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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Far Rockaway’

Yeshiva Darchei Torah’s Chanukas Habayis

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Yeshiva Darchei Torah is well known among institutions of Jewish education and has transformed the Far Rockaway/Five Towns community. The yeshiva’s mission is that of integrating Torah learning with the development of good character traits, ethics, and mentshlichkeit.

A rigorous secular studies program includes many AP courses, participation in international science competitions, reflecting the yeshiva’s strong commitment to graduating young men who are equipped to navigate in a complex world.

The synthesis of Torah and loving kindness is a hallmark of the Yeshiva Darchei Torah. It infuses the interactions among the rosh hayeshiva, Rabbi Yaakov Bender, the rebbeim and the students, as well as their relations with the entire yeshiva staff and beyond. Countless acts of chesed take place within the yeshiva, and the path of Torah and chesed is exemplified by the rosh hayeshiva himself – in his commitment to the needs of the individual and his devotion to the needs of the community.

Yeshiva Darchei Torah was founded in 1972 by Reb Yisroel Bloom, a”h, when Far Rockaway proper lacked a yeshiva elementary school. It has grown to more than 1,600 students, the largest yeshiva of its kind in the tri-state area.

The yeshiva consists of a preschool, elementary school, junior high school, high school, and beis medrash, and a thriving kollel. Students in the high school and beis medrash come not only from the local community, but also cities around the country. Its alumni have gone on to become rabbanim, Torah educators, professionals, and businessmen.

The yeshiva remains a warm environment where the individual does not get lost in the numbers. This is accomplished through a highly decentralized management structure that empowers division principals and educators alike, who maintain a close personal familiarity and connection with their students. Regular collaborative meetings are held within and across the yeshiva’s various divisions, as are frequent sessions with the rosh hayeshiva.

Rabbi Bender is personally involved with students who have different kinds of special circumstances, gives weekly talks and classes in the high school and beis medrash, and still comes to the preschool every week to learn a new letter of the Aleph Beis with about 120 kindergarten children.

The yeshiva has been a trailblazer. In 1981, it opened an in-house resource center for children with special learning needs – the first of its kind. The center went on to become the Rabenstein Learning Center, which has made Torah education possible for boys who would have difficulty thriving in a mainstream educational environment. The center now offers special services for gifted students as well.

Again, in 1995, the yeshiva stepped up to the plate, establishing the Weiss Vocational Program, whose students engage in Torah studies in the morning and secular studies in the early afternoon, while learning trades in the later afternoon hours.

Yet another and different kind of foresight has had a transforming impact on the community. The yeshiva’s development arm, with private financing, has revitalized a run-down section of Far Rockaway near the yeshiva. The initiative has attracted many young Orthodox families to the community, as affordable and respectable housing became available.

Yeshiva Darchei Torah’s rosh hayeshiva is the driving force behind these innovations. He was brought into the yeshiva as a rebbe in 1978, and was soon promoted to menahel. In recognition of his contributions to Jewish education, Rabbi Bender received the coveted Covenant Foundation Award in 1997. The yeshiva was singled out by Torah Umesorah, becoming the first to receive the Excellence in Education Award in 1995.

Rabbi Yaakov Bender, rosh yeshiva at Darchei Torah

(Photo by Menachem Adelman)

Rabbi Bender and leading educators in the yeshiva are sought out as advisors and speakers by Jewish educational institutions in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America, and the yeshiva has become a model that others seek to emulate.

This multi-faceted Torah institution has recently undergone a expansion to accommodate the growth that has accompanied a major influx of Orthodox Jews to the Far Rockaway and Five Towns community. The elementary school was housed in a one-story building interconnected with a proliferation of prefab trailers that had a limited useful life and could not keep pace with the need for more classrooms, as many new parallel classes were added.

The new complex, consisting of four interconnected buildings and clocking in at 186,000 square feet, is situated near the high school on the yeshiva’s nine-acre campus. It houses the preschool, elementary and junior high schools, as well as the Rabenstein Learning Center, computer and science labs, a teacher training center, the Diamond Beis Medrash, a dining hall, two kitchens for dairy and meat, and the yeshiva’s executive offices. The building has many safety and energy efficiency features, and the grounds are being upgraded with new playgrounds, athletic courts, and parking facilities.

The cost of the project was met through favorable financing terms. The community has responded generously with major donations and a growing multitude of other contributions to the ongoing building campaign. Foundations have also provided valuable funding for this vital undertaking.

On Sunday, May 1, there will be a chanukas habayis at the new complex. “This is a milestone for the growth of Torah in America,” exclaims Rabbi Baruch Rothman, director of special projects. “It will be a celebration of inspiration, a truly historic moment, and an event that people will not want to miss.”

The day will begin with the completion of a Sefer Torah that was started two years ago in honor of the rebbeim of the yeshiva. The hachnasas sefer Torah will take place throughout the streets of Far Rockaway with music, dancing, and singing, as the Torah is accompanied to its home in the new complex. The joyous event will conclude with the unveiling of the dedications and an assembly, where leading roshei yeshiva will address the audience. A concurrent program of entertainment will be available for children. The entire Jewish community is invited to celebrate with the yeshiva.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/21/11

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Mendy’s Story (Part II)

In last week’s column, readers became acquainted with Mendy, one of six siblings who grew up in a dysfunctional home where their parents never saw eye-to-eye and managed to make life utterly miserable for their children in the process.

Mendy’s turbulent upbringing exposed him to abuse not only at his mother’s hand, but also by his so-called educators who would resort to hitting him when he wasn’t up to par – in accordance with the rebbe’s standards for learning and behavior.

Things improved somewhat for Mendy when he transferred to a yeshiva in Far Rockaway (from Borough Park), but his respite was not to last. At the age of 16, he made aliya with his parents and some of his siblings. (Two older brothers stayed behind, as they had moved out of their parents’ home much earlier.)

While this move abroad was designed as an attempt (ultimately failing) to salvage his parents’ rocky marriage, it uprooted Mendy from his much-improved environment, in a Far Rockaway dorm, and cast him right back into bleak surroundings completely devoid of any human warmth, let alone love.

It didn’t take Mendy long to search out undesirable friends and to rush headlong into the illusory comfort of alcohol, drugs and the like.

When Mendy was about 17 – his parents were separated by then – a Good Samaritan, a New Yorker, recognized Mendy’s desperate straits and arranged for him to stay at Ohr Samayach. Though Mendy was thus spared the anguish of his suffering at home, he didn’t exactly make an instant turnabout (of his way of life).

Mendy subsequently encountered a nightmarish ordeal that started out as his 18th birthday celebration with so-called friends and ended with their abandoning him in the middle of nowhere, leaving him in a wretched and drunken state all by himself – a haunting experience that gave rise to a fierce determination never to be faced with such loneliness and misery again.

With the help of a benefactor who appears at his side, Mendy not only escapes his mother’s abuse but is rescued from a self-destructive lifestyle.

Our curiosity is piqued

Rachel: Mendy, may we reveal the identity of this person who materialized like an angel from heaven to save you from your slide into a bottomless pit?

Mendy: Sure, I don’t see why not. He is a well-known figure [in the Orthodox Jewish community] and is known for his philanthropy. His name is Moshe Binik.

What accommodations did he make for you upon your arrival in New York?

I was introduced to someone else, another stranger to me at the time, who lives with his wife and children in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and who has made it his life’s mission to rescue boys who are “lost” and homeless.

With your background and history, and the frazzled physical and emotional state I can just imagine you were in when you arrived here, what made you place your trust in someone you had never before known or met?

Well, to be honest, I didn’t. It’s not like I had where to go, so I figured I’d take advantage of a seemingly generous man’s offer, do my own thing and abscond once I’d get back on my feet.

How did that (your plan) end up working out?

I had never experienced a real family life. This man – and his incredible wife – taught me what family is. I also learned about the beauty of Shabbos and experienced real Yiddishkeit.

You say he “taught” you. Did he give you lessons? Did you attend a class?

No, nothing like that. He “taught” me simply by example. His home was open to me. He and his wife and their children embraced me as though I had always been part of their family and accepted me the way I was. I learned by observing them and came away with my own conclusions.

Did you live with this family in their home?

No. This man, Avi Fishoff (whom Moshe Binik put me in touch with), settled me into a comfortable home not far from his own. They have this second house – known as Home Sweet Home – especially set up to accommodate kids who are in need of a home away from home. [Avi initially intuits who would benefit from his guidance and the warmth he and his family altruistically dole out.]

You returned here at the age of 19; today you’re 25. Obviously, Avi’s confidence in you was well-placed. How far have you come since the time you first became acquainted with the Fishoffs?

To give you a good indication, this past Chanukah we had a get-together with all the “graduates” of Avi Fishoff’s generosity – fifty to sixty of us. When I first settled into HSH, there was one other boy there. The average stay there is about a year; mine was 14 months. Today some of these boys are married with families. All of us have improved the quality of our lives, to say the least. Today I live on my own, strive to work part-time, have a learning shiur every night and volunteer at Home Sweet Home to help others down on their luck.

What about your blood relatives? Are you in touch with them?

I’ve heard nothing from or about my mother (and two younger siblings who stayed with her). I have become closer to my father, though; he visits here every so often, and we are otherwise in touch by phone on a regular basis. Family is important, you know. I am also close to my older brothers.

Do you have any advice for parents?

Unconditional love! Never close the door on your kid’s pain. Explore it and try to fix it. Shutting a kid out is detrimental and will only make things worse.

Mendy, you – like your wonderful mentors – have a heart of gold. Your past ordeals have given you a resilience and maturity beyond your years. May Hashem continue to light your path, and may you find strength and hatzlocha in all your noble pursuits.

Note to readers: Avi Fishoff mentors parents of kids in crisis and can be contacted atAviFishoff@aol.com. Avi does not charge a fee for his counsel but welcomes donations in any denomination towards the upkeep of Home Sweet Home, which is run by volunteers only. Parents of “kids in pain” can also inquire about a free anonymous support group.

Any reader in a position to offer Mendy assistance in the way of a viable livelihood or shidduch can contact Mendy through this column at Rachel@jewishpress.com.

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We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/14/11

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Dear Readers,

Raising children with ample love and attention is crucial, as has been stressed in this column numerous times.

Not long ago we also devoted space to the subject of discipline, discussing its merits as well as the disadvantages of resorting to the “strap” as a means of keeping children in line.

Recently, an engaging young man happened to come to our attention. Once a shattered soul, Mendy (not his real name) has surmounted enormous odds and, Baruch Hashem, finds himself today in a much better place with confidence in his future prospects.

We are grateful to Mendy for giving us the okay to offer our readers a glimpse into his past and some highlights of his struggles and triumphs. It is our hope that Mendy’s powerful message will penetrate the reader’s heart and will touch lives in a positive way.

Rachel: Mendy, today at the age of 24 you are wise and mature beyond your years, and yet not so long ago you were a mixed up kid who had no idea what planet he was on, let alone able to focus on life ahead. How and when did you spiral so badly out of control as to lose any sense of time and reason?

Mendy: For as far back as I can remember, I was unhappy. Not only were my parents always quarrelling, but my siblings and I suffered endless abuse.

Did you at least find some peace and solace during those hours you were in school, away from home?

Not at all. In the cheder I attended through fifth grade [in Brooklyn] I was bullied by other kids and got hit almost every day.

You mean the other children beat up on you? Couldn’t you get the rebbe or principal to intervene and put a stop to this?

Well, not exactly. I got hit by the rebbe because I wasn’t keeping up or when I was slow in responding

What happened after the fifth grade?

I transferred to a yeshiva in Far Rockaway which was much better for me, but the home situation didn’t improve. When I was 16, my parents made aliya in the hopes of salvaging their broken relationship.

Did the move to Israel prove to be a positive one for you personally?

Hardly. My parents actually ended up separating before long, eventually divorcing, but that didn’t do anything to still my mother’s rage.

Your mother “raged” even after your parents were separated and your father was no longer living in the house? Whom did she rage at?

Here’s an example of the type of incident we were exposed to. My mother once took a bottle of apple juice away from my younger brother because she didn’t want him drinking it. She then poured the contents over his head and began beating him with the bottle.

Didn’t you guys have older siblings to lean on for physical and emotional support?

No. Two of my older brothers stayed behind in New York. They had actually moved out of the house much earlier, just as soon as they were financially able to be on their own.

How did you cope with so much misery?

If you call hanging out with the wrong crowd, drinking and doing drugs coping

What about your father? What was your relationship with him like?

After he moved out of the house I saw him only occasionally, but we were not close. However, I’ll never forget his reaction when I once told him how low I had sunk and divulged to him the bad things I was into. To his credit he said he still loved me, that I was still his son. That’s more than I ever got from my mother.

So how did you finally crawl out of the gutter?

An “angel” from America actually plucked me off the streets (in Israel) and arranged for me to stay at Ohr Samayach, which became my new home.

And you transformed right then and there?

Not quite. My mother could no longer torment me, but my friends and the bad habits I was into were still very much a part of my daily existence.

I suppose your mind could take you back to many low points in your young life, but how would you describe your lowest?

I had gone out with friends to have a good time I remember that it was my 18th birthday. We partied and drank, and I became very drunk. My “friends” ended up abandoning me, and there I was, stranded in the middle of the street, stone drunk, retching and feeling more miserable and alone than I had ever felt in my whole life. I still recall the endless flow of tears streaming down my face.

How did you pick yourself up and get past that night?

Somehow, out of the blue, a guy whom I had gone to yeshiva with in Far Rockaway happened by. He recognized me, helped me to my feet and got a cab to take me home.

What did that horrible experience do for you?

It was a sobering lesson. I never wanted to experience such feelings of helplessness and loneliness again and was determined to crawl out of the hole I was in, no matter what it would take.

So how did you finally make it back here to American shores?

The same person who had originally arranged for me to stay at Ohr Samayach eventually scheduled and supervised my trip back to Brooklyn.

Let’s see if I got this right: A virtual stranger picks up your signals of distress on an Israeli street and not only helps you escape the clutches of parental abuse but perseveres until he manages to save you from self-destructing by bringing you back here.

Do angels like that really exist among us?

To Be Continued

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We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-487/2011/01/12/

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