Community Chest

2014 Grand Science Fair held at
Bet Yaakov of the Jersey Shore

“Mah rabu maasecha Hashem– How great are Your
wonders, Hashem!”

The girls at Bet Yaakov of the Jersey Shore just completed their annual science fair, seizing a precious opportunity to delve into the many wonders of the natural world.

Each class was divided into groups, and each group was assigned a topic to explore and study in depth.  The students then either conducted an experiment using the scientific method, or constructed an accurate model relevant to their topic. They invested countless hours of research and hard work, gradually transforming their abstract ideas into masterpieces, while utilizing the same methodology that is used by scientists. Their finished products displayed their extensive research as well as their outstanding writing and presentation skills which they developed as part of their science curriculum. All this was showcased at the grand science fair.

Prior to the parents’ arrival, the students were judged on their knowledge of their topic, adherence to guidelines, and presentation of material, and winners of each class were selected and awarded with certificates and prizes.

Dr. Judith Shoner, BYJS General Studies Dean, had the highest praise for her students’ accomplishments. “On this journey, our students become our teachers, and we all become students.”

Dalia Abott Teaches Students
the Real Meaning of Beautiful

If the success of a school program can be judged by the amount of students jumping out of their seats, hands up, eager to participate, and still talking about what they’ve learned weeks afterward, The SAFE Foundation’s Healthy Body Image Presentation by Dalia Abott LMSW, RD, was a resounding success. Dalia presented to three assemblies of middle division and high school girls in Magen David Yeshivah on December 24th, and the students said the program was life-changing.

One of the things Dalia emphasized was that there is a way to speak nicely to oneself. She said that often when we get a compliment, we refuse to accept the good words. Sometimes we express our negative responses aloud, and other times, we speak them quietly to ourselves. She said that if we find that we are using the word “BUT” after receiving a compliment, we should know that we are going to a bad place and should back up. Dalia used a loud, “Stop it!” shout to silence negative voices telling us we are anything less than wonderful. She said that those voices are not our friends, and that we do have the choice of how we want to speak to ourselves.

She asked, “Has anyone here ever not gone somewhere because of how they looked? Has anyone here ever compared themselves to someone else?” Most all did.

At one point, Dalia split the room into two, charging one group to chant, “Perfect people aren’t real!” and the other to call out, “Real people aren’t perfect!” To drive this point home, Dalia showed a video of an image of a woman’s face being photo shopped to be “model” beautiful. Dalia emphasized, “Beauty is not a mold. Let your beauty shine from within.”

A most fascinating portion of the program was when Dalia asked volunteers to read the names of body parts that were written on cards. Each girl was asked to think of different functions of that body part. This exercise highlighted that aside from the visual, there are many special aspects of the body. This took the concept of beauty to a whole new level.

A few days later, students told SAFE teachers that the program introduced them to ideas that that will stay with them forever, adding that since then they have been practicing positive self-talk and accepting compliments graciously. They exclaimed, “And it feels good!”

Written by The SAFE Foundation

New York City Yeshivahs Allowed to Offer Services on Public School Holidays

Until recently, New York City policy demanded that special education service providers follow the public school calendar, which meant that on days that yeshivas were open but public schools were closed, therapists, health paraprofessionals and resource room teachers could not provide services, as they would not be reimbursed for their work. This was a source of ongoing frustration for principals, teachers, parents and special needs students.

Thanks to the advocacy of Project LEARN, the division of Agudath Israel of America that deals with special education issues, the city’s policy has been changed to accommodate the needs of the nonpublic school community. Provided that the total number of hours that are billed per student does not exceed the maximum number allocated for the school year, yeshivahs and other nonpublic schools may offer services any day that their school is in session, including legal holidays. As long as yeshivahs adhere to a 180-day school calendar, that calendar year may begin as early as September 1
and end any time up to June 30.

“The new policy means that schools that elect to start before Labor Day can start services immediately, and that students with special needs won’t have their schedules disrupted because of public school vacations or holidays,” says Mrs. Leah Steinberg, Director of Project LEARN. “Structure and continuity are vital to the success of any special needs program, and this will help maintain both.”

Project LEARN, a division of Agudath Israel of America, advocates on behalf of special needs students in yeshivahs and nonpublic schools, serves as a liaison between the schools and government agencies, and  offers schools and parents assistance in obtaining appropriate placement and services for their students.

NY State Education Department
Releases $4.5 Million for Security Funding for Nonpublic Schools

The New York State Education Department recently announced that $4.5 million allocated for security funding for nonpublic schools in last year’s budget is now available. The deadline to receive funding is March 31, 2014.

This security funding was not originally available to private schools. When Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature passed the SAFE Act last year, the legislation granted security funding for public schools only, excluding private schools.
OU Advocacy, together with its coalition of Jewish day schools and advocacy partners in Albany, convinced the leadership that security funding should be made available for every child – regardless of the type of school he/she attends.

“This security funding will allow Jewish day schools to be reimbursed for any safety equipment they purchased between
April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014,” explains Jeff Leb, New York Director of Political Affairs for OU Advocacy. “Each school will receive approximately $9.70 per child attending the school – which translates to several thousands of dollars, depending on a school’s enrollment. We urge every Jewish day school to apply for this funding as soon as possible because of the quickly-approaching deadline.”

Maury Litwack, Director of State Political Affairs and Outreach, said, “OU Advocacy is committed to working with Jewish day schools to ensure they maximize every dollar of government funding available to them. While this funding may appear small, it is an important part of the OU’s comprehensive effort to identify creative, viable and constitutionally-sound government programs and opportunities that help Jewish day schools address the tuition affordability challenge.”

The OU Advocacy Center has long worked on the issue of safety and security for our schools and communities, and regularly engages with Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and other senior officials to ensure the timely and practical flow of information important to its constituents’ safety. In addition, OU Advocacy joined with other major national organizations and Congressional allies to create the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NGSP) in 2005, which has secured more than $100 million for nonprofit organizations, including synagogues and day schools.

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The Shas-A-Thon

The idea to have nearly 300 young men learn
10 dafim each to finish the entire Shas in a single day under one roof was novel enough. But to have it done as a hizuk to couples waiting to be blessed with children and a fundraiser for an organization that helps them makes it historic.

On Sunday, February 16th,
the Ocean Place Resort in Long Branch, N.J., turned into a veritable bet midrash during the day, and a banquet hall as evening turned into night, as the A T.I.M.E. Shas-a-thon members sat and learned the 10 dafim assigned to them and then celebrated the completion of all 2,711 dafim.

“Torah is meant to be given over from one generation to another,” said Rabbi Shaul Rosen, founder and director of A T.I.M.E., as seder broke for a gourmet lunch. “That is what is missing here. And by you learning Torah, they will be merit to have their own children.”

The goal of the Shas-a-thon was simple: get 271 people to learn 10 dafim each and make a siyum haShas all in one day. Each learner was sponsored by other people, usually for hundreds, or thousands, of dollars. Weeks earlier, each person was given an ArtScroll Gemara to help him prepare for the event so that it would be a hazarah and not learning for the first time.

As night fell, preparations began for the gala siyum, with music and a seudah.  Rabbi David Ozeri addressed the people, “MetLife, Citi Field and now Shas a-thon. Has it ever happened before, the whole Shas, finished under one roof in one day? I don’t know if it ever happened before,” said Rabbi Ozeri to thunderous applause. “It’s mind-boggling.”

Harav Mattisyahu Solomon, Mashgiach of Bet Medrash Govoha, addressed the siyum, pronouncing A T.I.M.E., “not only an organization but a movement.” “The last thing that we have to do is to call upon the zechut haTorah,” the Mashgiach said, referring to the learning as a zechut, “to tap into the wonderful source of life.”

Yeshivat Or Hatorah 7th Grade
Sefer Torah Campaign

A visit from the Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Yaakov Marcus, to the boy’s elementary school division of Yeshivat Or Hatorah is always cause for excitement. Sometimes it is anxious excitement, as the talmidim (students) might be called upon to prove to the Rosh Yeshivah how well they are learning. This time, though, the cause for the visit was a special surprise that has reinvigorated the spirit in the school – the Sefer Torah project.

Rabbi Marcus assembled the seventh graders, the oldest class in the school, who will become bar mitzvah this year, and he announced that they have been chosen to make a dream come true –writing and dedicating their very own Sefer Torah!

As soon as the announcement of the seventh grade Sefer Torah project was made, the boys lost no time figuring out how many cousins and uncles and other friends and relatives they could rely on to buy dedications, whether big or small. More than one enterprising young man considered the possibility that he might be able to talk one of his relatives into taking on the cost of the entire Sefer at $36,000. But not to worry – there are plenty of opportunities for anyone who wants to have a share in this unique Sefer Torah.

Yeshivat Or Hatorah Elementary School was built through the tireless work and devotion of Rosh Yeshivah Rabbi Yaakov S. Marcus,
and Principal Rabbi Eliezer Zeytouneh. Their belief is that every child deserves to and can receive a quality yeshivah education with special attention being paid to preserving the Syrian/Sephardic tradition. Since their doors opened in 2006, their commitment to this goal has not wavered.

As the seventh grade inches towards starting their very own daily minyan at the yeshivah, they plan to fulfill the dream of completing the writing of their very own Torah with great joy and dancing Pesah time.

Anyone interested in joining this exciting project is invited to contact the yeshivah at 718-645-4645 or to make a pledge.

BMG and Atlanta Sephardic Community
to Open New Kollel

The announcement of a new Torah institution is always cause for celebration, but it is especially so when the institution promises to impact a significant portion of an outstanding community. This special joy was felt at the “lechayim” that was held at Beth Medrash Gavoha, announcing the opening of a community kollel for the Sephardic community in Atlanta, GA.

Among out-of-town communities, Atlanta holds its own with regard to Torah infrastructure. It boasts flourishing shuls, elementary and high schools for both boys and girls, as well as a kollel – the Atlanta Scholars Kollel. Atlanta is a robust Torah community in one of America’s largest metropolitan areas and economic engines of the Deep South and the entire United States.

Under the auspices of Rav Shmuel Khoshkerman, rabbi of Ner HaMizrach shul, and executive director Rabbi Dovid Kapenstein, the kollel is committed to promoting Torah study and its centrality to everyday life among the Sefardic, Israeli and Bucharan communities that constitute a significant segment of the mosaic of Atlanta Jewry.

The genesis for the kollel began nearly a half-decade ago, when the Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Dovid Schustal, visited Atlanta for a Siyum Hatorah event. Rav Khoshkerman approached Rav Schustal with his idea of a kollel, and Rav Schustal immediately embraced the idea. He personally approached Rabbi Aaron Kotler, CEO of BMG and the BMG Placement Department. Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky, Rosh  Yeshivah of the Yeshiva of Philadelphia, has been a driving force behind the kollel, giving his full support and encouragement. Rav Moshe Francis, Rosh Kollel of the Chicago Community Kollel and one of the architects of the kollel movement, also provided significant input.

Things slowly started falling into place, and the kollel’s vision is turning to reality now with the appointment of Rav Eliezer Cohen as Rosh Kollel. Rav Cohen, a longtime student of BMG, is a noted scholar and author, whose goals and aspirations endeared him to Rav Khoshkerman, who chose him for this job.

“He is a man of great Torah knowledge and a man with a great vision for the future,” Rav Khoshkerman noted.

The goal is to recruit nine kollel students to join Rav Cohen for this coming Elul 5774.

A festive “lechayim” took place in the offices of Beth Medrash Gavoha, where Roshei Yeshiva joined those working to put the kollel together and leaders from the Atlanta community to celebrate this momentous occasion.

Internet Safety Tips from
the Safe Foundation

While the internet can be used for many wonderful things, letting your children freely soar in cyberspace will definitely expose them to a virtual universe of images and information, some of which you most probably prefer they do not see. Below are some tips that can be used to regulate internet safety in your home.

Use parental control software. K-9 Web Protection is a site that offers free protective software that you can easily download onto your computer and/or smartphone devices.

Explain to your children that unfavorable posts or pictures of themselves on the internet may affect their chances when applying for a job or to a school, or when they are seeking to date. Have your children use privacy settings on social media sites, but explain that once a picture, video, or word is online, there is a great likelihood that it belongs to the public – forever. Show how the ability to take a screen shot enables one to send an image to multitudes of people. Even apps that allow one to take quickly-expiring photos are not foolproof, as one can screen shot the image and forward on and on.

As you make it clear that there are few secrets in this day and age, you may want to warn your children that you periodically check the history of their searches, but be aware that setting up a restrictive atmosphere at home is not foolproof, as there is easy access to the universe of the internet just a few steps out your front door!

Understand that kids of any age may feel the need to keep up with friends and therefore want to visit sites their friends visit. They may also just be naturally curious. Try to establish comfortable, open and close communication about these things, so you can be involved in shaping and guiding your children to having healthy mindsets when approaching all that is available on the internet.

Caution your family members not to communicate with people they don’t know, as identities can easily be masked by a computer/ phone screen.

Make it clear that you are there to help if they encounter any form of cyber-bullying.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call SAFE’s confidential, toll-free hotline, 24/7 at 1-866-569-SAFE (1-866-569-7233). Have a question?
E-mail Learn more about The Safe Foundation,
and get helpful tips, information and resources at

Help us Protect our Community!

Community Safety & Security (CSS) and the Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol (FSSP) are embarking on a new initiative to ensure the safety and stability of our community.

CSS is an affiliate of the Sephardic Community Federation (SCF), the umbrella public policy organization of the Sephardic community. Jack Cayre is the chairman of this new organization, which formed to help insure the safety of our community by establishing initiatives to help reduce crime.  “Recently, we have seen a need in the community for further protection and safety. That is why we took the next step in forming an organization such as CSS. We want to help deter any criminal activity while making sure that the members of the community feel safe once again,” said Cayre.

This new organization has been fortunate to have the backing of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, a longtime friend of the community. He has pledged to assist the organization in any way he can, including working with the organization to obtain funding for security cameras.

The Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol was founded in 1991 by now Councilman Chaim Deutsch with the support of neighborhood rabbinical leaders. The Shomrim’s volunteers patrol in their own unmarked cars while looking for any kind of unusual activity. On occasion they can patrol for a few hours or possibly even through the night if they are searching for a missing person. While all crimes should always be reported to 911, if community members call the Shomrim hotline number to report unusual activity, they either summon the police, who respond promptly or the Shomrim members arrive quietly at the scene to observe the situation.  They have the ability to respond quickly and devote more time to low priority level activities, such as reports of suspicious individuals in the neighborhood.

CSS, in conjunction with the Flatbush Shomrim are looking to increase the Shomrim presence in our neighborhood and expand their patrol coverage to the area between Avenues I to Y and from McDonald Avenue to Coney Island Avenue.

They are currently seeking qualified individuals who reside in that area to apply to become a volunteer member of the Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol. The candidates should preferably be over the age of 20 and have their own car and be on call whenever they are in the neighborhood, both day and night. Once a week on an assigned night, the Shomrim member will be required to patrol from 10pm – 2am.

If you would like to apply and are serious and committed to helping your community, please contact CSS at (347) 781-4679 or by email at

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