The Leo Baeck Education Center was established in 1938 as a kindergarten for children fleeing pre-war Europe. It was originally named the “Hillel” Kindergarten and Elementary School and operated under the direction of Rabbi Dr. Meir Elck. Rabbi Elck was a student of Rabbi Leo Baeck and acted in the spirit of his liberal Jewish approach.
During Rabbi Baeck’s visit to Haifa in 1947, the school was renamed in his honor.
From 1974 until 1999, Rabbi Dr. Reuven Samuels served as the second general manager of the Education Center. Rabbi Samuels introduced an innovative learning program in Judaism in the different grades, developed youth activities and initiated the opening of a Community Center for the neighborhood’s residents. In line with his vision, the Allan Offman Sports Center opened in 1990, which today constitutes part of the larger Center for Culture, Youth and Sport that has become a successful focus for community activities.
Following the resignation of Rabbi Samuels, Mr. Dani Fessler, who had been educated at Leo Baeck, became its third General Manager. Mr. Fessler’s tenure has been marked by continuous activity and development, and in 2002 the Center and its manager were awarded the State Education Prize.
Today the Leo Baeck Education Center is a dynamic and growing education center that includes a preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, junior high school, senior high school, YEDA (KIPP-inspired) school in Kiryat Bialik, the Ohel Avraham Synagogue, the main community and sports center and eight satellite centers.
Leo Baeck Timeline
1938 – Kindergarten for 30 German-Jewish children opens its doors as the Haifa Hillel
1947 – Rabbi Leo Baeck visits the school, which is renamed in his honor
1970 – The School and its 250 pupils move to new home on Haifa’s French Carmel
1979 – Leo Baeck Community Center established
1980 – Ohel Avraham Progressive Synagogue established on the new Leo Baeck campus in Haifa’s French Carmel
1985 – Leo Baeck introduces University Leadership Training Program for Ethiopian students
1989 – First Arab-Jewish Summer Camp
1991 – Leo Baeck wins prestigious Buber-Rosenzweig Prize
1997 – Sauwa Early Childhood Education Center for Arab Children-at-Risk established in conjunction with the Haifa municipality
1999 – Leo Baeck opens a unique matriculation/integration program and welcomes 23 new immigrant teenagers from Ethiopia
2001 – Beit Yitzhak Early Childhood Education & Parenting Centre for Ethiopian & New Immigrant Families opens (later renamed “Beit Ligdol Tov“)
2002 – Israel Education Prize; Lokey International Academy of Jewish Studies opens
2006 – Ministry of Education Heritage Award
2007 – Avichai Foundation Citation of Excellence; Prince Edward presents 120 Leo Baeck pupils with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Medal Award
2013 – First KIPP-inspired YEDA Leo Baeck School opens in Kiryat Bialik
2015 – New Elementary School wing opens