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He’atid, JEFG receive grants

OU funds multiple approaches to Day School ‘affordability crisis’

 
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Two local institutions have been awarded grants from the Orthodox Union as part of the organization’s day school affordability initiative.

Yeshivat He’atid, which is scheduled to open next year in Bergenfield, is among seven projects receiving a challenge grant. The winners were announced Monday at the end of a two-day “Summit on the Affordability of Jewish Education” arranged by the OU that was held in Woodcliff Lake.

The summit brought together 150 lay and professional day school leaders, communal rabbis, and leaders of foundations, federations, and others who are affiliated with more than 80 institutions primarily across the spectrum of Orthodoxy.

“We were heartened to see the depth of commitment and breadth of creativity being applied to the issue of educational affordability,” stated Yehuda Neuberger, chairman of the OU’s Tuition Affordability Task Force. “At the end of the day, day school affordability will be best addressed by multiple parallel efforts that create a variety of revenue growth and expense reduction opportunities. We hope that these grants will result in communal learning and in the replication of successful strategies on a national level.”

In addition to the grants, the Orthodox Union announced a one-time gift to support the Jewish Education for Generations (JEFG) campaign in Bergen County.

The JEFG campaign has three primary goals: to change the current day school economic model, which places almost the entire financial burden on parents, shifting at least some of it onto the broader community; to develop private and public funding sources for day schools; and to find ways that day schools in the area, regardless of affiliation, can work together to achieve economies in scale and share best practices to the benefit of all.

According to Rabbi Judah Isaacs, director of the OU Community Engagement Department, which administers the grant program, “This award is in recognition of the pioneering effort made by JEFG to galvanize community support for all of the day schools in Bergen County.”

The grant to Yeshiva He’Atid will be targeted toward the creation of a Judaic curriculum for kindergarten through second grade for “blended learning,” meaning the use of both computer-assisted and teacher-assisted instruction. “Blended learning” is at the heart of the anticipated school’s goal of offering a lower tuition-higher technology day school alternative.

The other winning grants include:

• Project Education Tuition Affordability Campaign, Project Education Council, Brooklyn. The OU will fund program development and marketing for the campaign to change the culture of giving within the Sephardic (mainly Syrian) community in Brooklyn, resulting in more dollars staying within the community for Jewish education.

• Corporate Citizenship, Denver Academy of Torah, Denver. The OU’s funds will be used to match a foundation grant for website development and graphic design of the Corporate Citizenship program. In this program, participating businesses would give five percent of what they earn through the website to the Denver Academy of Torah. This initiative expands the traditional scrip program to businesses not normally associated with such efforts.

• Hillel Without Borders, The Samuel Scheck Hillel Community Day School, North Miami Beach, Fla. One way to spark community involvement in a school is to get community members to see the school as important to their own lives. Hillel Without Borders hopes to achieve that by creating afterschool programs and adult education opportunities at the school.

• Edollars, Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pa. The Pittsburgh schools sponsor a “timebanx” program, which allows parents to receive dollar-for-dollar tuition reductions for substantive volunteer work. Schools “can save up to $250,000 in expenses per year in payroll areas such as the IT department, substitute teachers, lunch monitors, landscaping, building maintenance, administrative assistants, etc.,” according to the grant application. It added that the program “has the direct dollar value of $50-$100 per hour. Parents earning that amount are receiving its exact value in exchange for tuition costs.” The OU grant will be used to make improvements to the program that would make it attractive enough for other schools to adapt.

• The National Jewish Cooperative Day School Project, The Jewish Cooperative School, Hollywood, Fla. The OU grant will fund production of an online “Jewish Cooperative Day School Handbook” that will assist parents across the country to form and manage their own cooperative day school, “in which parents are required to bear the burdens of a school’s costs collectively and directly,” the grant application explains. The handbook can also be used by existing day schools that want to increase parent participation.

• The Online Resource Room, Scranton Hebrew Day School, Scranton, Pa. As if day school tuition is not high enough, it is even more of a burden when it comes to special needs children. The OU will provide funding for eight students in four day schools for six months to test both the educational and financial efficacy of distance learning for special needs youngsters. “We want to monitor the children to see if distance learning results in cost savings for the schools while meeting the needs of its students,” said Isaacs, the OU’s grant program’s administrator. The program began as a pilot project last year at the Scranton Hebrew Day School, in which its resource room director studied “with six students across the country online in their homes, as well as in school. In each live session,” the director “was able to replicate the quality and interactive techniques” used in the school’s resource room.

 
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A rabbi hasn’t walked into the bar ... yet

It’s not every day that a liquor license comes up for sale in Teaneck. (State licensing laws limit the number of licenses in a formula based on a town’s population.)

So when Jonathan Gellis heard that the owner of Vinny O’s in Teaneck was looking to sell the establishment, including the license, after 28 years behind the bar, he realized that only one of the more than 20 kosher restaurants in Teaneck could sell alcohol.

That seemed to be an opportunity.

Mr. Gellis is a stockbroker by day. He’s used to working in a regulated business — and the alcohol business in New Jersey is highly regulated.

Mr. Gellis grew up in Teaneck; his parents moved the family here from Brooklyn in 1975, back when the town had only one kosher restaurant. His four children attend Yeshivat Noam and the Frisch School, and he serves on the board of both institutions. He also is president of Congregation Keter Torah.

 

Where greatness lies

A memorial to Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

On July 3, 5 Tammuz, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi died. He was 89.

He inspired tens of thousands of people directly — and indirectly he inspired millions more, people who have yet to discover that the spiritual approaches they hold dear were invented and graciously shared by him.

Reb Zalman was prodigiously influential over many decades, but he was not proportionately famous. He was not always given credit for his vast learning or for his astonishing array of contributions. And he was okay with that.

The first time I saw Reb Zalman, he was on the bimah of an auditorium that held 2,000 people. His face beamed love at the congregation. I had been leading another High Holiday service, and I was able to join his congregation for the last few minutes of Rosh Hashanah morning.

 

Paying it forward

Remembering Gabby Reuveni’s generous spirit

Just a glance at the web page created in memory of Gabby Reuveni of Paramus gives some indication of the number of people she touched and — through the ongoing efforts of her family — she continues to touch.

Killed two years ago in Pennsylvania by a driver who swerved onto the shoulder of the road, where she was running, Gabby, who was 20, was “an extremely aware and kind person,” her mother, Jacqueline Reuveni, said. “We’re continuing her legacy.”

The family has undertaken both public and private “acts of kindness,” she said, from endowing scholarships to meeting local families’ medical bills.

According to her father, Michael Reuveni, Gabby — then a student at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the school’s track team — was a victim of vehicular homicide.

 

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An American tale

Closter’s mayor talks about her journey from Nuremberg to New Jersey

Anyone trying to predict the course of newborn Sofie Dittmann’s life in 1928 would have imagined a solid, possibly even stolid upper-middle-class life, most likely in her birth city — Nuremberg, Germany.

It would have seemed an odd leap to imagine Sophie Dittman Heymann as she is today — the Republican mayor of Closter, coming to the end of her term as she completes eight years in office.

Her story, as Ms. Heymann tells it, involves hats, salamis, of course ambition, and a surprising but logical take on Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

It began with Sofie, as her name then was spelled, and her younger sister, Ilse, growing up in a comfortable German-Jewish home. Her father, Fritz Dittmann, a leather dealer, was a World War I veteran, and he had earned an Iron Cross fighting for Germany in that war. Her mother, Gerda, was the daughter of a banker. The family’s life in Germany ended abruptly in 1933, however, when one of her father’s employees — who “was a Nazi, but also very loyal to my father,” Ms. Heymann said — warned him that the Nazis would be coming for him the next day.

The family escaped that night — by taxi.

 

Got day school?

Federation launches marketing effort for nine area Jewish schools

“We can accomplish more together by pooling our resources for a common goal,” explained Rabbi Jonathan Knapp, head of school of the Yavneh Academy in Paramus.

“Through this project, we hope to raise awareness across the broader community about the benefits of a stellar dual curricular Jewish education,” he said.

“We’re trying to educate different audiences within our community about the value of a Jewish education and the importance of investing in these schools,” Ms. Scherzer said. “These are the schools that produce leaders.”

In addition to the advertising campaign, planned marketing efforts include a short video, a website, and parlor meetings to take the case for day schools directly to community leaders.

 

As easy as chewing gum

Sweet Bites launches program to prevent tooth decay

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Still, given the success they enjoyed during their pilot year in India, the creators of Sweet Bites stand a good chance of making widespread gum distribution a reality.

According to 22-year-olds Josh Tycko of Demarest and Eric Kauderer-Abrams of Englewood, who joined with several friends at the University of Pennsylvania this year to found the group, tooth decay has been a terrible burden on the lives of millions of slum dwellers.

Sweet Bites wants to popularize the use of 100 percent xylitol-sweetened gum to reverse the trend. The students point out that clinical trials in both the United States and India have proved the gum’s efficacy in re-mineralizing enamel and reducing tooth decay.

 
 
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