MONTREAL — More than 500 people attended the closing ceremony of the Rachel and Ben Beutel Campus of the United Talmud Torahs/Herzliah High School in St. Laurent on May 25.
Retired teacher Frank Cwilich, left, is with Herzliah class of 2004 alumni Jessica Dobrinski, Robyn Shiller, and Michael Kleinberg Bassel. [Anthony Davis photo]
The alumni, current and former staff, leaders and families, paid tribute to a beloved school and its teachers who inspired thousands of students over the campus’s more than five decades.
The happiness and excitement of the reunion was mixed with the sadness over the closing of the campus at the end of this school year. UTT/Herzliah will have one campus, in Snowdon, as of 2011-2012.
Derek Cassoff, who graduated in 1988, echoed the sentiment of many alumni. “Though I wish the circumstances were different, it’s certainly great to be back in this building where I spent five of the most formative years of my life… Herzliah was always more than a building. It was a family, a community. Its sense of spirit will live on inside all of us.”
UTT/Herzliah president Charles Leibovich paid homage to the late Ben Beutel, for whom the campus is named. Beutel was president of UTT from 1944 to 1969 and a dedicated champion of the school, Leibovich said.
“This school’s legacy has always been about moving forward, making tough decisions and fighting for what is right. The late Ben Beutel led the fight for this school,” he said.
“He fought for its expansion, fought for money to keep the doors open, fought to make sure that no student would be turned away because they could not afford tuition, and fought, on a regular basis, for donations so that the payroll could be met.
“Ben Beutel set the bar and led by example and we honour him and his family and his legacy this evening.”
The four children of Rachel and Ben Beutel – Austin, Irwin, Morton and Honey – who were present, were assured that the legacy of the Beutel family will continue to impact Jewish children for generations to come.
A time capsule that the class of ’88 had built into a wall when the campus was undergoing an expansion was opened. A plaque on the wall marked its place.
Cassoff and Michael Glazer, who also graduated in 1988, had the honour of revealing the capsule’s contents, which included a can of Coke Classic, a geography book, Cole’s Notes for The Merchant of Venice, a videocassette of the school play My Fair Lady, tickets to an Expos Game and a Canadiens game, a late slip, a can of hairspray, a licence plate, a pair of jeans, one sneaker, a hockey puck and a package of toothpicks (priced at 32 cents) from the long-closed Cumberland Drugs.
Longtime teacher Frank Cwilich, now retired, was visibly moved by a standing ovation after Glazer lauded him for his support of students over the years. Volunteers, current and past, were thanked, in particular the boards of directors and members of the Home and School Association.
Leibovich also recognized the dedication of founding principal Soryl Naymark, and singled out the current cadre of faculty and staff who, “despite a turbulent year defined by change, uncertainty and sadness at the closing and packing up of this building, carried on with business as usual, making this school year an outstanding one for our students on so many levels.”
Beutel Campus of UTT was opened in 1959 and the high school was added in the early 1970s. The campuses are being consolidated because of declining enrolment. Renovations to both the high school and elementary school at the Snowdon campus on St. Kevin Street are taking place over the summer.
Herzliah educational director Ellie Grumberg, closed the ceremony by stating that, “Today we complete another chapter in the history of our school. Today we close the doors of this building and begin again, the process of creating a new house of learning that will meet the needs of future generations throughout the 21st century.
“We must contextualize this closure, not as an ending but as a new beginning for our beloved school system.”
Messages can be left on the Farewell Beutel Legacy Book at www.utt.qc.ca.
UTT/Herzliah alumni are invited to ‘like us’ on Facebook to get photos and videos from the ceremony, as well as other news, as soon as they are online at http://tinyurl.com/3tj8egp.