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entries tagged with: Rosenbaum Yeshiva Of North Jersey


Shadow training helps classroom aides become more effective

Tamar Kahane created an institute that trains “shadows” — teachers’ aides who work with individual children.
A team meeting at Englewood’s Kahane Center. In addition to the Shadow Training Institute, the facility includes an  Aspergers Institute and  nutrition center as well as a learning component and family services program.

I’ve been doing shadow training for years through my practice,” says psychologist Tamar Kahane, Teaneck resident and founder of Englewood’s Kahane Center for Developmental and Psychological Well-being.

Shadows — teachers’ aides who help facilitate the functioning of students in the classroom — are essential for many children, she said, yet “anyone can call themselves a shadow, regardless of their skill-set or educational background.”

To address this, and “concerned about the difficulties that children with autism spectrum disorder and ADD/ADHD face every day in the classroom,” in September Kahane and her associate Chassia Boczko created the Shadow Training Institute.

Many shadows function “intuitively,” said Kahane. For example, some automatically pack up a child’s belongings rather than encourage the child to do it himself, or they relay to the child what a teacher has said rather than help the child get the information directly.

Her goal is to provide these shadows with a body of knowledge to guide their actions.

“The role of the shadow is to empower the child to become increasingly more functional — emotionally, socially, behavorially, and academically,” said Kahane. “Their role is not to do the work for the child, but to help the child become increasingly more autonomous in the classroom.”

“The ultimate goal is for a child not to need a shadow,” she said, stressing the danger of “maintained helplessness,” where children are not taught to become independent and functional. “It’s found on a regular basis. It’s very distressing,” she said, adding that the intensive eight-hour shadow training she provides emphasizes the collaborative aspect of the work, involving communication between the shadow and others, including teachers, principals, and parents.

“It can be a problem if it’s not addressed properly,” she said. “Everyone works together as a team and should be included in the process.”

Training also includes a segment on autism spectrum disorders, “to help [shadows] understand what they’re looking at and how to deal with it,” as well as an interactive segment where participants explore specific tools and strategies. Graduates receive a certificate and “an impressive notebook,” said Kahane, adding that a monthly booster program helps shadows with specific issues encountered in the classroom.

Shadows trained by the center work in both public and private schools, including the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge and the Moriah School in Englewood.

RYNJ General Studies Principal Arlene Liebman credits STI with training shadows “who know when to jump in and when to step aside and let the child work independently” and for giving shadows tools to help children “learn how to strategize.”

Sharon Herenstein, who shadows a 7-year-old first-grader at the Moriah School, said that when she first started, she always carried the looseleaf of information provided by STI.

“I called it my ‘bible,’” she said. “It gives you the coping skills you need. I used it in the beginning until a pattern developed and I figured it out, though I have called Dr. Kahane for help.”

Formerly engaged in retail work, Herenstein said she has always loved working with children, whether in school or camp settings.

“Not everyone can be a shadow,” she said. “It’s a hard job — you have to love it.”

Herenstein joked that children in the classroom call her “Morah Sarah” and are clearly comfortable with her.

“They like me. This gives my child a fairer chance,” she said. “Being a shadow is an amazing, wonderful thing. I wish it was fashionable when my son was younger,” she added, noting that her own child had suffered from anxiety.

Herenstein said she feels “very much valued” by the school, and that the principal, Elliot Prager, has been especially supportive. She said she also enjoys a warm relationship with the family of the student she shadows.

“The tolerance level is not always there with teachers, and sometimes you just need someone to defuse” a child’s growing unease, “even with just a gentle touch,” she said.

Tori Ashman, Moriah’s first-grade special-needs teacher — part of the school’s Gesher Yehuda program — has seen a “huge difference” between shadows who are trained and those who are not.

A trained shadow helps his or her child make transitions more smoothly, said Ashman, whether the child is going from play to learning, or from one academic area to another. “Sharon is just incredible,” said Ashman, who has worked at Moriah for four years. “She knows exactly what to say.”

Kahane, who served as the senior psychologist at the Solomon Schechter School of Bergen County in New Milford for seven years, has been in private practice for some 18 years.

When she began her career, she said, she was one of few practitioners who focused on social skills. Now, she said, that focus is “very common.”

She noted also that for some children, “the camp situation is more of a struggle than in school,” pointing out that these children “are hugely helped by having a trained shadow [so that they can] enjoy summer in camp.”

For further information about the Kahane Center and the Shadow Training Institute, visit or call (201) 894-9011.


Learning curve

Community confronts day-school tuition crisis

Students have closed their books for summer but schools and parents alike are working to make the grade in the next stage of the day-school tuition crisis saga.

Raising one child can cost a middle-income family $19,380 to $23,180 a year, according to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And if that family is dedicated to a day-school education, which can cost anywhere between $8,000 and $60,000 a year, then it’s time to start getting creative. According to UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, 4,822 students attended kindergarten through 12th grade in one of Bergen County’s 13 yeshiva day schools during the 2009-10 school year.

The country’s economic downturn pushed the tuition crisis out of the shadows of griping around the Shabbat table and into a very bright spotlight. Beginning with an early 2009 educators conference at the Orthodox Union in New York, teachers, administrators, and parents heeded the call to action to ease what many described as an increasing burden on day-school families.

Throughout the past year, several key players emerged, each with ideas on how to solve the problem. Indeed, the community saw a number of initiatives put forward; some gained momentum while others fizzled.



“The community’s voting with its feet and saying the model of day-school education is not broken,” said Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, rabbinic adviser to Jewish Education for Generations, a non-profit group created last year to explore new funding options. “It’s the model of funding that’s broken.” (See page 16.)

JEFG’s main project has been Northern New Jersey Kehillot Investing in Day Schools, or NNJKIDS, a fund-raising initiative meant to shift the burden of tuition off of the parents and make it a communal priority. Formed in May 2009, NNJKIDS handed out $300,000 to eight area elementary schools throughout the course of the past school year. Organizers declared May NNJKIDS Month, a fund-raising push in the community that netted about a quarter of a million dollars.

“There was a tremendous increase and uptake in the amount of awareness around NNJKIDS,” said Sam Moed, chair of JEFG.

More than 60 businesses participated in the month-long program. Business-owners asked customers to contribute to NNJKIDS at checkout, and day-school children collected pledges for a learn-a-thon during Shavuot. One donor had promised a matching grant of up to $100,000 and NNJKIDS organizers reported that the full match would be collected.

“If anyone would have predicted when we began that we would be this far along, I would not have believed it,” Goldin said. “To be able to get all the schools to sit down and cooperate to the level that they have and get the communal support from various institutions and garner the support on the grassroots level is very encouraging.”

JEFG leaders said their donations mitigated tuition by $200 per student.

“NNJKIDS was a strong contributor to our ability to moderate the increase in tuition,” said Rabbi Yehuda Rosenbaum, president of the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge. “The funds from NNJKIDS were considered after all other economic considerations and had a real impact on lowering tuition increases for next year.”

JEFG isn’t resting on its laurels, however.

“We’ve got to continue to work on this and not in any way take our focus off different funding models and different approaches to all models of day schools,” Moed said.

United Jewish Communities of Metrowest in northwestern New Jersey has successfully created a community mega-fund. The $50 million campaign began with $13 million in contributions from 11 families in 2007 and sparked an idea within JEFG to replicate the endowment fund here.

David Moss, assistant executive vice president for endowment at UJA-NNJ, who has been working with JEFG on the mega-fund, said the idea is still being explored. The hope, according to Moss, is that such a fund would contribute not only to North Jersey’s day schools, but to congregational Hebrew schools as well.

“A lot of details have yet to be determined,” he said. “We’ve been, as a Jewish community and a federation in particular, particularly pleased with the efforts that JEFG is undertaking. When we’re ready to move forward with the mega-fund for Jewish education, it’s going to make the project that much more manageable.”

While he is a firm believer in day schools, Goldin said expanding the mega fund to include congregational Hebrew schools is a demonstration of JEFG’s commitment to educate every Jewish child.

“None of us is on an island,” he said.

Indeed, NNJKIDS has pulled together representatives of the area’s Orthodox and Conservative day schools and earned the support of the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County, which represents the area’s Orthodox rabbis, and the North Jersey Board of Rabbis, which represents the area’s Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist rabbis. Ruth Gafni, head of school at Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County in New Milford, told The Jewish Standard during NNJKIDS Month that the organization has created a sense of community.

“The message is you’re not in it alone,” she said.

The government — navigating the separation of church and state

More than 170,000 students in New Jersey attend some 1,200 non-public schools, according to the Orthodox advocacy group Agudath Israel of New Jersey. Of those, about 80 percent attend religious schools. The government provides $137 in aid per private-school student — $72 for nursing services and $65 for textbooks. A handful of groups is exploring options to expand that funding within the confines of the separation between church and state.

Schools that will receive part of a $221,367 allocation from the UJA Federation of Northern N.J. during the 2010-11 school year:

• Bat Torah – The Alisa M. Flatow Yeshiva High School

• Ben Porat Yosef

• The Frisch School

• Gerrard Berman Day School, Solomon Schechter of North Jersey

• Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls

• The Moriah School

• Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey

• Solomon Schechter Day School
of Bergen County

• Torah Academy of Bergen County

• Yavneh Academy

• Yeshiva Ohr Yosef

• Yeshiva Noam

• Sinai Schools

In one of his final acts in office in December, Gov. Jon Corzine created the Non-Public Education Funding Commission to investigate how the state can aid non-public schools. Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) and George Corwell, director of education of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, co-chaired the commission, which turned in its report to Gov. Chris Christie last month. The 23-member commission also included the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education, and the state treasurer and attorney general, charged with monitoring the church-state barrier. As of earlier this week, the commission’s findings had not yet been made public. Schaer declined comment until Christie’s office releases the report.

“Gov. Christie has received the commission’s report and we are currently reviewing its findings,” said Sean L. Conner, a Christie spokesman. “We are working to ensure every child in New Jersey has access to a quality education, no matter their zip code or family’s socioeconomic status.”

Howie Beigelman, deputy director of the OU’s Institute of Public Affairs, testified before the New Jersey Senate’s Committee on Economic Development in support of the Opportunity Scholarship Act, a bipartisan bill that would create scholarships to be funded by corporate donors and provide tax credits for those corporations. Similar programs have already been instituted in Pennsylvania and Florida, while the Maryland Senate recently passed a similar bill.

“That will be a great step forward for all of us,” Beigelman told the Standard. “Lower and moderate-income kids can get a scholarship to go to a better school of their choice.”

The IPA is focusing its efforts on the OSA and has all but abandoned the pursuit of school vouchers. Vouchers, according to Beigelman, are “a minefield. While we certainly think legally there are ways to draft it that are appropriate, we think tax credits are easier and in other states help public and non-public schools. We’re happy to help everyone at the same time.”

Josh Pruzansky, director of Agudath Israel of New Jersey and chair of the New Jersey State Non-Public School Advisory Committee, praised Christie’s stance toward school choice.

“It’s absolutely wonderful to have a governor like Gov. Chris Christie who understands the importance of having a child educated in a place where their parents decide is the best place to be educated,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for our community to start reaping increased funding for our students.”

Christie has drawn criticism across the state for slashing public school funding. More than half of the proposed school budgets across the state were voted down during April’s contentious school board elections. The elections were particularly contentious in Teaneck because of a slate of candidates for school board who didn’t have children in the public schools. This led to some accusations that some in the Orthodox community were willing to sacrifice the public schools to lower property taxes. This is not the case, Beigelman said.

“We are pro-public school,” Beigelman said. “We also want and need our folks — and everyone who’s in a bad school — to have options.”

The local community is beginning to enter the political arena as well. Jerry Gontownik, vice president of the Englewood-based pro-Israel NORPAC, earlier this year founded EDPAC, dedicated to promoting day-school funding in Trenton.

“We are a PAC that is limited to the state of New Jersey,” Gontownik said, “and focused on encouraging our state elected officials to support programs and funding that would assist families who want to send their children to non-public schools.”

He said one of the areas his group would push is to increase state funding for special education in parochial schools. Tuition at Sinai Schools — which is devoted to special education and has campuses at Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge, Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston, Torah Academy of Bergen County, and Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls, both in Teaneck — charges base costs of more than $40,000 for in-state students and more than $50,000 for out-of-state pupils.

“Some people choose for religious reasons to send their children to parochial schools,” he said. “But I don’t think that choice should cut off completely the right of those parents to receive some funding toward the cost of education for their children.”

Like other advocacy groups, EDPAC is waiting for the governor to release the non-public schools report.

“I hope that if and when there is legislation that would assist the community in paying for Jewish education, that the community will appreciate the potential for such legislation and will assist financially in bringing such legislation to fruition.”

The OU

The Orthodox Union first brought the issue to the public’s attention at a conference for educators last year. OU leaders promised action to stem the increasingly prohibitive tuition, and the organization has made some progress, said Cary Friedman, associate director of day-school and educational services at the OU.

Approximately 15 schools throughout the tri-state area have signed on to a joint health insurance program the OU is coordinating. The OU, Friedman said, has created a professional employer organization, Advantec, so that all staff of the schools in the plan become employees of the new, larger organization. That organization then negotiates lower insurance rates for all the employees spread throughout the different schools.

“The whole topic of health care is just a crushing burden for the schools,” Friedman said. “Even though we’re offering good rates, their concerns are if this is going to continue into the future.”

The Internet may provide another source of relief for day schools. Some states have online charter schools, which — if used for secular components of day schools — could represent cost savings of up to 30 percent, Friedman said. This could also be a way around the church-state issue for funding of secular education.

“That online participation a kid can do in his basement, in a public library, or in a yeshiva classroom next to 19 other kids also signed up for the charter classroom,” he said.

New York and New Jersey currently do not permit online charter schools.

The Chabad factor

Chabad on the Palisades in Tenafly has run a preschool for 13 years, but each year it has faced a dilemma of continuing education, said executive director Rabbi Mordechai Shain.

In recent years, Shain has noticed a trend among parents to put their children into public school after they finish at Chabad. Their argument, he said, is the high quality of Tenafly schools and the cost: Free.

“That’s our challenge,” Shain said. “How do you balance telling parents that they can have an academic education at no charge and telling them here we’re going to charge you thousands?”

In response, Chabad opened a kindergarten last year with 11 children. In November, registration for the 2010-11 year had reached 40 students. In response to the growth, Chabad created a first-grade class, which will begin in September with a class of 10 at a cost of $9,700 per student for first grade, and $9,400 for kindergarten. Both classes require a $770 registration fee as well.

Elliot Prager, principal of The Moriah School in Englewood, the closest day school to Tenafly Chabad, said he does not expect the new school to affect Moriah.

Chabad’s school, Shain said, is not meant to detract from any of the existing day schools. He estimated that about half the enrollment of the kindergarten and 60 percent of the first-grade class comes from Tenafly or surrounding areas that don’t have large Orthodox populations or large percentages of students already in day school.

“To reach people here, in this community, there’s no other way if we don’t open our own [school],” Shain said.

The Staten Island option

One of the ideas floated around last year was to create a low-cost day-school that offered basic educational services without many of the perks — advanced computers, smartboards, extra-curricular activities — now common in day schools. This idea never took off, but it caught the attention of the Jewish Foundation School in Staten Island, which charges local students an annual tuition of $8,500.

Northern New Jersey Kehillot Investing in Day Schools distributed more than $300,000 to area elementary schools during its first year. The following schools receive quarterly allocations from the organization:

• Gerrard Berman Day School, Solomon Schechter of North Jersey

• The Moriah School

• Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey

• Sinai Schools

• Solomon Schechter Day School \of Bergen County

• Yavneh Academy

• Yeshivat Noam

JFS extended that tuition rate — which includes $2,000 for transportation — to Bergen County families. Uri and Devra Gutfreund of Bergenfield sent their three children — ages 6, 9, and 11 — to JFS this year and said they were very happy with the less expensive option.

“We were lucky to have found JFS,” Uri Gutfreund said. “One year after the decision, we are so glad that we made the move and we hope other parents investigate the option for their children.”

The school held two parlor meetings in the area last year and another two in recent months. One additional family has expressed interest in the school for the 2010-11 school year. JFS principal Rabbi Richard Erlich said he has been disappointed with the response so far from Bergen County, but he understands parents’ fears.

“This is a very big jump for a lot of people,” he said. “It takes a lot of courage to decide to remove your children from the local institution and send them 45 minutes away to another state.”

The big stumbling blocks for parents, Gutfreund said, are the commute and social life of the child.

“The social issue is a big mental block,” he said. “It’s going back to the old days when you had shul friends and school friends and neighborhood friends.”

JFS will continue to offer the $8,500 tuition to North Jersey families, Erlich said. About half of the school’s 400-odd students from Staten Island and Brooklyn receive some form of scholarship, but none of those funds is available for New Jersey families. At a few thousand dollars less than the local schools, however, Erlich said New Jersey families are already receiving quite a bargain.

“I’m still surprised,” Erlich said. “Clearly the recession is as entrenched this year as last year. People who didn’t have jobs last year still don’t have jobs this year. I’m trying to figure out why there isn’t a much greater response to our offer.”

How the schools are coping

Funds from NNJKIDS mitigated tuition increases across the board by about $200 per child, according to JEFG and school officials. It’s a start, but many schools still had to raise their rates and find other ways to cut costs.

Bat Torah – The Alisa M. Flatow Yeshiva High School in Paramus is raising its tuition for the coming year to $10,000, an increase of $1,000 from this year’s rate. The school relies on its efficiency and goodwill of its parents to keep its prices low, said principal Miriam Bak.

One of the areas in which the school saves is by not paying teacher benefits. Most of the staff of almost 30 teachers is part time, though they are well-trained specialists and the school goes out of its way to accommodate schedules, Bak said.

At Ben Porat Yosef, which shares the old Frisch building with Bat Torah, tuition for pre-K rose $400 to $13,600, while tuition for first through fifth grades rose $400 to $14,200. The nursery school lowered its tuition by $1,300 to $7,900 and the toddler class lowered its tuition by $800 to $6,900.

The school has 215 students enrolled for next year, an approximately 40 percent increase from this past year, said Yehuda Kohn, vice president of the school’s board. Next year will also mark the school’s first fifth-grade class.

“Ben Porat Yosef is in a unique position in that we are in a vigorous growth phase,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Standard. “As a result, not only have we not had to cut any staff, but our current fixed costs are now becoming more cost-effective.”

The school held a scholarship walkathon recently that raised more than $60,000. BPY is also working with Yeshiva University’s Institute for University-School Partnership to create new avenues for revenue without increasing tuition. In addition, the school is “actively pursuing” all cost-cutting ideas, Kohn continued.

“No line item on our budget is immune,” he wrote.

“We’re learning to do more with less. We’re going to have to take on that mantra,” said Joel Kirschner, executive director of Yavneh Academy in Paramus, who spoke with the Standard last month.

Yavneh raised its tuition for kindergarten to fifth grade to $13,300 and tuition for sixth through eighth grade to $13,975 — representing a $200 increase on both levels. The school’s allocation from UJA-NNJ has also decreased in recent years, Kirschner said. The federation gave it $105,000 for the 2005-06 year, while the allocation for 2009-10 was under $30,000.

The non-profit world has been one of the biggest victims of the economic downturn, but UJA-NNJ has increased its 2010-11 allocation to 13 schools to a total of $221,357 — an $8,520 increase from this past year.

“In a year when we kept slack most of our allocations, the day schools got a 4 percent increase,” said Alan Sweifach, the federation’s planning and allocations director. “It’s going to take a solution beyond the allocation. The allocation and the increase to Jewish education is an important message. At least it is a recognition and step in the right direction when the dollars are so limited.”

Tuition levels at Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck will remain at the 2009-10 rates, largely thanks to a 10 percent increase in the student body. Salaries were frozen during the 2009-10 year, but teachers can expect to receive “modest” salary increases during the 2010-11 school year, administrator Ceil Olivestone wrote in an e-mail to the Standard. Olivestone praised what she called “efforts to keep a tight control on programs and expenses.”

“While we have not affected any curricular or extracurricular program or expense that would compromise the quality and essence of the chinuch/education that we provide,” she wrote, “the budget was thoroughly reviewed by the administration and lay leadership.”

Fund-raising among parents of current and former students, as well as within the community, provides 10 percent of the school’s budget, Olivestone wrote.

Basic tuition at The Frisch School in Paramus for 2010-11 will increase to $21,950 from $21,250, according to the school’s president, Martin Heistein. About 27 percent of the families of the school’s approximately 660 students this year received some form of scholarship.

The school has also avoided layoffs, Heistein said.

“We’ve reviewed all the remaining aspects of the budget and tried to toe the line where possible,” he said.

Moriah has increased tuition by 1.9 percent across the board, bringing the total for kindergarten to second grade up to $13,380; $13,635 for third through fifth grade; and $14,050 for sixth through eighth grade.

Salaries stayed level this year and will remain the same into next year, he continued. The school did lay off “several” mostly part-time employees, though Prager would not comment on the exact number.

“It’s certainly something we didn’t want to do but felt in order to be financially responsible we had to tighten the staffing somewhat,” he said.

The school has cut back costs on color printing, energy, and is spending on only “necessary purchases” of educational resources, Prager said.

“In the short run, our cost-saving steps, together with whatever help we’ve gotten from NNJKIDS, has at least at the present time, we feel, enabled us to successfully meet the economic challenges we’ve faced this year and into the coming year,” Prager said. “As to what the long-range picture will be only time will tell.”

RYNJ cut 10 jobs and kept salaries flat during the 2009-10 school year. Along with a reduction of positions, responsibilities, and pay, the school avoided a tuition increase from 2008-09 by cutting $500,000 in costs, said the school’s president.

The school projects an enrollment of 970 children in preschool through eighth grade next year, an increase of 35 students, and an average increase of $150, or 1.1 percent, per student per grade, according to Rosenbaum.

The increase breaks down to $255 for grades four through eight, $125 for grades one through three, and no increase for preschool. No other increases are planned, according to Rosenbaum.

The school is also looking to restructure teacher compensation and benefits, including giving tuition breaks for children of employees.

“These efforts are having a one-time impact on our economics but once we get over the initial bump, will position us well in the coming years to manage our costs,” Rosenbaum said.

Sinai also moved one of its elementary programs into RYNJ last year, which has helped defray the costs of the school’s expansion, Rosenbaum said.

“Sinai has been a great addition to our school, and we look forward to finding additional ways to collaborate to reduce costs and run fund-raising programs together,” he said.

RYNJ is one of four schools that saved a combined $24,000 through an electrical group-purchasing plan under UJA-NNJ. The nine-month-old program also includes Yavneh Academy in Paramus, Solomon Schechter Day School in New Milford, and Gerrard Berman Day School, Solomon Schechter of North Jersey in Oakland.

Frisch, Yeshivat Noam in Paramus, and Moriah School also recently signed up.

“In these turbulent economic times, we recognize the value of working together as a community to reduce costs wherever possible,” said Matt Holland, UJA-NNJ’s community purchasing manager.

To make the program work, the schools turn their electric bills over to UJA-NNJ, which then arranges for a single supplier, such as Con Edison or Suez, through Public Service Electricity & Gas. Supply costs can account for 78 percent of an electric bill.

“We get multiple bids from potential suppliers. We select the supplier that offers the best product, service, and price,” Holland said. “We’re looking at annual savings up to $45,000 per school on electricity costs alone.”

The program began as part of the Kehillah Partnership, a group of community organizations that works to save on expenses and resources. The Kehillah Cooperative is the cost-sharing arm of the Partnership and it has netted savings for numerous community organizations.

“We started with electricity, saving $350,000 to date, and look forward to working cooperatively with all Jewish non-profits in northern New Jersey,” Holland said. “Our success so far demonstrates the opportunity the Kehillah Cooperative offers schools, as well as agencies and synagogues.”

Looking forward

“Do I think we’re living through tough times? Absolutely,” said Frisch’s Heistein. “It’s a constant challenge.”

One vocal day-school critic has taken to the Internet to vent his views with a blog called The $200k Chump, which takes its name from the high salary required to afford tuition. The anonymous blogger, who declined a telephone or face-to-face interview, claims to be a parent paying full tuition at one of the county’s schools and frequently writes about the “legacy schools” — Frisch, Moriah, and other established day schools — and why efforts to lower tuition there will not succeed.

“Like many here in town, I am struggling to pay the high cost of yeshiva tuition and want to use this blog to explore some REAL solutions to the crisis,” the “Chump” wrote in the blog’s bio. “Some of my proposals may not be popular with many of the administrators, teachers, board members, and scholarship recipients at our local day schools but that is life and I don’t really care much. The system is broken and we need real change before it is too late.”

The blogger has lashed out against school officials, as well as NNJKIDS for raising money the writer claims is used to hire more administrators. The Chump has also written about other alternatives, including charter schools, JFS, and “the nuclear option” — enrolling students in public schools.

Ideas for charter schools — an Englewood man has been trying to create a Hebrew language charter for two years — and after-school Talmud Torah programs — the Jewish Center of Teaneck has flirted with the idea and is ready to go if enough families show interest, according to Rabbi Lawrence Zierler — are not new but have yet to gain steam. The community has a responsibility to continue exploring all options, said JEFG’s Goldin.

The OU’s Friedman warned against complacency, even if the national economic picture looks brighter.

“The economy seems to be in a little bit of a respite, but nothing has changed,” he said. “If we delude ourselves and pretend it’s going away, it’s not going to go away.”


RYNJ celebrates new wing

Dedication looses torrent of memories

Some 150 people gathered to celebrate the dedication of the new wing. Photos by Jeanette Friedman

The Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey celebrated another milestone in its 73-year history on Sunday night with the dedication of its new wing on Kinderkamack Road in River Edge. The yeshiva dates to 1937, when Yeshiva of Jersey City and its eight students were housed in the Five Corners Shul. Today the school has almost 1,000 students.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the event’s keynote speaker, quipped that his best title is saba (grandfather). Hoenlein’s grandchildren attend the school, and his family was present in the crowd of 150.

Hoenlein began with a survey of the role of education in Jewish history, but soon segued into politics. He cited examples of Palestinian attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel — from historical revisionism and Holocaust denial to the denial of Jewish connections to the Temple Mount, the Tomb of Rachel, and other Jewish heritage sites. He told the audience that the Iranians had recently threatened to destroy the tombs of Esther and Mordechai, the heroes of Purim, and urged that Jewish students be prepared to stand up to those who would use propaganda and anti-Semitism to destroy Israel and the Jews.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference, was the keynote speaker.

Honey Rosenbaum Senter — the daughter of Aaron and Rosalind Rosenbaum, for whom the school is named — remembers the early ‘40s winters, when she and her kindergarten classmates played King of the Mountain on piles of snow opposite the building. Though she is no longer closely involved with the school, Senter, who lives in Teaneck, was one of the key people who helped establish the yeshiva in Bergen County.

Stanley Fass of Teaneck remembers being one of five kids from Weehawken and North Bergen piling into a station wagon every morning and heading for Jersey City. They were Honey Rosenbaum, Fass’ brother Marty, Phil Levitan, Betty Ann Freiman and Michel Werblowsky (now a Teanecker, too). There were five in the January 1948 graduating class, and the ceremony took place in the yeshiva’s new home, a former public school building on New York Avenue in Union City. It also had a new name, adopted in 1947: Yeshiva Hudson County.

Fass, the Rosenbaums, and this reporter, who was in a 1950 kindergarten class (and whose children and grandchildren also attended the yeshiva), remember how the Rosenbaums helped the Hirsches — a couple who fled Europe during the Holocaust and landed in the Union City building, where they lived in an apartment in the basement. The couple acted as caretakers — not just of the building, but of the students. They cooked school lunches, cleaned the building, and generally looked after the students. Sarah Hamm, the general studies principal, traveled from Crown Heights to Union City every day for decades to serve her students. And the Rosenbaums’ upstairs neighbor, a Holocaust survivor, was given a job as a teacher in the Jewish studies department. His daughter, and the children of other Holocaust survivors in the neighborhood, many of them born in Displaced Persons’ camps, got their first taste of American life and American citizenship, as well as their Zionism, from Yeshiva Hudson County.

Yehuda Rosenbaum, left, the president of the school, presents a plaque of appreciation to Azi Mandel for his efforts in the development of the new wing.

In 1979, responding to changing demographics, the yeshiva moved to the New Milford Jewish Center, then to the Jewish Center of Teaneck, and finally to the current location, a site dedicated in 1994 and renamed in 2005 to honor the Rosenbaums.

The ceremony opened with a d’var Torah from Rabbi Shmuel Goldstein, dean of the school, and honored Azi Mandel of Teaneck, a school parent and a principal of Hoboken-based Tree Top Development who donated his services toward the creation of the wing. Mandel, whose parents and grandparents were present, was awarded a plaque that will be placed at the wing’s front door. He told The Jewish Standard he was glad to give his time and energy to such a worthy project. It was his way of giving back just a little for all the good the yeshiva had given him and his family.

The event was chaired by Gila and Carl Guzman of Teaneck.


Inventor teaches robotics and also self-esteem

Simon Engelsohn and his classmates look forward to learning about robotics from Steven Paley. Courtesy Sinai Schools

Other entrepreneurs fortunate enough to sell their business and retire by middle age, would opt to whittle away their time on the golf course or at the opera house.

Not Steven Paley. For the past seven years, the retired Paramus resident has spent several days a week at the Sinai School teaching a robotics course to special-needs students.

“I was lucky enough to be successful in business and wanted to do something to give back,” said Paley, the former CEO of The Texwipe Company, and the father of four.

A product design engineer, Paley decided to combine his passion for the sciences with his desire to help special-needs children.

Several years ago, Paley created a program called ARISE® (Applied Robotics Instruction for Special Education), a curriculum designed to teach robotics and engineering skills to special-needs students. The courses are hands-on, and the students build and program their own robots. When he presented his concept to administrators at Sinai several years ago, “their immediate reaction was that they had to have that class in the school,” he recalled.

And so began Paley’s second career. Only this time, his job would be unpaid. But the ultimate payoff, he says, is priceless.

His students — who range in diagnosis from Down syndrome to autism spectrum disorder — have such a good time in his class, they don’t realize how much they are learning, he said.

He generally teaches students in grades five to eight and has also taught high-schoolers.

“They love it. They can’t wait till I come to class,” he said. “They are so enthusiastic and call my name so many times I told them I’d have to go into the witness protection program.”

Simon Engelsohn’s response is typical. “I like robotics with Mr. Paley,” he said, “because we get to build all of these different types of robots. Now we are working on an ‘Explorerbot.’ It can identify colors, talk, and detect walls and things.”

At the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge, which hosts Sinai students, they breeze down the hall happily in anticipation of Paley’s class, which is considered a highlight of their schedule, said staff.

“Beyond being highly motivating and engaging, it serves as a catalyst for emotional and social growth,” said Rabbi Yisrael Rothwachs, director of Sinai at RYNJ. “Mr. Paley has developed a curriculum that, beyond exposing the students to concepts in physics and computer programming, directly targets skills related to problem-solving, teamwork, and frustration tolerance. Perhaps most importantly, they learn to appreciate that learning is a process, not a product.”

But the class is no easy A. The students work hard. Nevertheless, they have tremendous motivation because robots are cool, said Paley. “The hands-on learning and satisfaction they get from building a working robot are immeasurable.”

Paley ends up providing his charges with a lesson far more valuable than how to make a robot: with the art of success. “I give them a difficult task and show them that they can complete it. I try to give them the confidence that they can meet tough challenges.”

By the end of the course, students have learned to program their robots to perform various tasks, including making their robots sing, dance, and navigate a maze using infrared sensors. One of the final projects is a robot sumo wrestling match in which the students program their “Sumobots” to find the opposing robot and push it out of the sumo ring.

Paley summed up: “Often, the confidence and self-esteem of special-needs students is very low. The essence of my courses is to facilitate the belief that they can achieve success. The idea that they can do something they did not think possible builds tremendous self-esteem. The hope is that they carry this experience onto other challenges in their lives.”


RYNJ scholarship fund richer by $500,000

Yeshiva credits reception’s success to new communal attitude

The Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey’s annual scholarship reception Sunday night raised more than half a million dollars — a three-quarters increase over the amount raised last year.

Mordy Rothberg, the school’s vice president of development, attributes the fundraiser’s success to a new communal attitude toward supporting day school education.

“We’re a recipient of all the work the community has done to make awareness that Jewish education is not just a parental obligation, but a communal obligation,” he said.

The organizers of the RYNJ scholarship reception, board members Mordy Rothberg, left, and Menachem Schechter, right, flank one of the evening’s speakers, Yeshiva University President Richard Joel. courtesy RYNJ

“During these tough economic times, there’s a real big focus on giving locally and supporting Jewish education. One of the benefits of the community setting up NNJKids” — the umbrella fund for Bergen County’s day schools — “is that we’re really making Jewish education a priority.”

Rothberg serves on the board of the parent organization of NNJKids, Jewish Education for Generations, as a representative of the yeshiva, in which his five children are enrolled.

The economic climate has also meant that “unfortunately, scholarship recipients are at an all time high,” said Rothberg, with the school awarding more than $1 million in scholarships.

“The community is committed to giving a quality education to every single family regardless of their ability to pay. I think the community as a whole is really stepping up and saying this is a communal obligation and a communal responsibility,” he said.

The school saw a significant increase in parental participation for the fundraiser, with 275 families contributing, up from 211 last year. The school has 982 students from about 425 families. About 120 families receive scholarships.

In recent years, the scholarship event has morphed from a catered dinner to a dessert reception organized and catered by parent volunteers.

“Our cost, including invitations and food, was less than $3,000,” said Rothberg.

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