the larger community. “The anonymous donor wants to invest in our school and at the same time encourage broader support from parents, grandparents, alumni parents and community leaders committed to Jewish life in DC,” said Orit Frenkel, a former JPDS-NC President who helped bring in the challenge gift.