Rabbi, graduate react to American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro closing

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Weak enrollment and millions of dollars in lost revenue, dating back to at least 2016.

The gates at the American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro are closing after nearly two decades.

People learned early this morning that they lost their jobs, and students lost their spot at the only Jewish college preparatory boarding school in the country.

"Everybody was speechless and in utter shock," Rabbi Yosef Plotkin said.

Plotkin is the campus rabbi and taught Jewish Studies at the American Hebrew Academy.

He, along with former students, were shocked when they heard the news.

"I was pretty much numb for awhile. I was just in utter disbelief," said Tali Friedman, a 2016 graduate.

Friedman came from Chicago to attend the prestigious boarding school.

She is baffled something like this could happen.

"This place is incredibly unique and pretty magical to me," Friedman said. "So to hear that it shut down, it just didn't seem real."

It all came down to the money.

"Throughout the years, we knew the academy was struggling financially. I don't think anybody knew the extent it was," Plotkin said.

Only about 150 students attended the academy during the 2018-2019 school year.

The 100-acre campus can fit about 400 students.

Enrollment and extensive financial trouble prompted the closure.

In the school's 2016 tax filing, FOX8 learned expenses topped $18 million, but the revenue was just shy of $5 million.

"We are highly dependent on outside funding and philanthropic dollars, which are diminishing in Jewish education and Jewish causes," Plotkin said.

Donations in 2016 dropped from nearly $3 million to less than half a million.

The deficit forced school leaders to get creative to try and stay open.

"I think the academy, at a last resort, was trying to be creative in how to build up the enrollment for the academy," Plotkin said. "They were going to open it up to non-Jews, primarily from Asia."

FOX8 is told approximately six of those students were enrolled for the upcoming school year.

The idea did not work out.

"It's not just losing someone in the community. It's as if a whole community was lost," Plotkin added.

This during a time when some believe it's needed more than ever.

"There's been a surge of hate crimes and hate speech," Friedman said. "This place was a little oasis in all of that."

Students are out for the summer, but there are staff members who live on campus all year long.

FOX8 is told they have until Sept. 15 to move.

A former student launched a GoFundMe page to try and save the school.

The goal is $6 million and can be found here.

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