Jewish Primary Day School breaks ground on expansion

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Fifth- and sixth-graders check out the school's new logo during the groundbreaking ceremony. (photo by Alexandra Taylor)

When the only Jewish day school in D.C. first announced plans in 2015 to expand its elementary campus and construct a new middle school, parents, students and faculty rejoiced.

This month, the mood remained buoyant as the Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital ceremonially broke ground to kick off construction at its Brightwood campus. The new middle school is scheduled to open its doors in August 2018.

Head of school Naomi Reem said the institution, which currently offers kindergarten through sixth grade, is looking forward to serving slightly older students. “It’s the time of Bar Mitzvahs. It’s a time of great change,” she said in an interview. “It will be exciting.”

The Jewish Primary Day School’s Brightwood campus is slated for renovation and expansion. (Brian Kapur/The Current/January 2016)

The project is being funded by two $10 million donations from longtime supporters: the family of the late Milton Gottesman and Ambassador Alfred Moses. That money will cover a new rooftop field, a gym, an outdoor classroom, two libraries, a media center, a design lab, art and music studios and more. The Gottesman family donated an additional $2 million to renovate the existing building at 6045 16th St. NW.

In recognition of the family’s contributions, the school has been renamed the Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital, to honor Gottesman’s memory after his passing this year, and its oldest grades will be known as the Moses Family Middle School.

The school also benefited from recent donations by the Laufer family, which has three children enrolled there; the eldest, 11-year-old Shoshana, will join the inaugural seventh-grade class in 2018. The family donated $1 million and offered to add $500,000 more if the community matched the amount — which it did. “We’re a very enthusiastic community. It’s very generous with a great culture of philanthropy,” Steve Laufer told The Current.

Mayor Muriel Bowser, center, joined donors and school officials at the event. (photo by Miranda Chadwick)

Mayor Muriel Bowser attended the June 6 groundbreaking celebration.

“It feels like just yesterday where we were celebrating in the auditorium a wonderful gift,” Bowser said. “Just a few months later, we’re here. That’s a testament to you — and the speed of the D.C. government agencies.”

To Reem, the District is rich with history and opportunity. “This is a city like no other and this is a school like no other. We are proud to call this city our home,” Reem told the crowd.

Evan Goldman, a board member of the school and father of three students, told The Current that he selected Jewish Primary Day based on its balance between Jewish and secular education. Parents and children are “excited beyond words” about the expansion. “For kids to be able to be in a nurturing environment in this trying time will be great,” he said.

To accommodate the construction and renovations at its Brightwood campus, the school will relocate its second through sixth grades to Silver Spring, Md., for the 2017-18 school year. The south campus, which holds kindergarten and first grade at 4715 16th St. NW, is unaffected.