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entries tagged with: Alisa Flatow


Palestinian hate, U.S. silence


Bat Torah students tour Israel

School trip replaces Shabbaton

_JStandardLocal | World
Published: 04 March 2011
The students picked oranges as volunteers for Leket Yisrael, an organization that grows and distributes food to the needy all over Israel. It counts on volunteers to pick the fruit in order to keep costs down. Courtesy Bat Torah

Our students at Bat Torah – the Alisa M. Flatow Yeshiva High School are still flying high, one week after returning to school from Israel. Our school had not had an Israel trip since 2007, the last year the Jewish Agency subsidized such programs. But this year, after considering the cost of the usual annual Shabbaton, the administration decided to ask the parent body to contribute $500 per student, and the school made up the balance to offer the girls a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Most of our students, from all of the grades, were able to attend.

Seeing the places about which the students learned in their Tanakh and Jewish History classes (and in their Israel Advocacy program) brought those lessons to life and inspired a real love of Israel. There was an additional very personal and emotional component to the trip as the girls bonded with the Israeli madrichot who served as tour guides and spent Shabbat with graduates of the school who are raising families in Israel and joined us for our Shabbaton.

The trip included some hands-on chesed, or charity. Each girl took along a duffle bag of clothing donated by people in the community in response to a notice placed on the Teaneck shuls e-mail list. In fact, the response was so overwhelming that we had to ask people to stop bringing in any more clothing. The bags were packed in school and picked up at the airport in Israel by a wonderful couple, Ed and Betty Wolf, formerly of Monsey, N.Y., and now living in Kfar Saba, who have devoted themselves to distributing clothing to former residents of Gush Katif and people in the Migdal Ohr community, as well as others in need.

Our first stop after leaving the airport was a hilltop in Jaffa, overlooking the Mediterranean, with the sun brightly shining down on us, where our guides gathered everyone into a circle and had one of the students who had never been to Israel recite the blessing of Shehecheyanu, thanking God for the good fortune of living to see this day. After breakfast, we headed briefly to the flea market in Jaffa, and then to Tel Aviv, for one of the most emotional stops: ndependence Hall, where in 1948 David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel. We were shown footage of events leading up to this historic day and then heard the audio of the declaration and the singing of Hatikva by all present in that very hall. Then we drove to Rechovot to pick oranges to be distributed to the poor, as part of a program run by an organization called Leket Yisrael. The girls picked 1,500 pounds of oranges. One added treat was the opportunity to separate the terumah tithe and to recite the blessing, about which they learned in school. At the end of our first day, we headed up north to the Galil.

The next few days took us to the ancient city of Safed and then to mountain tops from which we could see the bunkers used by the Syrians shooting down on Israeli villages before and during the Six Day War. We recited Psalms that reference Mount Hermon as we faced that mountain, we visited Katzrin where we saw a reenactment of life in the times of the Mishna, and had dinner in a lovely restaurant in Tiberias. The next day, we drove south and took cable cars up to Masada, hiked down the mountain, swam in the Dead Sea, and drove to Jerusalem. We had dinner in the Malcha mall, where students were joined by their sisters and brothers and other relatives who are studying and living in Israel. The next day we toured the emotion-packed, newly renovated Yad VaShem Holocaust museum, heard personal stories of fallen soldiers at Mount Herzl, and saw the plaque commemorating terror victims, including Alisa Flatow. Passing in front of the Prime Minister’s residence, where a tent has been set up to publicize the plight of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, we recited tehillim, psalms, for him as we do every day in school. We then proceeded to pray at the Kotel, to go through the Kotel tunnels and through King Hezekiah’s water tunnels, and finally we had dinner in the Jewish neighborhood in the Old City.

On Friday morning, we drove in a special bullet-proof bus to Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and to Me’arat Hamachpelah in Hebron. Before returning to Jerusalem, we also visited kibbutz Kfar Etzion, where we saw a moving film about the bravery and the horrible fate of the kibbutz in 1948, when 243 of its members were killed on the day before the State was declared. We learned how many of the children of the fallen, who were sent away for their safety, returned to rebuild the settlement (which had been destroyed more than once in the past) following the Six-Day War in 1967. In fact, we have decided to pursue the topic in Jewish History classes to learn more about the area known as the Etzion Bloc. Our last stop of the day was the Machane Yehudah market, to shop for Shabbat snacks and to absorb the flavor of Jerusalem getting ready for Shabbat.

After a pre-Shabbat “ruach” session at our hotel, we walked to a local shul, where we ushered in the Shabbat to the beautiful melodies of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. The next day, fortified with a delicious Shabbat meal and zemirot, we took a very long walk through the streets of Jerusalem to the Old City and prayed Mincha at the newly restored Hurva synagogue. After Ma’ariv at the Kotel, we heard Havdala at the home of the singer Chaim Dovid. We then went up to his roof for a Melave Malka with a breathtaking view of the Kotel, all lit up and welcoming. Finally, back at our hotel, we had fresh hot pizza before boarding our bus for the final leg of our journey, back to Ben Gurion airport. While we were actually going home, we also felt that we were leaving home.


Bat Torah girls high school won’t reopen in September

Students “were treated as individuals,” Stephen Flatow said of the school that bears the name of his daughter Alisa. “Teachers never hesitated to look face to face with a student,” added Flatow, a member of the board. “It was also the hands-on approach … that made it so special.”

That school — Bat Torah - The Alisa M. Flatow Yeshiva High School, an Orthodox girls’ school that was set to move from Paramus to Teaneck this summer, is closing instead. Miriam Bak, the school’s principal, attributed the closing to a sudden and unexpected drop in numbers in the 11th grade.

She said that classes had ranged from 10 to 15 students over the past few years, with an incoming class that was “closer to 20,” but a few 11th-graders dropped out “very recently,” and that “tips the scale. The numbers are too small and we’re too vulnerable — when your numbers are small, you’re very vulnerable.”

She suggested that students switch schools for social and not educational reasons.

Bat Torah was founded in 1978 in Suffern, N.Y. According to a mission statement on its website,, “Our primary and ultimate goal is to produce a mature, self-confident young woman who combines strict adherence to Torah and mitzvot with the ability to relate to society at large.”

“Our immediate goal,” the statement continued, “is to provide each of our students with the basic knowledge and the thirst for learning which will inspire her to continue both her Jewish studies and her secular studies far beyond high school.”

In 2008, the school moved from Suffern, N.Y., to the former Frisch School building in Paramus, renting the space from Frisch (which had moved to new quarters) and subletting some of it to Ben Porat Yosef, an elementary school. The roles were reversed when Ben Porat Yosef took over as principal tenant.

Bat Torah had planned to move to the Jewish Center of Teaneck this summer and prepare 11 classrooms there for the beginning of the school year.

But instead, said Bak, “we have until the end of the month, which is this week, to clear out of the Frisch building. I have invited a few yeshivot to ‘inherit’ whatever items they can use.” The remaining items will be sold.

The JCT was one of the first places Bat Torah had in mind when moving to Bergen County. In a newsletter published on the Bat Torah website, dated May 27, 2011, Bak wrote, “As you may know, we were hoping to move to the [JCT] three years ago, and it wasn’t available. Now, we are very excited to tell you that we will be moving there over the summer.”

In subsequent newsletters, Bak expressed concern about moving costs. On June 15, she wrote, “We’re getting estimates from the movers and the price quotes are frighteningly high.”

Bat Torah had already placed a deposit for the JCT space. “They have been wonderful to us, and we were so excited to be located in their space this fall,” said Bak. “It is very sad,” she added.

The Jewish Center of Teaneck will be left without a tenant.

JCT’s Rabbi Lawrence Zierler would not comment on the closing or its impact on his synagogue, saying, “it’s too early, too new to discuss.” He had only praise for the school, however. “It’s a wonderful school with great teachers, great administrators, and even better students.”

Stephen Flatow also was not prepared to discuss the closing. “We are now formulating a response” to it, he said. “This is a very emotional time…. It’s going to take time to recover from this.”

Three of Flatow’s daughters, Gail, Francine, and Ilana, attended the school.

Flatow held open the possibility that the school would reorganize and eventually reopen, but “definitely not this year…. We will miss it dearly.”

‘She had a warmth about her’

Alisa Flatow, a 20-year-old Frisch School graduate and Brandeis University student, was killed, along with seven Israeli soldiers, in a suicide bombing in the Gaza Strip on April 9, 1995. She was on a public bus in transit to the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom.

Flatow had volunteered to teach children there while taking a semester off from her junior year. She also studied at the Nishmat seminary in Israel.

“She had a warmth about her, a real inner beauty that surrounded her,” said Rabbi Saul Zucker, Flatow’s former teacher and associate principal during her time at the Frisch School, in an interview immediately after her death.

U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey called her “an exceptional young American dedicated to Judaism, her people, and to Israel. She will be deeply missed.” More than 2,000 people attended her funeral in West Orange.

Bat Torah Academy, then in Suffern, N.Y., changed its name to Bat Torah – Alisa M. Flatow Yeshiva High School, in her memory.

After the death of Alisa her parents, Rosalyn and Stephen, established the Alisa M. Flatow Memorial Scholarship Fund, to award grants to students for post-high school study in Israel. Scholarships are provided to those with academic promise in religious subjects and financial need. The scholarship fund is administered by the Jewish Community Foundation of MetroWest NJ.

Josh Isackson

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