History

Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy was originally founded in 1946 as Akiba Hebrew Academy. It was the nation's first pluralistic Jewish secondary day school. The founders envisioned a school where Jewish adolescents would experience a dual curriculum of secular and Jewish studies, prepare for leadership roles in the Jewish community and the community at large, and come together to study their common heritage, living Jewish values in a pluralistic and mutually respectful setting. Throughout our 72-year history, we have grown and changed with the times without losing sight of our essential heritage and mission.

Building on an illustrious past, Barrack Hebrew Academy continues to educate the next generation of Jewish leaders and shape the future.

Students in black and white photo

1940s

  • We open on September 11, 1946, as Akiba Hebrew Academy at the former Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA) on Broad and Pine Streets in Philadelphia with twenty students in 7th and 8th grades, a principal, and 5 teachers.

  • The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Education grants us a charter in 1947 to operate as a private academic school.

  • We move to the B’nai Jeshurun Synagogue’s Miller Community Center in 1947.

  • We expand our facilities in 1948 to include 6th through 11th grades with upgraded classrooms, furniture, gymnasium, roof garden, and a modern science lab.

1950s

  • Our first class of thirteen students graduates; all are admitted to college.

  • The inaugural issue of our yearbook, The Citadel, is published.

  • Our Alumni Association is founded.

  • Needing more space, we move in 1953 to temporary quarters at Har Zion Temple in Wynnefield.

  • In 1956-57, we move to Drake Linden Hall in Merion Station, our home for the next 52 years.

1960s

  • In 1966–67, we introduce a six-week senior work project, allowing students who have already fulfilled their academic requirements to volunteer in the community and explore career paths, a tradition that continues today.

  • Elie Wiesel is the graduation keynote speaker during the Six Day War in June 1967.

  • By 1969, we have 374 alumni and the Akiba Aardvark is retired in favor of a new mascot, the Akiba Cougar.

1970s

  • From 1973 to 1975, we expand our facilities to include the Kaplan Building, a library, and the Saligman Gymnasium/Auditorium.

  • In 1978-79, Sonia B. Woldow becomes our first female board president.

  • By now, we have graduated 828 alumni.

1980s

  • In collaboration with Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim (TRY), we debut a junior-year trimester in Israel program in 1983. Later in the decade, we add a week in Poland as part of the “March of the Living” three-kilometer walk from Auschwitz to Birkenau. (Today, students still visit Poland as part of the Alexander Muss Semester in Israel program, which most of our junior-year students attend.)

  • Our first political conference is organized with a mock nominating convention and guests from the real world of politics.

  • Kol Akiba, our Hebrew-language newspaper (now called M’et L’et), is published for the first time.

  • By the end of the decade, we have more than 1,300 alumni and 303 enrolled students.

1990s

  • Amnesty International, Halacha, and foreign-language clubs are added to our growing roster of extracurricular offerings.

  • Our girls cross country, boys cross country, and girls tennis teams all earn championships with our tennis team winning its fourth straight Tri-County League championship.

  • We celebrate our 50th anniversary in 1996 with a year-long jubilee.

  • A capital campaign funds campus renovations that include eight new classrooms, a new science wing with upgraded labs, an expanded multi-media center in the library, and a multi-purpose Beit Midrash.

2000s

  • Students in our graduating Class of 2001—including 18 national merit scholars (one-third of the class)—are admitted to 58 colleges and 7 post-high school programs in Israel.

  • We expand next door into the Carriage House in 2004-05 and celebrate our 60th anniversary the year after.

  • In March 2007, we receive a $5 million gift from the Barrack Foundation and adopt the new name of Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in memory of the late brother of alumnus Leonard Barrack ’60. Our alumni organization is renamed the Akiba-Barrack Alumni Association.

  • In June 2007, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia purchases the 35-acre American College campus in Bryn Mawr and invites us to be the anchor tenant.

  • Our doors on the new campus officially open in September 2008.

2010s

  • After serving as Interim Head of School in 2011, Sharon P. Levin is appointed Head of School in 2012. She continues to hold that position today.

  • A community ceremony in December 2012 marks the unification of the Robert Saligman Middle School located in Melrose Park and the Barrack Hebrew Academy Middle School. The Robert Saligman Middle School of Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy combines the best educational practices of both schools and opens on the Bryn Mawr campus in September 2013.

  • Our new Innovation STEAM Lab opens in 2015-16.

  • We celebrate our 70th anniversary in 2016-17.

Building on an illustrious past, Barrack Hebrew Academy continues to educate the next generation of Jewish leaders and shape the future.Sharon P. Levin, Head of School