A Tree Grows In Long Beach

Dear Editor,

Sixty years ago, a tree was planted by Rabbi Dr. Armin H. Friedman, founder and menahel of the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach-Yeshivat Lev. The seeds were cultivated in Europe and the young sapling was rooted in a house on the west end of Long Beach. Thereafter, a location by the seashore was chosen where a tree of Torah learning would have room to grow and flourish. There was water, the magnificent Atlantic Ocean, and sunlight as the sapling was nurtured by members of the Long Beach Jewish community. Over time, the tree blossomed and bore fruit, countless numbers of talmidim who are products of a HALB education. The tree has also branched out to include a preschool, Lev Chana, and two high schools, SKA and DRS, located in the Five Towns.

It is truly heartbreaking to hear that there are now plans to uproot this well-established institution from its foundation and leave our soil barren. In essence, tearing down the HALB building can be compared to cutting down a fruit tree, which we are commanded by the Torah not to do (Devarim 20:19). The HALB building in Long Beach is more than just mortar and bricks, and should not be demolished since it represents Rabbi Dr. Friedman’s remarkable and miraculous triumph over Nazism. It is a symbol of the survival of Jewish children and the continuing legacy of Torah teachings and values. On the eve of my HALB graduation, Rabbi Friedman walked out onto the front stairs of the building and solemnly stated that he remembered the hot August night when the Jews from the Lodz Ghetto arrived at Auschwitz. My father, Harry Morgenstern, z’l, and his family had been part of this transport in August 1944.

For the past 50 years, HALB has resonated with the voices and laughter of Jewish children. On the other side of the ocean, 70 years ago, children were tormented and murdered because they were Jewish. Shuls and Torah institutions were burned and destroyed. It was Purim at its finest hour when the groundbreaking for Yeshivat Lev took place at 530 West Broadway as our beloved menahel planted a majestic fruit tree in our community.

Liba Morgenstern Adler


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