The Ramaz Upper School is a college preparatory program, designed to develop an appreciation for and understanding of the intellectual disciplines that are part of western civilization. The Judaic studies curriculum provides an equally rigorous program through which the religious and cultural tradition of Judaism is both taught and experienced. It is located on East 78th Street, seven city blocks (0.5 km) away from the other two school buildings, located on East 85th Street. Approximately fifty percent of the Upper School student body advances from the Middle School, as well as daily commuters from Brooklyn, Queens, Westchester, and Nassau counties in New York; Stamford and New Haven in Connecticut; from all over metropolitan New Jersey; and on a weekly or longer basis from more distant communities.
Ramaz was founded in 1937 and is affiliated with Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun ("KJ"), a synagogue located on East 85th Street, which shares a building with the lower school and is across the street from the middle school. The congregation and its rabbi, Joseph Lookstein, helped to found and finance the school.
Architect James Rossant designed the modernist Upper School building, completed in 1981.
Founded in 1937 by Rabbi Joseph H. Lookstein through the generosity of New York lawyer and philanthropist Max J. Etra, Ramaz takes its name from the initials of Rabbi Moses Zevulun Margolies, the grandfather-in-law of Lookstein. The current principal, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, is the son of Joseph Lookstein and was a member of the first class of six students.
Classes were held in many locations over the years, including the vestry rooms of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun. After the closing of Finch College, Ramaz bought the college's campus and renovated the buildings.
On November 30, 2007, The Wall Street Journal listed Ramaz as one of the top schools for graduates entering the top eight universities in the country, with 10 out of a class of 100 (class of 2007) going to these schools.
The Ramaz School had proposed a 28-story project to be built in place of the Lower School during 2008–2010. The building would have replaced the current school with a new building split into ten floors used by the school and topped by 18 floors of condominiums. Air rights of the adjoining synagogue would be transferred for use by the adjoining school/condo structure. The project may have had to be scaled back following a review by the City's Board of Standards & Appeals because the height is more than what is permitted at this site. The plans were withdrawn by the school in July 2008. However, due to a fire in the adjacent Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun building in July 2011, the Lower school began to undergo repairs and refurbishments for water damage. Since the building was not ready to welcome students that September, the Temple Emanu-El of New York and Park Avenue Synagogue volunteered their facilities for students until November 2011. On November 8, 2011, the Lower school reopened its doors.
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein scaled back his role as Principal of the Ramaz School at the end of the 2005–2006 school year, but he remained the rabbi of the associated Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun Synagogue. He appointed Judith Fagin, formerly the headmistress of the Middle School, as Head of the Ramaz School. At the end of the 2011–2012 school year, she passed on the role of Head of School to Mr. Paul Shaviv, who hails from Canada. Mr. Paul Shaviv served as headmaster for three years. In 2015, Rabbi Eric Grossman, originally from Toronto, became the new headmaster of the school.
The Head of the Lower School is Rabbi Tavi Koslowe, the Head of the Middle School is Smadar Seinfeld, and Rabbi Shlomo Stochel is Associate Dean of the Upper School. Rabbi Joshua Bakst retired in 2003 and is currently the Dean, Emeritus.
The Ramaz School's team name is the Ramaz Rams, and their logo is a Ram's head. Ramaz fields a number of competitive and recreational athletic teams throughout the school year. In the Upper School, there are varsity teams for both boys and girls in basketball, tennis, volleyball, and hockey, these teams compete in both the Yeshiva High School Athletic League and local independent school leagues. Ramaz also fields soccer, baseball, swim, table tennis, and track teams.
Ramaz's academic teams include their Mock Trial team, which competes in the New York State Bar Association's statewide competition and won the New York State competition in 2002, the New York City competition four times, and were finalists or semi-finalists an additional six times. Ramaz's Model Congress team participates in the University of Pennsylvania Model Congress tournament, and their Model UN team competes in the annual Yeshiva University National Model United Nations event. Additionally, Ramaz's College Bowl team participates in independent tournaments, their Math Team competes in the New York Math League and the Mandelbrot Competition, the Chess Club competes in the Yeshiva Chess League, the Science Olympiad team competes against 15 other New York and New Jersey schools in a competition administered by the Board of Jewish Education, and their Hidon HaTanakh and Torah Bowl teams compete against local Jewish Day Schools. Ramaz Upper School students have also succeeded in numerous academic competitions in both the arts and sciences, including the 2004–2005 Siemens Westinghouse Competition, the 2007 NCTE Achievement Awards in Writing, the Intel Science Competition, and the American Mathematics Competition.
In addition to their athletic and academic teams, the Ramaz Upper School also has 22 special interest clubs, including an Arabic Club, Coalition for the Homeless, and Israel Advocacy Club that regularly attends the annual AIPAC Policy Conference, in addition to 15 fine and performing arts clubs. The Ramaz Chamber Choir has competed in national choral competitions, performed on CBS Sunday Morning News, and at the White House and is featured on the Best of Jewish A Cappella, Volume 3.
In 2007, Joyce Villarin, a former nurse at the school, treated a child for an injury that he claimed his father caused. Villarin contacted the father who admitted to injuring his son. The Ramaz administration told Villarin not to report the incident to the police. Villarin did report this and was fired in 2008 because the school thought that she was "not a team player."
Villarin sued the school in Manhattan Supreme Court in 2009, arguing that the state’s Social Services Law obligated her to report the potential abuse. Under the law, school faculty are required to report to state authorities a suspicion that a child is being abused or mistreated.
^Rabbi Dr. Adam Ferziger, Torah In Motion. Accessed January 28, 2016. "A native of Riverdale, New York, he attended the SAR Academy and the Ramaz Upper School. After graduation from Ramaz, he studied Torah at Beit Midrash l'Torah (BMT) in Jerusalem and Yeshivat Har-Etzion (Gush)."
^Heyman, Marshall. "An Actress Turns a Page", The Wall Street Journal, October 25, 2010. Accessed January 28, 2016. "Further browsing encouraged Ms. Lyonne to reminisce about the authors she loved as a high school student at Ramaz Yeshiva on the Upper East Side: Camus, Gide, Gogol, Hemingway, and, perhaps most randomly, the Comte de Lautréamont and his book, Les Chants de Maldoror."
^Wallace, Benjamin. "What’s So Alluring About a Woman Known As Man Repeller?", New York (magazine), February 8, 2014. Accessed January 28, 2017. "Leaving aside the eighth-year pronouncement regarding her indifference to others’ sartorial opinions, it would have been hard to foresee Medine’s modish future based on the black and gray maxi-skirts she was required to wear through her high-school years at the Ramaz School, a yeshiva on East 78th Street."
^Kehilath Jeshurun Bulletin, Online, September 6, 2006. Retrieved May 19, 2011. "Ursula Merkin...All of her children are alumni of Ramaz. Many of her grandchildren are either alumnae or current students in our school in which her son, Ezra, serves as Vice Chairman of the Board.."
^Heller, Jamie. "Mukasey’s Pedigree", The Wall Street Journal Online, Law Blog, September 17, 2007. Retrieved September 17, 2007. "Mukasey graduated from Ramaz in 1959 and went on to Columbia College and Yale Law School."
^Cohen, Irwin. "Baseball Is Dull Only To Those With Dull Minds", The Jewish Press, February 7, 2007. "The best book you can get about Thomson’s homer, the 1951 season, the players, sign-stealing and more is Joshua Prager’s The Echoing Green. Prager, who grew up in New Jersey, went to Moriah Day School, Ramaz High School and spent a year in yeshiva after high school before going on to college and a writing career with The Wall Street Journal." Retrieved December 2, 2007.