How one man’s dream created a legacy

How one man’s dream created a legacy

The founding class.
The founding class.

Dr. Bruce Leibowitz founded the Academies at GBDS 36 years ago when it was known as Solomon Schechter of Northern New Jersey. In May, 1994, the school moved to its current location in Oakland. At that time, the name was changed to the Gerrard Berman Day School, Solomon Schechter of North Jersey. In 2014 the school changed to Academies at GBDS when the school launched its middle school STEM, art, and leadership academies.

Dr. Bruce Leibowitz with his daughters Alana and Lori.

Dr. Leibowitz’s goal was giving future generations of Jewish adults a strong foundation through a high quality Jewish education. With the help of the members of his community, Dr. Leibowitz was able to make his dream into a reality, opening up the school’s first location in the basement of a small synagogue in Pompton Lakes. Bruce is forever thankful to all of those that helped Academies at GBDS get off the ground, including  “Michael Rubin, the lawyer who did the legal work, and the accountant, Bruce Staloff, who did the financial work… both for free,” Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman, who gave the school space in the basement of his synagogue, and the generous donors who “kept the school afloat.”

Students with Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman.

In its first year, the school had 17 students in kindergarten and first grade. With Bruce’s fundraising, networking, and advertising efforts, the school began to grow. In its second year, the number of students doubled to 36 and added second grade.

Over time, Dr. Leibowitz realized that the school had outgrown the congregation basement and, with the help of generous donors, moved the school to a warehouse in Oakland. He expanded and built it out to fit the needs of the growing school, renovating the building time and time again until it became the school it is today.

Alana and Lori Leibowitz with Tova ben Dov, the second head of school.

As a father of three and a former Air Force dentist, Bruce was no stranger to challenges, finding ways to overcome them over time. He worked hard to build a strong curriculum, incredible facilities, and an experienced and dedicated staff. “We were lucky, over the years we had generous people… angels that came out of the woodwork at different times and helped out when we needed things,” he said.

A newspaper clipping about Chanukah.

Bruce Leibowitz has a lasting love for the school he founded. He is grateful that “our students at a young age are getting a Jewish education, not only learning how to practice it but how to feel it. You get a feeling about being Jewish that you can’t even put into words.” His family also has a lasting love and appreciation for the school. Two of his children are school alumni. His wife, Harriett Brother, has always been heavily involved in the school as well and is especially proud of the lasting friendships that the school cultivates.

After founding this school 36 years ago and watching it grow, Dr. Leibowitz’s biggest dream is that “the school exist forever. After all, it’s been 36 years and we’re still here.”

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