Rabbi David and Odette Rebibo
In 1965 Rav Joseph Kaminetzky, then head of Torah Umesorah- National Society for Hebrew Day Schools, recommended Rabbi David Rebibo, an alumnus of Yeshivat Chachmei Tzarfat in Aix-les-Bains, France, and the Mir Yeshiva in Brooklyn, New York,as the best choice to open a Jewish day school in the southwestern US city of Phoenix, which then had a population of 10,000 Jews.
In 1965 Rebibo and his wife Odette moved to Phoenix, where he established the Phoenix Hebrew Academy, the city's first Jewish day school. Rabbi Rebibo's efforts were opposed by the city's non-Orthodox rabbis, who believed that Jewish students should be absorbed into the larger community. Since most of the student body were not from Orthodox homes, Rebibo calmed parents' fears that their children would be "converted" to Orthodoxy by setting a policy accepting children from all streams of Judaism. In time, some of the parents most active in the school were those who belonged to the local Reform temple. Today, Rabbi Rebibo's legacy lives on in that all Jewish students are welcome at the Phoenix Hebrew Academy regardless of affiliation.
The Phoenix Hebrew Academy opened on September 7, 1965, with classes for kindergarten and grades 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6. First-year enrollment was 40 students. The school's first campus was a house at 337 East Bethany Home Road, where Rebibo spotted a "for sale" sign a few weeks before opening day. In the 1970s, the school purchased a larger facility at 515 East Bethany Home Road, its current location. Rebbetzin Odette Rebibo was supportive in all the efforts of building the Phoenix Hebrew Academy by teaching, bookkeeping, or doing whatever else was needed to keep the institution running well.
The school's success spawned the opening of six other Jewish day schools in the Phoenix area.
PHA has grown four times its initial enrollment.
Rabbi Rebibo and his wife Odette retired in 2019 and currently live in Israel.