Rockwern Academy: Jewish day school growing enrollment after overcoming financial struggles

When Shary and Marc Levitt were considering whether to move from New York so he could take a job at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, they didn’t just look at houses during their recruiting visit.

They also looked at Rockwern Academy in Kenwood, formerly known as Yavneh Day School.

“We would not have come to Cincinnati if there was not a Jewish day school,” said Levitt, whose three children all attended Rockwern after the family moved here nine years ago. “For my husband and myself, it was incredibly important.”

The Levitts aren’t alone by a long shot. Every year teachers and administrators at Rockwern meet parents who are weighing a move to the region for a good job opportunity, whether it’s at Cincinnati Children’s, the Procter & Gamble Co. or one of the region’s other major employers.

For Jewish parents, the school can be the deciding factor.

Rockwern, which serves students from pre-school through eighth grade, is not the region’s only Jewish day school. The city also is home to Cincinnati Hebrew Day School, an Orthodox school. Rockwern is open to Jewish families from across the religious spectrum.

It’s critical to have both to maintain a vibrant, healthy Jewish community, said Brian Jaffee, executive director of The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati.

“We really believe we can’t have a first-class Jewish community without the pluralistic Jewish day school,” said Jaffee, whose daughter is a first-grader at Rockwern.

Dr. David Finell, Rockwern’s head of school, put it more starkly: “The Jewish community in Cincinnati would be dead in a generation without this school.”

Not long ago, it looked like the region would have to find out if he’s right.

Insiders can read about the financial struggles that Rockwern has overcome, the school's future prospects and why Jewish parents feel so strongly that Greater Cincinnati needs the school.

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