New Year, New Home

Silver Academy and Federation Prepare to Celebrate Rosh Hashanah, Grass Campus Transition

When the shofar sounds and signals the New Year ahead, it will be clear that 5784 will be the year that the Grass Campus becomes the central hub for the Harrisburg Jewish Community to live out many of its core values.

Last month, The Silver Academy became the first organization to begin operating on the Grass Campus full-time. The school, which began classes on August 29th, is excited as its first semester on the campus gets under way.

“It’s very timely that we’ve moved into this new space and started our school year in the lead-up to Rosh Hashanah,” says Niema Schertz, Director of Admissions at The Silver Academy. “We’re starting anew in this fresh, new, and beautiful building with a wonderful field and facilities, and our students, parents, and staff are very excited to be here.”

The Silver Academy’s theme for the 2023 – 2024 school year is Hakarat HaTov, meaning “recognizing the good” or “gratitude,” and Niema says that the school is grateful to be on the Grass Campus and to have had the support of the community throughout its transition to its new home. The move also gives the school the opportunity to reflect inward on where it is and where it wants to be.

“Being on the campus allows us to take a look at some of the ways that we can make a better experience for our students and improve the way we work, just like we do personally on Rosh Hashanah,” Niema says.

Longtime Judaics instructor Rabbi Moshe Yosef Gewirtz says that the school has robust plans for Rosh Hashanah and the holiday season, and he looks forward to blowing the shofar in the school’s new surroundings.

“It’s always very fitting that the school year starts at Rosh Hashanah time,” Rabbi Gewirtz says. “As Jews, we do our “resolutions” around this time, and to be able to do that in a brand new place is psychologically and emotionally very easy to do – a student and teacher can plan ahead and say ‘I’ll continue to do this,’ or ‘I’ll improve that.’”

Rabbi Gewirtz says that the school has already kicked off new learning initiatives, including a 3rd – 8th grade joint Judaics study program led by a mix of faculty, community rabbis, and other leaders, one example of programming that has been shaped by the space of the new building.

“One of the great commentaries from the 1800s spoke about how Judaism is very ‘unarchitectural,’” he says. “But clearly, we’re affected by our surroundings and buildings, and this is a very inspiring place – when parents came in with their students, you could see their eyes widen with excitement as they went from room to room.”

Toward the end of October, the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg’s administrative office will join the school on the campus, taking up residence in the third-floor suite of the Grass Center Administrative Building. As the Federation prepares for its own move, President/CEO David Cohen says that he is pleased to see the Silver Academy settling in to its new home and showing flashes of the enthusiasm and opportunity ahead in the coming year and beyond.

“It is so exciting to see Silver Academy be the first piece of this amazing mosaic we are putting together on the Grass Campus – with our entire community being represented in the very near future,” David says. “This is a time of year where we focus on beginnings, endings, and transitions.  We reflect on the past so we can create a better tomorrow – for ourselves and our community – and this is exactly where we stand.  We are taking the institutions we’ve built and are providing a new environment in which they can grow, transform, and become.”

Soon to follow will be the Harrisburg JCC’s Fitness Center and Brenner Family Early Learning Center, which are both slated to open in time for the other New Year. As more agencies, like Jewish Family Service and Jewish Community Foundation of Central PA join together on the campus and bring its six buildings and six acres to life, Grass Campus is sure to become a place that is a treasure in the community. Please keep an eye out for further announcements regarding move-in dates, events, and more.