Yavneh receives endowment
in memory of Aaron Gruen
by Jocelyn Malka
The Aaron Zachary Gruen Endowment Fund was established at Yavneh Academy recently in the lad's memory by his grandparents, Ronald and Ethel Gruen of Dallas.
Aaron was to attend Yavneh in the fall. Following his death last year at 14 of cancer, the endowment was created in order to help other Yavneh students receive the quality Jewish education that Aaron would have received had he lived.
Steve Rosenberg, executive vice president of Yavneh, said, "I think that [the family] wanted the best for other Jewish kids." Rosenberg called the Gruens' gift, "quite remarkable."
Yavneh, one of only two Jewish high schools in the Dallas area, received $500,000. Jerald Gottlieb, president of Yavneh, said, "It is certainly one of the largest amounts of money [the school] has received in one lump sum." Gottlieb said the money will be put towards increasing Yavneh's existing programs, as well as adding more educational facilities.
"Part of the interest will enhance the faculty, some will go toward supporting the school." Gottlieb said. "Hopefully we will be able to add new education and department chairs."
Rosenberg said, "The funding is going to be used to improve the quality of Yavneh's program, and for scholarships as well."
Currently, 59 students attend Yavneh, which was founded in 1994. Since then, Yavneh has been educating Jewish students in both academic and religious disciplines. Gottlieb said Yavneh is educating Jewish youth about who they are. "We are giving them a connection to a large Jewish community which they are a part of."
Gottlieb said he thinks that the Gruen's generous donation sends a message to Yavneh students. "When they graduate, they will know that religion and being a mensch go hand in hand."
Ethel Gruen, Aaron's grandmother, said that she and her husband have always been interested in Jewish education, especially high school. "It's an important spot for young children."
Aaron's death pushed the Gruens to making the donation to Yavneh, she said. Ronald Gruen, Aaron's grandfather, is a past president of Akiba Academy. He believes the endowment will encourage others to donate to the community as well as assist Yavneh financially.
Aaron, who suffered from peripheral T-cell lymphoma, had been eager to start his Yavneh studies. Unfortunately, his illness got in the way, causing him to do school work at home in preparation.
"The day he went into the hospital, [Yavneh principal] Donald O'Quinn put together a home study packet for Aaron," said Rosenberg.
"Yavneh was really trying to help Aaron go to school," Gottlieb said.
Unfortunately, Aaron, who will always be remembered by those who knew him as courageous, lost his battle in September 2000.
"I guess the most telling thing about him I learned during his illness was his great patience, even when he was in terrible pain," said Gottlieb. "He had a remarkable way of looking at the bright side," Gottlieb said. "He was a fighter."
Aaron also excelled academically and athletically. His cousin, David Pink, remembers Aaron as an unstoppable force on the football field. In an award-winning story about Aaron that David wrote, he said, "Aaron's intellectual ability was unbelievable. I really admired that."
Holly, David's mother and Aaron's aunt, said of the endowment, "It makes me proud. I'm happy that they're doing something to remember Aaron."
This story was published in the DallasJewishWeek
on: Thursday, May 10, 2001