Jewish seminary moves into Kew Gardens Hills

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After 47 years in Forest Hills, the Rabbinical Seminary of America dedicated its new campus in Kew Gardens Hills Sunday as a host of elected officials, including Gov. George Pataki, showed up to congratulate school officials and show their support for the local Jewish community and for Israel.

Thanks to about 15 years of planning, the Orthodox Jewish seminary was able to open the doors on the $15 million facility, which will help educate the growing Jewish population in Kew Gardens Hills and the rest of Queens, several Jewish leaders said.

Seminary officials said the Forest Hills facility at 92-15 69th Ave. was not large enough to hold the growing enrollment at the school.

The seminary currently has about 300 students and provides the Jewish community with rabbis, principals, teachers, chaplains, and youth workers from its graduates. It also has helped establish other Jewish educational institutions, synagogues, and outreach programs.

“You see this tremendous building, but as you well know from the story of the temple, buildings can come down ... but the values that are taught in them are so important to pass on for those that believe in humanity and freedom,” said Pataki.

Several members of the Jewish community who helped coordinate the construction of the seminary echoed Pataki’s sentiments and said the school would have a lasting impact on the local community.

The seminary “has a very unique clear defined goal — to train and teach Torah leadership that will serve throughout the country and Israel,” said Dr. Allan Jacob, chairman of the school.

Dr. Ira Rukin, who helped plan the construction, said the education at the school would inspire many people in the community and called the building a miracle.

Rukin said the funding for the building came partly from a man in Detroit who was though to be very poor before he died. After his death, millions of dollars in bonds were discovered in the man’s car and since he knew of the seminary’s work he left about $20 million to the school in his will, Rukin said.

After the ceremony hundreds of rabbis carried the seminary’s holy scriptures, which were housed in the Forest Hills building, into the new building.

Pataki and all the politicians on hand took the opportunity to declare their solidarity for the state of Israel and to denounce the work of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and terrorist groups.

“Whoever takes up arms against us gets it back twice, three times, and fourfold,” said U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills). “We dedicate buildings like this one to invest in our children.”

Council members David Weprin (D-Hollis), Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills) and James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) spoke of their recent trip to Israel, calling the nation a victim of hatred.

Also on hand were former Borough President Claire Shulman, state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) and state assembly members Nettie Mayersohn (D-Flushing), Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing), and Michael Cohen (D-Forest Hills).

Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 155.

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