Yeshiva Beth Yehudah is a Jewish day school consisting of two campuses at Southfield and Oak Park, Michigan, which serves boys (Southfield) and girls (Oak Park) from pre-kindergarten to grade 12 (the boys' school only goes through grade 8). The school's curriculum is a blend of traditional and progressive, secular studies and religious studies, in Hebrew and English. The school is an agency of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.
In August 1914, Rabbi Judah Leib Levin began the school that grew to become the Yeshiva Beth Yehudah. Its first home was the Mogain Avrohom Synagogue on Farnsworth Street, where students met five days a week for after-school Hebrew study. In 1923 the growing Yeshiva moved its 35 students to Beth Tefilo Emanuel Synagogue on Twelfth Street and instituted a full day school curriculum. Upon his death in 1925, the school was renamed Yeshiva Beth Yehudah in memory of Rabbi Levin. The Yeshiva moved to several locations until 1940, when they settled into a new building on Dexter and Cortland. By this time, 162 children were being taught at six grade levels.
In 1943, the Beth Jacob School for Girls was established. Rabbi M.J. Wohlgelernter became Yeshiva Beth Yehudah’s first President and Rabbi Simcha Wasserman was appointed Dean. Brothers Wolf and Isadore Cohen were founding members of the Yeshiva, with each of them taking a turn as President. In 1944, Rabbi A.A. Freedman moved to Detroit from New York at the urging of the illustrious leader of the Torah Umesorah Day School movement, Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz. Rabbi Freedman became the inspiration and impetus for growth of the Yeshiva, actively recruiting new students.
Throughout the 1950s and 60s the school flourished in Detroit, until it moved to its current location, on Lincoln Road in Southfield. Many outstanding educators became involved with the Yeshiva, including Rabbi S.P. Wohlgelernter, who succeeded his brother as the school’s President; Rabbi Leib Bakst, who served as Rosh Yeshiva until 1989; and Rabbi Sholom Goldstein, who was the principal of the Beth Jacob School for Girls from 1966 until his untimely passing in 1984.
In 1976, through the generosity of Mr. Norman Allan, Yeshiva Beth Yehudah was able to purchase a building in Beverly Hills to house the Beth Jacob School for Girls. Around the same time, the Saltsman New Americans Program was launched in response to the influx of Russian immigrants to our community.
In 1991, Gary Torgow was elected President of the Yeshiva Beth Yehudah. Elected with him was Dr. Maury Ellenberg, Chairman of The Board. A new set of institutional by-laws was created and approved by 95% of the communities voters. This vote signified a new direction for the institution which was suffering tremendously from a failing financial base and little institutional oversight.
In late 1991 at the request of Mr. Torgow the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit agreed to purchase the Bnei Moshe Synagogue in Oak Park for the benefit of Yeshiva’s girls school. The Beth Jacob school moved to the newly renovated Bnei Moshe Synagogue in Oak Park directed and led by Rabbi Bunny Freedman who was responsible for fundraising and coordination of the move. Over the next eleven years, the building underwent three expansions: the addition of the Abner Wolf High School wing, the Hannah Karbal educational wing and the Meer Family Gymnasium.
In 1993, the boy’s facility in Southfield was refurbished and expanded to include a new office complex and gymnasium. The building was renamed in honor of Milton and Lois Shiffman.
In 1994, Rabbi Avraham Cohen was appointed Dean of Yeshiva Beth Yehudah and Rabbi Nathaniel Lauer was named Educational Director of the Beth Jacob School for Girls.
In 1999, Rabbi Cohen became Director of the Partners in Torah Adult Education Program and Rabbi Avrohom Fishman was appointed Principal of the Boys’ School and Dean of Yeshiva Beth Yehudah. Also in 1999, the Yeshiva broke ground on the Meer Early Childhood Center, a freestanding licensed day care facility for the Yeshiva’s Preschool classes. It currently serves over 150 three-, four- and five-year-olds with a preschool program.
In 2010, after the untimely passing of Rabbi Fishman, Rabbi Yitzchok Grossbard was named Dean of the institution overseeing all divisions of the Yeshiva and Beth Jacob. Rabbi Zev Poss was named Principal of the Beth Jacob and Rabbi Aryeh Cohen was named Principal of the boys division.
In 2012, Rabbi Bentzy Schechter was named Director of Partners Detroit overseeing the famed Tuesday night chavrusa learning program and hundreds of other activities.
Yeshiva Beth Yehudah is the largest Jewish School system in Michigan, providing quality Torah-based and secular educational programs for almost 100 years. Under its guidance, nearly 800 students in Nursery through Grade 12 receive an education.
The school also includes the Norma Jean & Edward Meer Early Childhood Development Center next to the boys’ school.
The Yeshiva is known locally for its annual fund raising dinner, held at the Detroit Renaissance Center, which usually features a guest speaker of national prominence. Previous guests include Governor Jeb Bush, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Republican Presidential nominee John McCain, Secretary of State John Kerry, and George Stephanopoulos. Many of the area's most prominent political figures have attended the dinner, including the previous Governor Jennifer Granholm, as well as the new Governor Rick Snyder, the previous Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, current Attorney General Bill Schuette, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Senator Carl Levin, federal and state legislators, and Michigan Supreme Court Justices.