New Islamic school will not move into former RJA space at B’nai El

A faith-based Islamic school will not move into the property most recently occupied by the Saul Mirowitz Day School-Reform Jewish Academy (RJA) on the campus of B’nai El Congregation in Frontenac – at least not in time for the start of the 2012-2013 school year.

“They (B’nai El) were very nice but we couldn’t get a final decision about the lease and with it getting so close to the start of school we had to look elsewhere,” explained Jamal Abdul-Hafidh, who will be headmaster of the new Al Manara Academy. It will now occupy the vacant Rock Church at 2141 Sam’s Drive in Des Peres.

“We kept waiting but we didn’t get any definitive answer and we started to panic,” added Abdul-Hafidh, noting that his school is still interested in the B’nai El property for the future.

Amye Carrigan, President of B’nai El, said the main sticking point was “timing.” She and her board understood the academy’s need to secure a space quickly, but explained that working through the “complicated details of a lease agreement” required more time. She added that the property continues to be shown but there are no other firm tenants as of yet.

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In July, the Frontenac City Council approved a conditional use permit for the B’nai El school property, limiting the number of children enrolled to 100.

RJA ended its lease agreement with B’nai El earlier this year when it merged with Solomon Schechter Day School. The two schools formed the Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School, which is located on the campus of Congregation B’nai Amoona (the space formerly occupied by Schechter) at 348 South Mason Road in Creve Coeur. Before RJA, the B’nai El property housed a Lutheran school and a school for the deaf.