By Cindy Mindell ~
RIDGEFIELD – Thirty-four years ago, the Jewish communities of western Connecticut celebrated the opening of the first and only day school in the region. Led by communal leaders Dr. Alvin Goldman, Abraham Golub, and Cary Wellington, Maimonides Academy started out in the basement of Congregation B’nai Israel in Danbury with 13 nursery-school and kindergarten students. Five years after its founding, in 1984, Maimonides moved to its own campus on Miry Brook Road in Danbury. Over the next 25 years, the school grew to accommodate students through 5th grade.
With the economic downturn of 2008, many day schools began to see a decline in enrollment, and Maimonides was no exception; by the 2010 academic year, the student body had dropped to 50. The board of trustees decided to sell the Maimonides property to the neighboring Wooster School and lease back the campus and two buildings while seeking a new home.
Even as enrollment continued to decline, “we decided that Jewish education was important for the community and that it was definitely worth moving forward with an early education program,” says new board president Adam Rubinfeld of Ridgefield.
In September, the school both relocated and returned to its academic roots. Maimonides Early Education (MEE) opened in the historic mansion housing Temple Shearith Israel in Ridgefield, and again serves only a preschool and kindergarten population.
“We’re very excited to be part of the Ridgefield community,” says Rubinfeld. “We look forward to helping Maimonides grow and thrive.”
Naava Koblenz heads the school. A Haifa native, Koblenz is a graduate of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem and came to the U.S. in 1983. She joined the Maimonides faculty in 2003, teaching Judaic studies and art in the upper grades. With 15 students enrolled and three more joining in January, MEE has a fulltime teaching staff of four. The school maintains its accreditation from the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS), and still enjoys regular visits from the Israeli Young Emissaries hosted annually by UJA/Federation Westport Weston Wilton Norwalk.
“For me, the transition is both: exciting and challenging,” Koblenz says. “It’s not often that you get the chance to influence the future, while holding onto the things that worked well in the past.”