While students are used to celebrating one another’s birthdays, it is not every day that they have the opportunity to celebrate the birthday of their school. But that is exactly what has been happening at Yeshiva Har Torah (YHT) this year. During the yearlong celebration of the school’s 25th anniversary, this milestone has been incorporated into the students’ academic and co-curricular activities.
Founded in 1989 with fewer than 20 students, YHT has since grown to nearly 600 students spanning nursery through 8th grade. The school’s goal has stayed the same since day one–to educate children in a warm, caring environment that brings out the unique qualities of each individual student.
Since students are at the heart of YHT, it is only natural that they be included in the many events that are taking place throughout the year to mark the school’s silver anniversary. At the kickoff event on Chanukah, students made the connection between the 25th of Kislev and the school’s milestone year, and each child was given a picture of himself or herself to affix to a giant cardboard cutout of the number 25. The project gave students the opportunity to tangibly express that every one of them is an important member of the YHT family, and has a role to play in celebrating the school’s remarkable accomplishments over the past two-and-a-half decades.
Each grade is also getting the opportunity to display projects they have worked on that tie in to the silver anniversary. From first grade’s mathematical and tactile representations of the number 25 to the middle school’s written expressions of their feelings about the school, each child is participating in showing their pride for the school’s historic achievement.
Twenty-fifth anniversary memorabilia was also created to mark this celebratory year. Students have been sporting special anniversary bracelets and kippot, staff donned special shirts for the Rosh Chodesh Adar festivities, and the sports teams are using special water bottles. Anniversary events this year have included a melaveh malkah for parents, a special dinner for faculty and staff, and a weekly trivia game that highlights interesting facts from YHT’s history. Still to come this year is a family carnival on Lag B’Omer.
The highlight of the year’s celebrations came on Saturday night, March 8, at the school’s dinner. Yeshiva Har Torah’s silver anniversary dinner honored YHT’s beloved menahel of the past 18 years, Rabbi Gary Menchel and his wife, Beaty, along with past presidents: Dov Berkowitz, Rachel Goldman, Susan Mandelstam, Yael Shayne, and Yossie Spirgel. Special tribute was also paid to the school’s founding dean, Rabbi Meir Bilitzky. In addition, the school recognized the Gruss Life Monument Fund for its longtime support of the school, and Irwin Adelsberg, Abe Hercman, and Alan Steinberg, all of whom have devoted themselves throughout the years to the growth and success of Yeshiva Har Torah.
Honorary chairmen for the dinner were Dr. Felix Glaubach, Eugen Gluck, Harvey Kaylie, and Stanley Silverstein. A record crowd of nearly 700 joined at the Sands in Atlantic Beach to share in the achievement, with attendees spanning the full 25 years of the school’s parents, grandparents, graduates and friends–the entire Yeshiva Har Torah family.
The enthusiasm and ruach that permeated the students’ introduction to the 25th birthday of their school continues to be felt throughout the year by all those connected to YHT. The entire Har Torah family is reveling in the opportunities that this year offers to reflect on YHT’s accomplishments to date, and to chart the course for the next 25 years of developing students into learned, compassionate, and inspired Jews who are prepared to make positive contributions to society. v