At The Kiddush Club

Dear Editor,

Several weeks ago, I was at a kiddush at one of the local shuls. There were many tables with hot food and desserts. There was also a table for making kiddush with many different kinds of alcohol on it. The alcohol was accessible to everyone, with no supervision of any sort near it. There were many teens at the kiddush who were helping themselves to all the bottles over and over again.

Some of them were there with their parents but were not “with” them. Others were there on their own. Many of the teens were clearly intoxicated by the time they left the shul. There was a caterer and several workers throughout the room, but no one working that particular table. I was very surprised by this situation. I think that if a shul is not “dry,” then it is the caterer’s responsibility to tell the ba’al simcha that there is a fee for someone to pour the liquor–for the adults only.

I have two high-school children, and in both their schools there is a mandatory substance-abuse lecture for the kids and parents. They talk about how our neighborhood has a very big alcohol problem and how we have to be vigilant about knowing who our children are with all the time. I just think that we are perpetuating the problem with situations such as these.

If it is so important to have alcohol at your simcha, and it obviously is for many, then maybe the vaad has to take a stand and set up stricter guidelines. It is only putting temptation in the way of these young teens.

Susan Lewin

In Praise Of HALB

Dear Editor,

I recently read an article promoting a new up-and-coming school. The school was being described as innovative and the school of the future. I read the article and was left feeling confused. The school my children currently attend incorporates all aspects that this new school is promising. HALB has been around for close to 60 years. It got me thinking, new isn’t always better. To the contrary, when it comes to our children’s education we can trust in the numbers; obviously whatever they’re doing is working.

Two of my children have already graduated and two are still in elementary school. My hopes and expectations of what school ought to be have been far surpassed. While the school serves a large student population, classes are small. My children are treated as individuals and their specific strengths and deficiencies are constantly focused upon. Whether a child needs extra assistance or needs to be more challenged, the differentiated instruction accommodates every student. Lessons, testing, and homework are all designed to meet the needs of the particular student. Each classroom is equipped with Internet access and Smart Boards. Teachers are able to teach while utilizing modern technology to enhance and bring the lessons to life. My third-grader came home one day all excited about having visited Africa. Of course she’d never actually been there, but her class experience that day was so real and hands-on that she felt she had.

Just take a walk into any classroom to discover the warm and inviting atmosphere that the rooms encompass. In every classroom, you will find an extensive library with books in every genre. The books are all labeled in color-coded leveling which allows each student to read on his or her own level. There are carpets in each classroom so that students can leave their desks and have shared reading experiences on the reading carpet. The walls and bulletin boards are updated with creative and artistic student work. The students are urged to work together more often than not; as a matter of fact the desks are set up in groups to better facilitate group work. Whether it’s writing original stories, creating inter-curriculum projects, or researching a variety of topics, the students are encouraged to work with their peers.

The math program at HALB follows the wave of the future; long gone are the days of math from a textbook. This program is interactive, stimulating, and with “manipulatives” for every topic. Students can actually watch, touch, and experience their math lesson. Many of the school’s programs are computer-based, like Success Maker, which tests students’ reading and math skills so that both student and teacher are completely up to date on a child’s progress.

Parent/teacher collaboration is probably one of HALB’s biggest strengths. The lines of communication are always open. Teachers are easily reachable and accessible through e-mail. Meetings are set up periodically to ascertain how to best accommodate a child. Not only are the teachers directly involved in a student’s education, but social workers, mental-health counselors, resource instructors, and guidance counselors are always on deck to offer support and advice.

A friend of mine whose kids attend HALB recently expressed to me how touched she was when she showed up for her son’s meeting and was met by seven adults. Each of them somehow connected to her child’s education and social well-being. She was blown away by how well each of these adults knew and understood her child, and even more so how much they all genuinely cared about his success.

The relationship that the students build with their morahs and rebbes are unusual, to say the least. Even years after the kids have graduated, you will find rebbes attending students’ weddings and other smachot. To see a student form such a deep connection to someone that they respect and admire is priceless. To know that those connections can last a lifetime is truly amazing.

Learning takes place in different ways. How wonderful to learn about plants and growth by actually visiting an apple orchard! How fascinating to actually meet and interview an author you’ve always admired! And of course there’s the art program in which the students actually learn technique and art history. Of course physical education is popular among the kids, especially because when the weather permits, students are able to use one of two large outdoor yards with the fresh ocean breeze.

Is any school perfect? We all know as adults that nothing is foolproof. However, when I see my children thriving, when I see their love for learning, when I see their self-esteem blossom, and when I see them arise each morning feeling happy to go to school and then return home with a smile, I know as a parent I’ve made the best possible choice.

A Happy HALB Parent

Voting No

On School Sale

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Do you have an opinion about the recent proposal to sell the Number Six School building to a medical center developer? If you’re like many other homeowners in the Five Towns, you don’t want the center to be built there.

The decision to accept the sale is in the hands of the residents living in District 15. On March 20, there will be a referendum to vote against or in favor of the sale. We do have a solid chance to stop the sale. But to get to that point, let’s first address why we must stop the sale.

To begin, let’s just state the admitted possible benefits of having this medical center in our community. First, having a full-service medical center in the heart of the community will provide easy one-stop-shop access to doctors, medical diagnostics, and a healthcare clinic open every day of the week.

While we do already have hundreds of doctors and diagnostic services in the Five Towns, the medical center will house them all in one place, making it more convenient for residents.

Also, selling the property to the developer will allow the district to place the property on to the tax rolls, generating money for the school district, and an annual tax savings for every District 15 household of about $20 to $30 a year.

So what do you get for that $20 or $30 dollars? Unfortunately, a lot more than you may have bargained for.

Before South Nassau Hospital was built, Oceanside was once a wonderful community with lovely homes, lovely families, lots of kids, and the kind of quiet, suburban lifestyle that led many of us to buy homes and raise families in the Five Towns.

The hospital started off small, but over the years has grown in ways no one anticipated. If you would speak to any of the longtime residents in the community surrounding the hospital, you’d get a glimpse of the future here in the Five Towns, should the school bid go to the medical center developer.

Residents in Oceanside living on once-quiet streets near the hospital live in a new reality where there is never parking, employees walking and making noise at all times, and streets constantly littered with filth. Strangers double-parked at all hours of the day block driveways, clog the streets, and aren’t known to be very respectful to residents who object.

With an influx of strangers, who don’t live in or care about this community, you might find that you aren’t as comfortable letting the kids play outside. The developer’s plans include a large number of parking spots; zoning requires them to. But in reality, there are never enough spots, and before you know it, more cars than you can count will be prowling the neighborhood looking for spots.

Will you still be comfortable letting the kids walk home from school or to their friend’s house? You definitely won’t be so quick to let them go walking alone on Shabbos and yom tov. And talking about Shabbos and yom tov, you may have to say good-bye to the peace and comfort we take for granted of seeing just friends and neighbors walking the streets.

Also, with so many new people coming to the neighborhood, do you believe your homes will be as safe on a daily basis, or when you go away on vacation? Stay-at-home moms who spend a good part of their day at home alone or with little children must ask themselves if they believe they’ll feel as safe then as they do now.

Should this project go as planned, our community can count on dwindling influence and legal rights needed to prevent even further development. Ask residents in Oceanside how long it takes for medical facilities like the proposed Number Six School project to start buying nearby homes to expand their footprint deeper and deeper into communities.

As the community residents’ rights grow weaker and weaker, the medical center will accumulate more leeway to raze the houses they buy for new parking lots, external administrative offices and storage, lots of bright lights. With every victory at the expense of you and your neighbors will come another irreversible land-use precedent that will further securing zoning rights for all kinds of new development.

There’s no telling what can happen as control continues to shift from the local community to the development companies. Most likely, it will be a gradual, then rapid rise in peripheral commercial activity such as convenience stores, pharmacy chains, etc. Within a decade you can expect Peninsula Boulevard from Rockaway Turnpike to the Young Israel of Woodmere to be lined with stores, condos, and run-down, renter-occupied homes.

So what happens when you realize the community has changed too much to bear? You’re not going to be happy. Between the overall taint of Sandy-related damage on structural integrity, fears of another flood, and the gargantuan medical facility around the corner, your home won’t be worth that much. Even then, you might not have an easy time selling it.

Diminished quality of life and property values are the kiss of death to any community. It’s more than likely to happen here.

The referendum on March 20 may be one of the most important votes you will ever cast! If the community votes no, then little of what was described above will come to pass.

There are some who believe that the outcome of the vote only affects the future of Shulamith. Think again. No matter where you send your children to school, the difference between a school and a medical center is a difference that will affect everyone.

The most important thing to remember is that what you do with your vote will have a direct, lasting effect on the future or your neighborhood, the value of your house, and the enjoyment you and your children have from the neighborhood you have chosen to call home.

Voting for the referendum takes place at the Lawrence Middle School at 190 Broadway. Polls open at 12 p.m. (not the typical 7 a.m.) and close at 9 p.m.

If you don’t want a medical center in your back yard, then you must vote no. If we defeat the medical center plan, the process restarts; it doesn’t go to the next highest bidder

P.S.: Some people are angry that the school board accepted this bid. That anger is misplaced. The board has a responsibility to accept the highest practical bid, and the medical center bid fit that requirement. What we must all understand, however, is that the same way the school board did its job, you have the same chance to do yours.

Your job–the entire community’s job–is to vote NO on the March 20 referendum, and defeat an idea that will change our community in every conceivable way, And to make sure your neighbors, friends, and family, and every eligible District 15 resident you know come out to vote.

Dov Herman

A Better Use

For School Property

Dear Editor,

The best use of the Number Six School in Woodmere would be to provide affordable housing for people over 55 who have been living in the Five Towns for many years and for one reason or another would like to downsize and remain in the Five Towns. For such people there is really nowhere to go if they want to stay here.

Joseph Schnitzer, CPA


Dov Hikind’s Real Mistake

Dear Editor,

Despite all the politically correct and opportunistic hullabaloo amongst black politicians over Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s Purim costume, his decision to don blackface, an afro, and a basketball uniform was not his big mistake. The problem was, as I see it, that his uniform was not complete. It was missing the correct logo given the assemblyman’s Jewish identity and the proximity of his residence to Canarsie. The front of his jersey should have read “Hebrew Educational Society.”

The Hebrew Educational Society (or HES, as it is known) was originally constructed in the early ’70s as a recreational center on Seaview Avenue in Canarsie for Jewish youth. As a resident of Canarsie growing up, I spent the majority of my teen years swimming and playing basketball at the facility, usually at night after I ate supper.

About a year ago, I decided to visit this wonderful facility once again as I was pondering paying the yearly membership fee. I was quite surprised, to say the least, when I discovered that the facility, which had originally been built for Jews–with Jewish money–was now almost completely taken over by African-American youth. When I returned in the evening for a second visit, I saw young black children playing basketball at dinnertime.

It did not take me long to realize that not only had the demographics of the place radically changed, but so had the rules. Thirty years ago I believe that you had to be at least 14 to be in the men’s gym during nighttime basketball hours unless you were accompanied by an adult, and you were not allowed to go inside the weight room unless you were of a certain age. What I witnessed was a bunch of eight-year-olds playing basketball at a time that was previously reserved for adults. They managed to get around the rules by having one adult with them at the time. I also observed a flood of kids that had to be asked to leave the weight room.

After witnessing this changed spectacle of my beloved boyhood facility, I quickly realized that this was not the place for me. It was not the change in demographics that bothered me so much as the utter lack of adherence to any rules or discipline. When I even tried to allude to what I thought was an infringement on the rights of adults to use the basketball courts while speaking to the administration, I was assailed by a black lady on the line in back of me who instantaneously tried to create a racial issue.

If anybody could tell me about one example in this country where private funds originally intended to benefit black youth were later or even simultaneously used to benefit Jewish youth, perhaps I would think about taking a different perspective about what kind of costume Assemblyman Hikind decided to wear in the privacy of his own home during a religious celebration. But until then I would not consider it entirely inappropriate if aggrieved and disappointed former members of the Hebrew Educational Society were to get dressed up as Assemblyman Hikind did but with the added emblem of the Hebrew Educational Society, in order to render a statement against those who out of some misbegotten sense of entitlement take what rightfully belong to others without so much as saying thank-you or showing adequate appreciation.

Lawrence Kulak


Nahaphoch Hu!

Dear Friend,

We both went to the TAG Dinner on February 19 at the Sands. We have (almost) identical coats. After the dinner, your husband went to the coat check . . . and inadvertently claimed my coat. (Brown, fur collar, with my gloves in the pockets. Your coat has fur on the cuffs; mine doesn’t. And mine says “Albert Nipon” on the, uh, TAG).

Please call the Sands, at 516-371-4000, ask for Rich or Bob, and may we both have simcha v’sasson viykar!

With my “warmest” wishes,


More About

The School Sale

Dear Editor,

Has anyone taken a close look at the traffic plans for the medical megacenter being planned in Woodmere? The details are shocking.

This megacenter would pack hundreds of additional cars onto Peninsula and Branch boulevards, and on Rockaway Boulevard, while creating maddening traffic gridlock. Cars would be forced onto residential streets throughout our community for as long as this proposed regional medical center would plague our community.

Just imagine: No safe place for the kids to play, or to take a walk on Shabbos. Just a steady stream of cars heading to this regional medical center, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

There is no way we can let this happen. Isn’t there enough traffic that we deal with? This is a precious residential neighborhood. Tell Mount Sinai to send their patients elsewhere. Join me on March 20 to vote no on this megacenter.

We will make sure that neither my street nor yours will be turned into another Long Island highway.

Josh Justic


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