New School Opens

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By the Observer’s copy deadline on September 15, there was a considerable group of men and boys busily at work at tables in the new Jewish school’s big library. Some of them may have been potential applicants, others may have been engaged in teaching, studying and discussing the school’s subject matter. The latest information obtainable indicates dorm rooms for about 40 boys and young men are repaired and booked, and lecture and study halls, library, administrative offices, dining hall and some athletic facilities are close to being fully restored. The status of the required kosher kitchen is unknown. Necessary landscape cleanup continues.

Photo by Lester Smith
The garage-apartment, built in the style of the Hendee mansion, is the only surviving structure of the old Hendee estate. When repair work is complete, plans call for it to be used first as a storehouse for the ongoing yeshiva development; then it will become another residence for the new school. Its bowling alley, extending to the right, will also be rehabilitated.

Suffield Building Inspector Kimberly Rogers advised that as the facility had an occupancy permit when it was in operation some years ago, and the permit was never revoked, no new permit is necessary to reopen. The building permits for the repairs now underway allow inspection to provide assurance that the place is safe and satisfactory.

When Gershon Eichorn, the property owner and investor behind this project, met with the Observer on August 29, he was very open and friendly in talking about what was going on. His son, also named Gershon, was present as well, along with several young men, perhaps interns, who observed the interview. (One of the young men later identified himself as the son of the school’s administrative head, Rabbi Menachem Fogelman.)

When asked about the essential purpose of the school, Gershon Eichorn Sr. said it was explained in the online releases that have appeared recently. (Search for Suffield Yeshiva.) Unfortunately, that material includes Hebrew wording difficult for this reporter to interpret. But clearly, the students’ principal effort will be studying the Torah.

On more down-to-earth matters, Eichorn, Sr., said he planned to use some of the now-unneeded parking acreage for basketball courts and the like. He also advised that he was continuing to buy homes for the school staff. The Observer knows of six homes bought so far. CT Family Homes LLC, the company created to make these purchases, has a $10,000,000 open-end mortgage that should cover more than double the present number of homes. New homes may be needed eventually, when more of the school building is restored and more staff will be needed for more students. One reference said the school could accommodate 200 students.

A knowledgeable Jewish friend predicted that most of the staff will be sending their children to Jewish elementary schools, perhaps in Longmeadow, and Suffield.

Assessor Lisa Trace advised that the staff homes will be taxed normally, though the school may be tax-free. So there should be little or no adverse effect on other residents’ Town taxes, which had concerned several residents.

Photo by Lester Smith
Gershon Eichorn, Jr., pauses during his task managing preparations for opening the new Suffield yeshiva at 1760 Mapleton Avenue. The building in the background, built as the chapel for St. Alphonsus Seminary, will function as a study hall for the school. Eichorn plans to remain in Suffield for as much as a year as building manager for the school’s operation and its continuing repairs.

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