Heschel West Day School was officially re-named Ilan Ramon Day School at a re-naming ceremony held Friday evening on the school's campus. Yuri Hronsky, Head of School, made the announcement following an outdoor communal Shabbat service.
Ilan Ramon was the first Israeli astronaut to fly into space. He served as the payload specialist on the fatal mission of America’s space shuttle Columbia where he and six other crew members were killed during re-entry. According to Hronsky, Ilan Ramon represents much more than just a victim of this terrible tragedy. “He was the son of a Holocaust survivor, a scientist, a Colonel, a fighter pilot in the Israeli army, a father, a husband and a visionary,” he said.
This fall will mark the 18th year of newly named Ilan Ramon Day School in Agoura, said Hronsky. The school started in 1994, aided by Heschel Day School in Northridge. The two schools agreed that Heschel West would change its name at some point in the future in order for each school to operate independently, he said.
“The number 18 represents a transition to adulthood, and we felt that this would be the right time to make this big change,” said Hronsky. This year’s Board of Directors made it a top priority and put their full force behind the project. They selected a steering committee to gather information from the Heschel West community, he said.
The committee surveyed students; families of the past, present and future; and community members at large, said Hronsky. "The group of ten then synthesized the information, breaking it down into overarching themes and concepts that the school’s community valued and represented," he said.
After eight months of research, the committee narrowed down the list to one name, which was presented to the Board and approved in April, he said.
Throughout the process, parent Craig Honick, an ethnographic researcher, decided to video document the process of the name change. According to Honick, the goal of the project is to review the early years of the school, then transition to how an organization goes through the process of change. The film, dubbed “A Journey to a Name,” is set to be screened this fall.
According to Honick, the many families attending the evenings ceremony stretch all the way back to those who founded the school. He believes that the families’ dedication is what makes this school “unique and special…it also demonstrates the lasting impression of our school that so many families still care deeply.” The school plans to hold a larger launch ceremony for the greater Jewish community this September.
The festivities included refreshments and activities for the kids.
“At first I was hesitant about the name change,,” said Daniel Gero, an alumnus of the school’s graduating class of 2003. “But I do like the new choice.”
Stephen Bachner, class of 2004, said, “What matters most, more than the name, is that the school continues to provide a great environment for its kids to learn and grow…and have many great memories like I did.”