A different type of match was made this week in the Philadelphia region's Jewish education community - and the product of the union will be named the Robert M. Saligman Middle School of the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy.
On Tuesday night, the boards of the Perelman Jewish Day School and Barrack Hebrew Academy met separately and approved merging their programs for grades six through eight.
After this school year ends, Perelman's Saligman Middle School will move from its Melrose Park location at the Mandell Education Campus on Old York Road to a building that will become the new middle school on Barrack's 35-acre campus in Bryn Mawr. The school will open in September.
Perelman still will have kindergarten through fifth grade at its locations, and Barrack will continue in grades nine through 12 on the Bryn Mawr campus.
"Neither school has a large critical mass of preteens and early adolescents to justify having a middle school," said Ira Schwartz, chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, which helped in the negotiations between the schools.
The federation also will raise about $4 million to pay for renovating the building that will house the new middle school, and for tuition assistance.
Barrack has about 65 children in sixth through eighth grades, and Perelman has about 80 in its middle school. The new school will have a capacity of about 150 students, said Sharon Levin, head of school at Barrack.
"I really feel that it is bringing together the best of two amazing middle schools," Levin said.
While most administrators will be at Barrack, the new school's principal will be Susan Friedman, the leader of Saligman, Levin said.
"It's a huge thing for the Jewish community because the number of children in Jewish day schools has been declining," Schwartz said.
A 2009 study showed a 16 percent decline in the child population of Jewish households over 13 years in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties, Schwartz said, while the number of interfaith marriages has risen.
The biggest difference between the schools - and so the biggest change - may be that Barrack is a "pluralistic Jewish day school," meaning it offers open enrollment to "any family who self-identifies as being Jewish," Schwartz said.
Perelman is oriented toward Conservative Judaism and has stricter enrollment guidelines. The merged school will use the more open enrollment policy.
"We engaged in our joint discussions believing that we could create a more seamless K-12 day school system grounded in rich traditions, superior academics, with a focus on affordability, sustainability, and improved access," said Elliot Norry, board chairman of the Perelman Jewish Day School.