Jewish pluralist boarding high school closes abruptly due to financial issues

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — The American Hebrew Academy, a Jewish pluralistic boarding school in Greensboro, North Carolina, has closed effective immediately due to financial issues.

The homepage of the high school’s website on Tuesday showed the school’s logo and the words “The American Hebrew Academy is closed.”

“The American Hebrew Academy began as a dream. It has been a dream fulfilled for 18 years, and it is a dream that must, unfortunately, come to an end,” according to a letter sent to alumni, the Greensboro News & Record reported.

The school opened in 2001 on a 100-acre campus far from a Jewish population center. It graduated its final class of 34 seniors last month out of a total enrollment of 134. It was the first and only pluralist boarding high school.

An email to faculty and staff from Glenn Drew, the school’s CEO, and Leeor Sabbah, its board chairman and the oldest daughter of its founder, Maurice “Chico” Sabbah, announced the closing Tuesday morning, the Forward first reported.

The closing is due to “insufficient growth in enrollment and our inability to secure adequate funding to cover future school expenses,” the email reportedly said. “The Academy simply lacks the financial resources to continue as a viable concern given rising school costs and low enrollment growth.”

One student on Tuesday set up a GoFundMe page titled “Save AHA!” The page’s fundraising goal is $6 million.

The academy, which costs $42,000 a school year for tuition and boarding, according to Boarding School Review, lost money every year that it operated, the News & Record reported, citing tax reports. That includes $13 million in the 2016-17 school year and $9.7 million the previous term.

In 2009, the Jewish billionaire philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, a member of the academy’s board, gave the school $5 million, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

Also according to tax reports cited by the Forward, the school received nearly $3 million in donations and grants in the 2015 fiscal year. In 2016 that figure was about $400,000.

Chico Sabbah, a commercial aviation reinsurance mogul who died in 2006, donated more than $100 million to the school and paid the tuition of its initial 77 students.

The school’s social media accounts were deleted as well.