It takes a village, they say, to raise a child. What then would it take to build a school in which to raise several hundred, nurturing their physical needs, their Jewish souls and their innate curiosity in the world around them?
In the case of the Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch School in Milan, Italy, says co-director Rabbi Avraham Hazan, it could take a cross-spectrum of an entire city. Hazan speaks from experience: Last week, he, along with the rest of the team at the Merkos school, local and visiting dignitaries and several hundred members of the Jewish community, celebrated the opening of the school’s spacious and beautiful new facility. A major improvement in terms of space and location, the building was still far from perfect when it was granted to the Merkos school by the municipality last June. At that point, says Chazan, a virtual cross-section of the city stepped in, bringing the school up-to-date with a state of the art renovation completed just in time for the beginning of the school year.
The school’s elaborate dedication ceremony held last Thursday was sponsored by Alcatel, a leading telephone company in Italy, who also sponsored thousands of dollars worth of phones and service for the new facility. Brand new computers for the offices and computer labs were donated by Digital Bros., and dozens of local families sponsored the renovation of individual classrooms. The elementary school was sponsored primarily by an anonymous donor, and topping all other gifts was a large donation by Rabbi Hillel Dovid Krinsky of New York and his wife, Sarah, a native of Milan and one of the founding students of the Merkos school. Thus, says Hazan, the school’s move to its new home marks the effort of hundreds of people, all dedicated to the support of one of Milan’s oldest Jewish institutions.
Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch School was founded in 1960 by Chabad’s emissaries to Italy Rabbi and Mrs. Gershon Mendel and Bassie Garelik. The school started with one small class and grew steadily, quickly becoming a trailblazer of Jewish education in Milan.
Under the guidance of the Gareliks, later joined by Rabbi Moshe Lazar and eventually succeeded by Rabbi Hazan, his wife, Rivka Leah and Rabbi Yigal Chazan, the school gained widespread recognition for offering a well-rounded education in Jewish and secular subjects. Today, with the addition of recently appointed principal Rabbi Mendel Kaplan to the Merkos team, enrollment has reached close to 250 students from a toddler class to junior high. The new building, with bright modern classrooms, fully equipped science and computer labs, crafts workshops, gyms and beautiful gardens situated right in the heart of the Jewish community, will enhance the experience for all of them, says Hazan.
Last Thursday’s ceremony was attended by hundreds of locals, and honored with the presence of Milan’s mayor, Mr. Gabriele Albertini, city officials and Israel’s two chief Rabbis, Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yonah Metzger, who flew in for the event. In their addresses to the crowd, the Rabbis and dignitaries stressed the contributions of the Merkos school to the Jewish community and Italy’s Jewish future. Hazan, his co-director Rabbi Yigal Chazan and founding Chabad Rabbi Garelik thanked the community for their support led a tour of the facility and the installation of mezuzahs and plaques on the classroom doors. A lavish dinner for supporters at a nearby hall followed.