History of the School
1966: In the Beginning
Twenty-two young students and two teachers began Solomon Schechter School of Westchester’s journey in the basement of Temple Israel Center. They were guided by Rabbi Max Gelb, the school’s founder, and Leah Gelb, Schechter Westchester’s founding principal. With the addition of one class each year, enrollment reached one hundred and the first class was graduated in 1974.
1970s: An Intimate and Nurturing Environment
The school soon moved to a larger facility on Soundview Avenue in White Plains to accommodate our growing school, while allowing it to retain its intimate and nurturing environment. Schechter Westchester continued to grow through the 1970s. In 1975, M. Mac Schwebel becomes Chairman of the Board of Trustees; Mrs. Pat Kelly arrives as Assistant Principal. By the end of the decade, nearly 150 students were registered and the kindergarten was housed in a converted home adjacent to the main building.
In 1979, under the leadership of Rabbi Gelb and with generous funding and support from M. Mac Schwebel, and others, the 25-acre Rosedale Elementary School campus on Dellwood Road in White Plains was leased and, two years later, purchased.
1980s & 1990s: Vibrant Day School Under New Headmaster
After fourteen years of extraordinary effort, Rabbi and Mrs. Gelb retired in 1980. Dr. Elliot Spiegel was appointed headmaster and charged with charting Schechter Westchester’s future course. During Dr. Spiegel’s tenure, the school pioneered numerous innovative educational programs in teacher training, family and adult education, comprehensive pupil services, and religious life.
By the fall of 1988, the three buildings on the Dellwood campus could no longer accommodate our 400 students and the ever-increasing demands on Westchester’s largest Jewish day school.
Through the generosity of the Schechter Westchester community and a gift from the late Joseph Gruss, one of New York’s foremost Jewish philanthropists, a fourth building was constructed in 1989. The Caroline and Joseph S. Gruss Life Monument Learning Center houses the Schur Family Chapel, the Dubin Computer Center, a teacher center, classrooms, and the Irene Schwebel Library. In 2007, an award-winning playground was erected on the campus. The Lower School campus is now home to the school's kindergarten through fifth grades.
The 1990s mark several firsts for Schechter Westchester, including the b'nai mitzvah class trip to Israel, accreditation from Middle States Association, and the Israel Shazar Prize is awarded in recognition of Jewish Education in the Diaspora.
2001: School Becomes K-12 On Two Campuses
With the support of the entire community, construction of the first Conservative Jewish high school in Westchester was completed. When we graduated our pioneer class in 2005, a dream was realized. Within 40 years, the seed of a small Jewish day school had blossomed into a K-12 garden with more than 820 students.
The school is nestled on two idyllic campuses - The Dr. Elliot Spiegel Lower School in White Plains and The M. Mac Schwebel Upper School in Hartsdale.
2013: Change of Leadership
In 2013, the Lower School was renamed the Dr. Elliot Spiegel Lower School in honor of Dr. Spiegel's 33 years of leadership and in commemoration of his retirement. Dr. Michael A. Kay was appointed head of school.