Morris, a lively, energetic little boy at Hillel Yeshiva, suddenly lost his carefree spirit. He found himself, again, falling behind in school, despite years of costly occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and private tutoring for his secular studies. The school’s principal has always been Morris’s parents’ partner, helping Morris to reach academic success. Now the principal has told the parents that the school’s resource room cannot offer Morris enough help for him to succeed in limudei kodesh, Hebrew studies. The principal suggested that his parents hire a private tutor to help him to keep up in class. His parents, stretched to their financial limit, are distraught. Moshe’s inability to keep up with the pace in class causes him so much anxiety that he cries at the sight of his Hebrew homework sheets, has become shy and embarrassed, and is refusing to go to school. His mom says, “My heart was breaking watching him be so sad and down on himself. As parents we want to do everything for our children, but things are not free.” Most tutors receive as much as $100 an hour, which can be an extraordinary financial burden for a family already paying yeshiva tuition.
The Gemal Family Provides Solutions for Kids’ Needs
The school resource room is often the first stop for students who are struggling. The Rochelle Gemal, A’H Educational Center, a resource room at Yeshivat Keter Torah, was initiated by Mr. Mitchell Gemal and his family to honor Mrs. Gemal’s life-long dedication to helping students succeed. Through its trained professionals, who utilize individualized and small-group instruction, targeted assessments, multi-sensory learning, and strong teacher-student relationships to address the specific goals of the individual student, the Educational Center is helping students attain the foundational skills necessary for academic success. Yet, despite the professionalism and dedication to the students, many students, like Morris, require more individualized support than a classroom or a resource room can provide. However, with the rising cost of yeshiva education, many parents are unable to afford private tutoring as well. Recognizing this need, the Gemal family has embarked on a second initiative and created the Rochelle Gemal A”H Educational Fund that addresses the financial burden borne by the families of students requiring supplemental support or tutoring, outside the resource room.
“Special education needs special attention, and no child should be denied the opportunity for success because of lack of funds,” Mr. Gemal explains. He says that Rochelle, A’H, believed this and set a personal example of selfless devotion to help struggling students and their parents.
“When Rochelle identified a student who was falling behind in class and was in danger of being left back a grade, she would offer to tutor them in our home. Many times, knowing the family could not afford to pay, she would not charge them for her services. Her main concern was making sure the child succeeded,” Mr. Gemal said.
A Win-Win for All
“The model that the RG Educational Fund has created is simple but ingenious – tutoring services for children whose family cannot afford the fees, provided by teachers or tutors who need supplemental income. Students are referred by principals who are aware of both the student’s academic challenge and the family’s financial status. RG Educational Fund’s team of educators pair students with tutors who can address their personal challenge and coordinates communication between the child’s principal, schoolteachers, parents, and tutor to ensure a seamless partnership in the student’s success,” Mr. Gemal described.
Not only is the model ingenious, the success stories are also inspiring. According to Morris’s mom, after a program of once a week tutoring during the summer months, Morris is thriving. “It’s like I have a new child. Where he used to be shy and embarrassed to read, afraid he would make mistakes, he is grabbing his siddur and saying birkat hamazon out loud. The tutor assigned to him was warm and friendly and really helped him to learn to love reading. And it’s not just reading, it’s connected to his spirituality and religiosity.”
Rabbi Aharon Yannai, menahel at Yeshivat Keter Torah, believes that the tutoring provided by the RG Educational fund has tremendous benefit not only for the student receiving the service but for the entire class as well. “When any child is struggling to keep up with the material being taught, every child in the class is affected, as the teacher has to adjust the pace and style to meet his needs. When that child receives the extra support that he previously did not, he is better able to keep up and the teacher can teach at a level that caters to the academic midline.”
Rabbi Norman Cohen, an integral part of the program, believes that this program is more vital now than ever before. “The Covid pandemic and school closures really hurt a lot of our children. Students, especially in the younger grades, who would otherwise have been successful, missed learning the vital foundational skills necessary for reading and now need the added support of tutoring.” In addition, remote learning by Zoom, instead of in person learning, did not facilitate the important, personalized interaction that develops between teachers and students in the classroom. The RG Educational Fund tutoring program gives students that extra dose of mentorship, the tutor develops a relationship with the student, and they are motivated to succeed.
RG Educational Fund Partners with Community Donors
The RG Educational Fund currently subsidizes the cost of tutoring for students in all the Jewish schools in the Deal area with the generous help of donations from community members. Every dollar donated goes straight to offset the cost of a student’s supplemental education. “Our gemach [charitable fund], will not only give the parents who cannot afford the cost of tutoring the ability to provide their children with the much-needed support, but also address the parnasah needs of the families of teachers,” Mr. Gemal explains. “We help the child, his parents, and families that can use a few extra dollars to cover their expenses.” It is truly a win-win-win!
For more information about utilizing the services of the RG Educational Fund or to sponsor a session for a student please call Rabbi Norman Cohen 908-917-3901, or Mitchell Gemal 732-829-0794.
To Donate via the RG Fund Website using a Credit Card, Please scan the QR code