WASHINGTON—For the second time in a row, a Chabad-Lubavitch school has been named by U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley as a Blue Ribbon School.

The much coveted citation was awarded to the Chabad-Lubavitch Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh, among a select group of public and private elementary schools in 37 states. (The Chabad-Lubavitch Hebrew Academy of Orange County, Calif., won the prestigious award in the last award cycle for elementary schools in 1997.)

The Department of Education, after a thorough evaluation process, chose 266 outstanding schools (221 public and 45 private) that excel in "offering a rigorous, rich curricula to all of their students" to win the Blue Ribbon award.

"[These schools] serve as models for providing students with the high quality learning opportunities they need to be successful in the 21st century," said Secretary Riley.

Riley described some of the areas of effective schooling in which the Blue Ribbon Schools were distinguished:

  • Academic leadership
  • Teaching and teacher development
  • School curriculum
  • Community and parental involvement
  • High student achievement levels
Rabbi Yisroel Rosenfeld, dean of the Yeshiva Schools, was gratified by his school's selection, explaining that, "Our school has very deep roots in this community and thousands of students have passed through our doors in the last 57 years.

"It is gratifying," said Rosenfeld, "that the Department of Education has caught on to what our parent body has known for many years: Our school provides children with the very best of Jewish and general studies and insures them to be proud Jews and productive citizens."

Howard Rieger, president of the United Jewish Federation, echoed Rabbi Rosenfeld. "The fact that Yeshiva Schools measures up this way is no surprise to any of us who know... the [school's] operation. [The award is a] well deserved recognition."

Administrators and board members of the Blue Ribbon Schools will travel to Washington in the fall to visit President Clinton and their congressional members. At that time, a National Awards ceremony will be held on the White House lawn, when schools will also receive a flag and plaque commemorating their achievement.

But future celebrations hasn't stopped the city of Pittsburgh from celebrating now. June 1 was declared "Yeshiva Schools Day" by Pittsburgh's city council in honor of the school's winning "the most prestigious education award in the country," and congratulatory letters from the mayor, members of Congress, and numerous local and national luminaries keep pouring in.

The Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh was founded by Chabad-Lubavitch in 1943 when the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, of righteous memory, sent Rabbi and Mrs. Shalom Posner, of blessed memory, to open one of the very first Jewish day schools in the country.

Since its humble beginnings with three students — and the unlimited dedication and perseverance of the Posners, the school has outgrown four buildings and now boasts 430 students from preschool through 12th grade.

According to Rabbi Rosenfeld, one of the proudest achievements of both administrators and educators is that "no child has ever been denied admission because of a family's inability to pay tuition." Rosenfeld credits this to the very active and dedicated lay leadership, and cites the commitment of the United Jewish Federation to the school as "critical to our existence."

On the other hand, William C. Rudolph, president of Yeshiva Schools and treasurer of United Jewish Federation said, "Our staff and teachers are our priceless commodity. Their dedication and enthusiasm is infectious and when you see the students in action it shows."

"Our goal is to live up to the Rebbe's educational ideals," said Rabbi Rosenfeld, referring to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. "He taught us the uniqueness of each child, the pride and joy with which Jewish ideals should be communicated and the method with which information can be successfully imparted.

"We hope he's proud."