The History of Bais Yaakov

Torah education in America was in its infancy. New York City had begun to witness the growth of a network of Jewish day schools, few of which were dedicated to education for girls.

Outside of New York, Baltimore’s Talmudical Academy was the only Jewish day school in the country. The first Rabbinical College to strike roots beyond New York, the Ner Israel Yeshiva, was founded and marked a healthy growth in Baltimore.

Despite Baltimore’s record as a leader in Jewish education, meaningful training for girls appeared remote and far off on the horizon. At this point, a group of farsighted individuals decided to embark on a new pioneering exploit, one that would complete the educational structure of the Baltimore Jewish community and would eventually help make Baltimore an example of excellence for the entire nation.

These idealists were Rabbis Shimon Schwab and Joseph Feldman and Mr. Ignatz Davidavitz. They enlisted the aid of Rabbi A. E. Hertzberg, Mr. Ichel Folick, Mr. Joseph Fax, and Mr. Moshe Floam, whose names appear on the charter establishing the Bais Yaakov School for Girls.

The vision which had begun to take concrete form in 1941 was now a reality. Rosalie Taragin and Bettie Rose Cohn were the entire student body on the first day of school. The faculty consisted of Mrs. Kurt Hess. The class met in the Anshe Emes Synagogue at 2241 Linden Avenue.

The quiet beginnings of 1941 and 1942 were already awakening widespread interest. Due to increased enrollment, larger quarters were found at the Congregation Zichron Abraham Nachman at 2107 Brookfield Avenue. The distinguished Baltimore communal leader, Nathan Adler, of blessed memory, became Bais Yaakov’s first President and the school acquired a general studies faculty in the person of Mrs. R. Starr.

Mrs. Ignatz Davidavitz founded and assumed the presidency of the Ladies Auxiliary. Mrs. Louis I. Miller initiated the Parent-Teacher Association and became its first President.

Growth continued unabated, necessitating the move of Bais Yaakov to the Shearith Israel Synagogue at Park Heights and Glen Avenues. Rabbi Joshua Levy joined Bais Yaakov as Dean and Executive Director. Rev. Solomon Igla joined the staff as a teacher and director of student activities.

Four years after its founding, Bais Yaakov already lacked facilities to meet its rapid growth, and under the leadership of its President and with the vital assistance of Mr. A. m. Shrago, Mr. Simon Miller, Mr. Samuel E. Kramer and Mr. Samuel Steinbach, the property at 4637 Park Heights Avenue was purchased and the four year old Bais Yaakov was now in its own home.

Nathan Adler became Chairman of the board of Directors and a new President, Henry P. Cohn, assumed the duties of administration of the school. Rabbi Herbert Davis and Mrs. Carolyn Rosenberg joined the Bais Yaakov staff. This year witnessed the inauguration of the Bais Yaakov Day Camp.

Seven years after its founding and only three years after moving into its own facilities, Bais Yaakov was hard pressed for more growing room. The initiative was taken by Mr. M. Leo Storch who rallied the support of the Board members. A 38 acre site was purchased at 4901 Greenspring Avenue.
After a scant seven years, Bais Yaakov now occupied the largest and most beautiful campus of any Jewish day school in the country.

Bais Yaakov, in its new surroundings, continued its growth at an accelerated pace.
Buildings on the former estate, previously a garage, a greenhouse and a barn, were converted into additional classrooms as the school’s enrollment continued to swell.

Bais Yaakov obtained the services of a young educator who had already earned a notable reputation in Jewish education. Rabbi Hirsch Diskind assumed the role of Dean and Bais Yaakov witnessed the beginning of a new era of service to education.

Under Rabbi Diskind’s tutelage, Bais Yaakov’s original “Class of 1942” graduated from Bais Yaakov afternoon high school while completing their general studies and graduating with honors from Western High School.

Disaster struck Bais Yaakov. A fire of unknown origin gutted the main building of the school on the night before the June graduation exercises. Feverish work and the generous cooperation of the entire Jewish community provided makeshift facilities in various buildings around Baltimore for the fall school term. Bais Yaakov’s main building was unusable.

The disaster of 1955 spurred plans for the future and construction began on a new elementary school building. The gutted main building was completely restored and Bais Yaakov’s adversity was turned to opportunity.

The extraordinary physical problems were not allowed to stand in the way of progress, and in this fateful year, the senior high school commenced with the inauguration of a 10th grade class. Rabbi Meir Moshe Haber, a rising star in the field of chinuch, assumed the position of the first principal of the newly formed High School.

The new modern elementary school building was dedicated. The disaster of 1955 had become incentive. Bais Yaakov was now operating in modern facilities second to none.

The high school graduated its first class. Eighteen years had elapsed since its inception. Bais Yaakov was a fully accredited educational facility. All of the graduates continued on in institutions of higher learning, both in religious and secular studies.

The high school was named for Mrs. Eva Winer in recognition of the Winer Family’s contributions to Bais Yaakov.

After Rabbi Haber’s untimely passing in January, Rabbi Benjamin Steinberg, a young scholar, assumed the position of principal the following September. This year marked Bais Yaakov’s suburban growth with the opening of its first branch at Woodmoor.

Mr. M. Leo Storch succeeded Mr. Henry P. Cohn as President of Bais Yaakov.
The Bais Yaakov Day Camp which kept pace with the growth of the Bais Yaakov School now required its own swimming pool. A large Olympic size pool was erected to serve the Camp as well as the community.
The second Suburban branch was established on Seven Mile Lane.

Rabbi Reuven Savitz, a native of Baltimore and a former executive at the Rabbi Chaim Berlin Rabbinical Academy, joined Bais Yaakov as its executive director.

“The Joel Cohn and Fannie Marks Memorial Science Laboratory” was completed. The laboratory was dedicated in recognition of the generous assistance provided by members of the Cohn and Marks families. Leading educators lauded the laboratory as one of the finest in Maryland.

Bais Yaakov’s growth necessitated the establishment of a third branch in Randallstown. Construction commenced on Bais Yaakov’s desperately needed “Multi-Purpose Building.”

Twenty-five years of unlimited growth. A quarter century of service to Jewish eduation. Bais Yaakov’s history had only begun.

Rabbi I. Ari Flamm assumed the position of Executive Director upon Rabbi Savitz’s move to New York.

Our beloved President, Mr. M. Leo Storch, passed away. He had been President of the school for ten years, and was a pillar of Bais Yaakov. Rabbi Ari S. Neuberger assumed the office, continuing his role as a dynamic leader.

The burgeoning growth of the Jewish community and changing demographics forced Bais Yaakov to search for a larger campus. With the purchase of forty-eight acres of land in Owings Mills, MD, Rabbis Neuberger and Flamm initiated an aggressive building campaign.

Before the building was completed, additional classrooms had to be added to keep pace with the dramatic growth in the student population. The new campus was dedicated in memory of Mr. Isaac H. Taylor.

Rabbi Mendel D. Freedman assumed the position of General Studies Principal of the elementary school. Rabbi Freedman was prominent as a leader of Baltimore youth organizations and had been a Rebbe at the Talmudical Academy for a number of years.

A six-room addition to the high school was dedicated by Harold and Sarah Zalesch. A junior high school wing was dedicated by Joe and Peachy Schwartz.

Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz also dedicated a two-story addition to the elementary school, providing twelve new classrooms.

Rabbi Hirsch Diskind retired as Dean of Bais Yaakov, where he had been guiding the education of our “Mothers of Tomorrow,” even into a second generation of students.

Mrs. Marilyn Levy, who had taught in BY for fifteen years, was appointed Supervisor of General Studies for the elementary school. Within a year, the kindergarten included five parallel classes, under Rabbi Freedman’s supervision. Rabbi Yechezkel Zweig was named Assistant Principal of the high school, which now included several two-section grades.

In January, Bais Yaakov and the entire Jewish community mourned the untimely passing of Rabbi Benjamin Steinberg. Rabbi Zweig accepted the appointment as high school Principal. Rabbi Yehoshua Shapiro, well known for his mastery in Jewish education, became Assistant Principal. With the new fall term, the new position of Junior High School Coordinator was accepted by Miss Brenda Rubin.

Mrs. Liora Rosen, a noted Mechanesches, accepted the position as Supervisor of Limudei Kodesh at Bais Yaakov Elementary School.

Crowded conditions at the Owings Mills Campus led to the establishment of the middle school at a leased site on Smith Avenue. Rabbi Naftoli Hexter, a prominent educator, was chosen as principal of the newly established school.

The middle school was named “The Rabbi Benjamin Steinberg Middle School” in tribute to the dynamic leadership of Rabbi Steinberg and through the generosity of his family.

In order to better meet the expanding needs of the student body, Mrs. Brenda Sherman became Supervisor of Limudei Kodesh and Mrs. Gitti Horowitz assumed the position Supervisor of General Studies at the middle school. Mrs. Arlene Fishkind became General Studies Coordinator of the high school.

Upon the retirement of Mrs. Marilyn Levy, Mrs. Lisa Schecter joined the administrative staff of the elementary school as Supervisor of General Studies.

Bais Yaakov purchased the twenty-six acre Smith Avenue property together with the existing buildings. It was decided to build a new high school at the Smith Avenue site.

Mrs. Brenda Willner, a senior teacher, assumed the position of Limudei Kodesh Coordinator of the Eva Winer High School.

A complete renovation to the existing building and a 12,000 square foot modern addition were constructed at the Rabbi Benjamin Steinberg Middle School. Mrs. Shoshana Shuman assumed the position of Preschool Supervisor to accommodate the expanded Preschool Program.

The long-awaited moving day arrives. The opening of the 2003 school year finds the Eva Winer High School spaciously occupying its state-of-the-art modern 87,000 square foot facility, beautifully located at the top of the hill at 6302 Smith Avenue.