By Larry Gordon
Our community here on this sliver of Long Island needs new schools and yeshivas. Thankfully, that is what we are getting.
Years ago, an effort to open a new yeshiva would have been considered a challenge to the existing and established schools, but that is not the case anymore. And that is testimony to the needs of a flourishing and booming community.
That is precisely where Bais Yaakov of the Five Towns comes into our educational picture. The new Five Towns is youthful, with an abundance of young children, and schools doing the best they can do with limited space and resources.
BY5T is opening at the new school term, with three preschool grades. Over the next several years they will no doubt grow to be a remarkable institution, with innovative techniques combined with traditional hashkafos that have been the bedrock of Jewish education from time immemorial.
“It’s a community school for a new generation,” said Mrs. Rina Plutchok in our recent meeting, sharing the vision that she and the staff along with the board of the school have been working on so diligently over the past year.
Earlier this week I spoke with Rabbi Moshe Plutchok, the rav of Kehillas Ahavas Yisrael on Peninsula Boulevard in Woodmere, otherwise known as the KAY Shul. The rabbi, Menaheles Bracha Wrona, and Chief Operating Officer Rabbi Akiva Eisenstadt constitute a vibrant combination of personalities with vast educational experience as well their collective finger on the pulse of the Five Towns community.
Mrs. Plutchok and Mrs. Wrona are sought-after stars in their educational professions; both are educated and trained in various methods and bring experience, warmth, and expertise to BY5T along with genuine care and love. BY5T is indeed privileged to have them on board.
The new Bais Yaakov has moved into the old Rambam Mesivta, next door to Brandeis Hebrew Academy, and is sharing the facility with the Gesher School. Rambam has built a new building on Mott Avenue off Rockaway Turnpike in what is technically still Lawrence.
As you can see, it is an exciting time for Jewish education in the Five Towns. Rabbi Plutchok feels that BY5T will be distinguished by its innovative approach to both its young students and their families. He says that the vision is not to be autocratic but to work with families without any departure from the Bais Yakov hashkafos that are the inspiration for the school.
According to the BY5T website, another distinguishing factor is that there will be a number of women serving on the board, which makes a great deal of sense when you realize that this is a girls’ school that, as it develops, will be educating our daughters and granddaughters into young adulthood. One board member pointed out that, traditionally, there are usually very few or no women serving on the board of directors in the girls’ schools.
According to one of the founders of the new yeshiva, he and the other founding members have been thinking about opening this school for a while. He explains that the catalyst that made it happen for this school year was the availability of the former Rambam campus in Lawrence. “I don’t think we would have had the opportunity to start at a readymade school building at such a central location in the community anytime soon otherwise,” he said.
He preferred anonymity but explained that while he has daughters, none of them are preschool age so his own personal needs were not a motivating factor here. “The community is growing exponentially, and we realized that there was a need for a new girls’ school on every level.”
He added that the plan is to grow into a fully developed elementary school and as time goes on to explore the possibilities of opening a high school at some point as well.
Dudi Gross of Cedarhurst is active in a number of local schools and organizations and also has a daughter beginning kindergarten in a few weeks at BY5T. “I don’t have to tell you that our community is experiencing very fast-paced growth, and along with that there is a parallel need for educational accommodations,” said Mr. Gross. He feels that what distinguishes the school is that it is being created by Five Towns parents for Five Towns parents.
It is clear when one considers the depth of the experience of the staff that has been recruited that even at the preschool level, the fundamental chinuch that will be instilled in these children will be unparalleled.
For his part, Rabbi Plutchok was raised in a family where chinuch was paramount. His father, Rav Yisrael Plutchok, passed away two years ago at the height of the COVID pandemic. He led Yeshiva Derech Chaim, which is known far and wide for their multiple levels of limud HaTorah.
For young Five Towns families, this is a unique educational opportunity to not just grow with a school but to contribute to its identity and its place on the chinuch ha’banos landscape.
The two-and-a-half decades of preschool experience of Mrs. Plutchok and Mrs. Wrona, and the expertise the distinguished educational director, Temima Feldman, are indicative of the commitment to provide the community with a top-tier yeshiva that everyone can be proud of from the start.
A few weeks ago, while we were both in Israel, we had the opportunity to meet with Rabbi Akiva Eisenstadt, the school’s COO and the young man who took over Rabbi Plutchok’s position at the Shtiebel in Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn. Rabbi Eisenstadt sees the broader view of how a yeshiva takes its place in a community.
From the all-important business perspective, which is part of his domain and responsibility, he used the term “intuitive tuition.” It is by design that tuition is very reasonable, but at the same time they are encouraging those involved, either as founders or parents or both, to support the new school to the extent that they feel is appropriate.
Full disclosure mandates that I reveal that one of my granddaughters is enrolled in BY5T, so we have an additional incentive to see the school grow and succeed. The idea of the school has been on the drawing board for a while, and over the next few weeks, as schools open, we excitedly await its fruition.
At this stage, the school size is such that everyone involved, at every level, can help to define the school. As Rabbi Plutchok said, this is the long-term goal—a yeshiva where families have a role to play in their children’s educational future.
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