One Dream. One Family.

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New York City’s Gotham Hall was the venue for an unforgettable Melaveh Malka and Gala Dinner hosted by Yeshiva Darche Eres (YDE) on Motzaeh Shabbat, March 9th, celebrating the theme of “One Dream. One Family.”

The hall was filled to capacity by throngs of guests from across the community, including YDE parents, faculty, alumni, and friends. Their aim was to come together as one family to celebrate the remarkable growth and achievements of the school and the community, and to honor some of the wonderful people who have worked so hard to ensure YDE’s success. Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Meyer Yedid shared, “I wholeheartedly recognize that the beautiful Yeshiva we have built, with all of its growth, is only possible because of, and can be directly attributed to, the great dedication and unwavering devotion of each member of the YDE family.”

Starting out as “One Dream,” YDE has grown from a few hundred pioneer students to almost 1,400 enrolled students and over 250 alumni, ranging across four divisions (soon to be a fifth, with the opening of the Girls High School). Rabbi Meyer Yedid and Mr. Michael Jemal, along with other community leaders and devoted parents, set out to establish an environment in which children would be inspired to achieve high academic standards, gain a strong sense of self and morality, and further the growth of their religious identity. Today, that “one dream” unites thousands of members of the YDE family. Filled with gratitude to the Almighty for the great success of this dream, the YDE administration felt obliged to express its profound appreciation in a public gesture of unity and hakarat hatov (gratitude) – YDE’s first Gala Dinner.

A Family Simha

The event was sold out within days of its announcement. The outpouring of support and enthusiasm was reminiscent of the days of YDE’s inception and the phenomenal success that followed. With lightning speed, pages of the YDE Dinner Journal were filled with notes of gratitude and encouragement. The evening was proudly sponsored by Israel Discount Bank, a strong supporter of YDE. It was evident right from the start that the excitement was contagious, and that so many well-wishers wanted to participate in this special event.

And nobody was disappointed. Everyone in attendance sensed the palpable love, warmth and enthusiasm in the air. It felt like a family simha, where the décor was elegant, the guests were dressed beautifully, and there was a shared sense of pride and belonging.

For the Guest of Honor, the Dinner Committee reached out to someone whom they felt embodies the ideal of ahdut – unity among Jews – and unwavering commitment to the entire Jewish nation: the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, world renowned speaker and author, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. A survivor of the Holocaust who, against all odds, rose to a position of leadership and distinction, personifies the “dream” and goal of transmitting the Torah from generation to generation. Those who arrived early took advantage of the opportunity to meet Rabbi Lau and receive a personal blessing, setting the stage and the tone for the magnificent evening that followed.

Mr. Michael Jemal opened the event with a heartfelt thank you to the esteemed guests, and shared the history of the vision and dream that has now become an awe-inspiring reality. He was followed by Rabbi Yedid, who first thanked Mr. Jemal as his partner in this remarkable enterprise. He expressed his gratitude also to Rabbi Rephael Netanel and to all those involved in coordinating the dinner, and then proceeded to describe the development of YDE. “The last eight years have been nothing short of spectacular,” the rabbi said, adding, “I believe that the secret to the YDE family is its unity.”

Guest of honor Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau was then introduced. World renowned recording artist Shulem Lemmer serenated Rabbi Lau with a beautiful rendition of the song, “Vehi She’amdah,” the words from the Haggadah which tell of how Gd protects the Jewish People from its enemies in each and every generation. Rabbi Lau spoke of the longevity and immortality of the Jewish Nation, asserting that our strength lies in the transmission and preservation of the sanctity of the Torah and its commands. The rabbi inspired the audience by sharing the moving story of a woman who sacrificed her and her son’s life during the Holocaust in order to perform a berit milah. Rabbi Lau imparted that this woman did not hesitate to fulfill her commitment to the commands that have been transmitted from the time of Moshe Rabbenu, even at the expense of her life – and this is the secret to the immortality of the Jewish people.

Rabbi Lau highlighted that this is the key to YDE’s success. He noted that the name “Darche Eretz” (“the Ways of Aram Soba”), a reference to the traditions of our ancestors in Syria, attests to the school’s commitment to perpetuating our sacred heritage. Rabbi Lau quoted Gd’s promise in the Book of Devarim, “ki lo tishachah mipi zar’o” – that the Torah will never be forgotten. YDE, Rabbi Lau concluded, is living proof of the fulfillment of this promise, now and for years to come, with Gd’s help.

In honor of this momentous occasion, Rabbi Yedid conceived of a very unique way to express gratitude to Gd for His continued grace and assistance. The rabbi composed lyrics to a heartfelt song titled, “A Million Gifts,” and it was performed by Shulem Lemmer along with YDE 5th Grader, Joseph Ades. The audience followed along with the lyrics that were provided. The performance of “A Million Gifts” encapsulated the emotions of the evening in an especially beautiful and moving way.

“It’s Like Magic”

Dinner Chairman Mr. Michael Tawil presented the evening’s awards.

Mr. Victor and Mrs. Raquel Dabah were recognized with the Founding Benefactors Award. The Dabah family has a longstanding reputation as supporters of education, Torah and hesed, and they have extended their generosity to the development of YDE. A video was shown with clips of members of the Dabah family, each of whom described how deserving of this award the patriarch of their family is, and how proud they are to be a part of the YDE family.

Rabbi Alex Miller, Menahel of the YDE Boys Elementary School, was awarded with the Hinuch HaBanim Award. The special video presentation demonstrated Rabbi Miller’s close involvement in, and unwavering dedication to, the education of each and every student. Mark Hanan was presented with the Alumnus of the Year Award. In a brief video, his parents and rabbis spoke of Mark’s outstanding growth over the course of his years at YDE and beyond. Mark expressed that he was receiving the award on behalf of all the exceptional alumni that YDE has produced. “When you enroll your children at YDE, you don’t just enroll them in a school, you join a family,” he said.

Mr. Jack and Mrs. Frieda Shama were awarded as Parents of the Year. Mr. and Mrs. Shama embody the highest levels of dedication and devotion to children. Through their gracious support for YDE, and their outstanding children in each of YDE’s divisions, the Shama family have earned the respect and admiration of the faculty and administration. Mr. and Mrs. Albert & Grace Esses, recipients of the Avodat HaKodesh Award, were recognized for their selflessness, for their loyalty and devotion to YDE since the school’s inception. The video tribute to both couples concluded with Mrs. Grace Esses expressing, “There's something that just draws you here... it's like magic.”

The feeling evoked by the moving event, which endured well beyond that evening, is one of great admiration and gratitude for the profound impact that YDE has had on the community. YDE has become a family to all who have chosen to take part in the dream. Just as family members provide support for one another in all areas of life, YDE students, parents, faculty and friends likewise receive year-round support in all aspects of life from a team of caring and selfless leaders – and the Gala Dinner was a fitting tribute to all those who made this dream become a reality.

Education All Year Round

Throughout the school year, YDE students receive the love and care they need to grow academically and to develop proper values and character traits as they mature. However, recognizing that the typical school day did not suffice, YDE set out to support their students beyond the school day. The YDE team expends immense efforts to provide a wide array of afterschool activities, weekend programs, an annual Melave Malka for both elementary divisions, and Hanukah and Purim celebrations. As a family, YDE faculty, parents, and students have the opportunity to connect outside the academic framework, ensuring the students’ growth in all areas.

YDE also recognized the need to provide structure beyond the school year. A first-class team of selfless leaders took it upon themselves to found day camps for the summer months in both Brooklyn and in Deal. Darchenu in Brooklyn began as a boys camp, and then expanded to include a preschool division, Darchenu Dots. It is now introducing Darchenu Girls for the summer of 2019. For high school students, YDE offers the Esh program in Brooklyn and Camp K in Deal.

The summer options offered to every age reflect YDE’s goal to support every child and every family. Although originally founded as a school, YDE has become a haven for every member of its family all year round and in areas far beyond academics. 

Beyond Tuition Assistance

As devoted as the YDE Board is to its students, to ensuring their success academically, spiritually, and socially, it is equally concerned for the parents, and committed to alleviating some of the financial strain that they may be facing in trying to pay for their children’s education.

Our sages instruct that the highest form of charity is equipping somebody with the tools and opportunities to be self-sufficient. We are also taught that hesed should begin within one’s home, and then extend to one’s community, followed by support for all Am Yisrael. In accordance with these timeless teachings, YDE’s Board founded a unique initiative called YDE Partners, whereby any community member is given the opportunity to either generate their own support with dignity, or extend support to other families within YDE and to business owners within our community.

The way the program works is that community business owners offer rebates that are automatically applied to a specific tuition bill and to the YDE Scholarship Fund. The partnering vendors are community-based businesses, including Kosher Corner, The Prime Cut, Café Renaissance, Baby Central, Mekor Judaica, and many more to come. The unique benefit of this innovative style of fundraising is that people simply go about making their normal day-to-day purchases without any additional cost to them, and it is open to anyone who would like to join, whether or not they have children enrolled at YDE. Anyone can take part in the YDE family. 

Extending a Helping Hand

The theme of giving pulsates through every member and every program of the YDE family, setting a beautiful example of sensitivity and generosity for the children of YDE. The value of hesed is being ingrained in the students of YDE through mere exposure. Every tier of the YDE family extends genuine love for one another, generating an excitement for hesed that naturally and powerfully affects the students.

YDE mothers frequently create meaningful opportunities to learn and perform hesed. When fire devastated a YDE employee’s home, the YDE mothers rushed to her support, soliciting money and supplies in a matter of days. Every month, a grade from the Girls Elementary School travels to the home of a student’s grandmother to cook for the SBH Food Pantry. The 8th graders were introduced to the concept of a Gemah, and given the opportunity to run their own “Gemah Day.” In the Boys High School, a group of students travel to Israel and take part in a wide range of hesed activities. Students are encouraged to reach out to those in need, both within the school and beyond, thereby gaining a deep-seated sense of responsibility for their inner circle, the broader community, and all Am Yisrael.

What began as just a dream less than a decade ago is now a spectacular reality worthy of recognition and celebration. Plans for YDE’s 10th anniversary are already underway. In the meantime, Yeshivat Darche Eres is continuing its day-to-day work, building the next generation of outstanding community members and leaders, men and women who are responsible, hard-working, sensitive and dedicated to the timeless values and traditions that have always defined our special community and our special nation.