New yeshiva in Deal will serve Ashkenazi population
After two years of planning and research, the new Yeshiva at the Jersey Shore is scheduled to open its doors in September 2006.
The new school, to be housed at the Ruth Hyman Jewish Community Center in Deal, will encompass grades one through eight and is intended to appeal to the areas Ashkenazi population.
We needed a yeshiva that would help preserve the Ashkenazi traditions, said Rabbi Nasanayl Braun of Oakhurst, religious leader of Congregation Brothers of Israel in Long Branch and a member of a committee made up of his congregants that first met in 2004 to examine the possibility of opening a yeshiva. Families in this area should have the option so their children can receive this kind of Jewish education. They will learn the traditions of their ancestors.
Enrollment for the first year is expected to be between 10 and 15 students, Braun said. Tuition will be approximately $10,000 per student, which is comparable to the tuition costs of other area yeshivas, he added.
The new yeshiva has a straightforward mission: to provide an education dedicated to excellence in both Torah and secular studies, said committee cochair Judy Lekach of Oakhurst. The yeshiva also will foster a commitment to Ashkenazi religious practices and traditions and fluency in associated texts and languages, she said.
During the projects initial planning stage, the committee, which then included Rabbi Tobias Roth, who retired last year from Congregation Brothers of Israel, met with consultants and examined religious and secular approaches to education. Last May, the group hired Dr. Scott Goldberg of Yeshiva Universitys Azriel Graduate School of Jewish Education in New York to guide them in the schools development.
In 2004, the Ruth Hyman JCC offered the rental of two classrooms and use of its gym, pool, outdoor play area, and music and computer instruction areas, according to committee member Ellen Schwartz of Long Branch. If necessary, the yeshiva also will use classroom space at Brothers of Israel, she added.
The JCCs offer was a big step for us, she said. The equipment and facility are child-friendly and there is a security system already in place; we are starting out in a state-of-the-art building. In addition, children from the JCCs preschool group might consider coming to us for the next step in their education.
The committee will eventually launch a building campaign to secure permanent housing for the school, added Lekach.
The Yeshiva at the Jersey Shore will play an important role in attracting Ashkenazi families to an area that is already home to the large Sephardi population of Deal and surrounding shore towns, according to Braun. While conducting its research, the committee found that many Ashkenazi families who wanted to relocate to the shore area opted to settle elsewhere because of the lack of a school that would focus on their traditions and nuances, he said.
At this point, that is no longer an issue, said Braun. Ive had many conversations with potential congregation members who were concerned about the education of their children. For Congregation Brothers of Israel to become a viable option, added Braun, we must have a place to provide these children with an Orthodox Jewish education. The new yeshiva completes that picture.
The majority of American Jews are Ashkenazi, meaning their immediate ancestors hailed from Eastern Europe, Germany, Poland, and Austria. Sephardi Jews, meanwhile, have roots originally in Spain and in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, north Africa, the Balkans, Italy, and the Middle East. Although Orthodox customs are similar in both communities, differences in styles of prayer and interpretations of Halacha, or rabbinic law, can be significant.
As its reputation grows, the school hopes to attract students from throughout Monmouth County, Braun added.
The projects development often involved five-hour marathon meetings of committee members, said Lisa Shapiro of Ocean Township, who plans to enroll her five-year-old daughter Amy in the new yeshiva. Brynn, her six-week-old daughter, is slated to become a future enrollee.
Every one of those meetings was worth the long hours, Shapiro said. We were extremely motivated to provide our children with this kind of education, and 95 percent of the committee members came to every monthly meeting. We all felt a Jewish education is part of the nucleus of family life.
I want my daughters to maintain their Jewish identity in a secular world, she continued. I look forward to learning from them as they pursue their education.
As a result of the projects growth and development, the committee structure has also expanded and now consists of marketing, recruitment, fund-raising, grant research, and budget subcommittees, said Lekach.
Financial support for the new yeshiva has also come from Brothers of Israel members who have endorsed the project since its inception, according to Braun. Many have made private donations to the yeshiva and have pledged ongoing support, he said.
The overall support the new yeshiva has received serves as an example of the important role Jewish education plays in family life, said Schwartz. In response, the school will strive for excellence in private school education, she said.
We recognize the idea of excellence in both Judaic and secular studies, Schwartz said. The yeshiva will aim for the highest possible standards so our children will be in the running for the best colleges and graduate schools.
The yeshivas dual curriculum will enable its students to accept and embrace their culture and heritage long past their bar and bat mitzvas, a time that often results in a drop-off in interest, said Lekach.
In addition, the curriculum, which will meet county and state educational standards, will teach its students to respect their peers and the country in which they live, said Braun.
We live in a very diverse world, which makes the concept of respect critically important, he said. We need to know and appreciate who we are and where we come from. Without this sense of identity, we cant appreciate the diversity that surrounds us.
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