By Rabbi Dr. Boaz Tomsky Principal, YBH
Although this is another story about the horrific events that befell a community due to the devastating hurricane, something quite positive and uplifting resulted in the process.
It was 1963, some 50 years ago, that a yeshiva in rural Belle Harbor opened its doors to provide academic excellence in Jewish education for the greater community. YBH became known as a school that provides a warm, nurturing environment, with its small class sizes and its loving, dedicated staff. YBH’s mission is to provide a curriculum based on differentiated instruction so that every child will have the opportunity to reach his or her potential and be provided with the essential foundation for a brighter tomorrow. YBH has stressed the value of teaching to the heart as well as to the mind and, due to our diverse student body, we help foster an environment which promotes celebrating such differences as a learning experience.
Located just one block from the beach, we have incorporated the environment as part of our curriculum, including going to tashlich at Rosh Hashanah time and having special school gatherings such as on Lag B’Omer. YBH is the world to so many children, past and present. Then the hurricane came and changed everything. Our school, housed primarily on the bottom floor, was filled with storm water. Everything was destroyed. From books to desks, computers to office equipment, nothing is salvageable. Everything we built during our 50 years of existence was stripped away in a matter of a few hours.
All seemed hopeless to the casual observer. This seemed to be the case until Saturday night (November 3), when the parent body gathered at a monumental meeting at a parent’s home to discuss what must be done to preserve our school. Initially, it was considered to perhaps call it a day. Let the destructive path of Hurricane Sandy get the best of our hopes and dreams. But this was not to be. No storm, as powerful as it may be, could dampen the spirits of our parent body. Merging with another school or being absorbed was not an option. “We send our children to YBH for a reason!” exclaimed a parent at the meeting. “There is nothing like it out there and we are not letting go!” These were the sentiments of virtually everyone present. The teachers also commented on how they have never been at a school quite like this one and that it is indeed something special and worth fighting for.
Without hesitation, things began to move at lightning speed. A new board and subcommittees were organized. People stood up like never before and accepted leadership roles to expedite the start of a new school. But where could one find a school in the middle of November that is “move-in ready”? Amazingly, there is such a place. The very next day, the board and other key members toured a beautiful facility in the heart of Brooklyn. It was love at first sight. “This is a step up from where we were before,” commented a board member. With unprecedented speed, YBH has now found its new home in Brooklyn, at Eitz Chaim of Flatbush, 1649 East 13th Street.
On Monday night (November 5), a parent commented that the school was so close to their house that her seven-year-old son enthusiastically commented, “Mommy, now I can ride my bike to school!” We are projecting tremendous growth for our school now that it is located in a more centralized location. Many families that initially expressed interest in attending YBH before were unable to do so, because of the distance from their home and the added expense of transportation from Brooklyn to Belle Harbor. Now we will be able to better serve these children so that every child will have the opportunity to reach his or her potential.
Things are looking bright in the aftermath of a horrible event. The whole community is coming together with a focus on a common goal–namely, to get their beloved school up and running as fast as possible. Many other local yeshivas are donating materials and doing what they can to help. Other organizations are assisting with their expertise and manpower to get our school the very basics to reopen our doors. We now ask everyone to assist our yeshiva in this most crucial time of need in any way that you can. Please make your tax-deductible donations to “YBH.” Our new mailing address is 1649 East 13th Street, Brooklyn NY 11229. Our phone number is 347-688-YBH8 (9248).
YBH is truly grateful to all of our benefactors. It is your generosity and commitment that will help advance the mission of our community yeshiva. One can learn more about the school and all its programs and its mission by visiting www.yeshivaofbelleharbor.org.
We will remain YBH. But our name has been transformed into Yeshivat BitaHon–a yeshiva with faith. A yeshiva with a bright future because of you and all of your support. v