By Jacqueline Vinar, Ramaz Class of 1981
It’s that time of year again when high-school open houses abound. Advertisements to the local schools have already been prominently displayed in the community papers. I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that the Ramaz Upper School open house, located at 60 East 78th Street between Park and Madison Avenues, will take place iy’H Sunday, October 13, at 9:00 a.m. The open house is the best way to observe and learn about all that Ramaz has to offer.
As a Ramaz alumna with two daughters currently in attendance at the high school, I am biased when it comes to my alma mater. Ramaz has never been far from my heart. I still have in my possession a pocket Siddur Rinat Yisroel that was passed on to me by a faculty member when I was a high-school student. That Siddur, well-thumbed from use, has accompanied me to camp and on vacation. I carry it around in my purse daily and it is a constant reminder of the affection I hold for Ramaz and its impact on me 30 years hence.
Founded in 1937, Ramaz is a co-educational Modern Orthodox school whose curriculum is geared toward developing its students to be Torah-observant Jews as well as preparing its students for college. The school attracts students from all over the New York metropolitan area, including Westchester, New Jersey, Connecticut, and even the Five Towns of Long Island. There are core course requirements throughout the four-year program. It is an education that piques one’s interests and makes one think beyond the classroom.
Emphasis is placed not only on education but on acts of charity and kindness with the community at large. The concept in Pirkei Avos “Lo hamidrash hu haikar, ela hamaaseh” best embodies the Ramaz spirit. Not the words, but the actions are paramount. If there’s a worthy cause, Ramaz will involve itself and its students. Whether it’s collecting toiletries for soldiers in Israel, bagging food for City Harvest, doing Bikur Cholim at Lenox Hill Hospital, building houses with Habitat for Humanity, or doing cleanup and repair after Hurricane Sandy, Ramaz is always in action.
Teachers are role models who take part in, and take pride in, the students’ development. They encourage and partake in school events together with the students, enabling an open and friendly relationship between students and staff, whether it be at school Shabbatonim or at other extracurricular activities.
Israel awareness is an important facet of Ramaz school life. It is part of the Ramaz curriculum and there is constant involvement of the student body in activities which affect the State of Israel. Spending a year of study in Israel is highly encouraged so that the individual’s commitment to Zionism continues even after Ramaz graduation.
Ramaz has over 70 clubs including art and photography, dance team, chorus, and drama–just to name a few. Sport teams are well represented at Ramaz. There are also the debate and math teams, Chidon Tanach, and several school publications that students can join.
There’s a student government, a chesed committee, and my personal favorite, “A Celebration of the Arts” at the end of the school year. It’s a culmination of all that’s best by students in art, music, theatre, dance, and literature performed before a live audience. The students have an opportunity to demonstrate their creative skills. The show is organized by the student body with the able assistance of faculty members. It’s an amazing display of talent that I look forward to year after year, the likes of which only a school such as Ramaz, that takes pride in the arts, could provide.
One of the best reasons to send a child to Ramaz is what your child brings home. These are the days when I wish I could go back to high school. I get the chance to relive high school by indulging in the books my children have read and engaging in discussions with them about their varied courses. On “book day,” an entire school day is devoted to presentations and discourses about a book selected by staff that explores life connected to a specific geographic region. Last year, the book selected–a memoir about the Jews of Cairo–focused on Egypt, and students had the chance to meet the author, taste Egyptian food for lunch, and daven with an Egyptian cantor.
My children have told me repeatedly and without reserve that they “love Ramaz.” When is the last time you heard your children use the words “love” in connection with school? It is a credit to Ramaz that it can foster such a positive attitude in a child.
At Ramaz, you are part of a large community. Although so many years have passed since I graced the halls of the high school, I am always reminded that I am still a part of their ever-growing family. There is a strong alumni body and an alumni coordinator who organizes alumni activities, and the school continually reaches out and shows an interest in keeping up with its former students. As an alumni class representative myself, I am proud of my colleagues’ accomplishments. Everyone has pursued a chosen profession. We have a class of doctors, dentists, lawyers, and even rabbis! There are those who are involved in charity and are contributing to their community. A good number have devoted themselves to Israel and made aliyah. I truly believe that Ramaz was an integral part of their development and the choices they eventually made stemmed from the nurturing they received there. It is only in looking back that one can see how truly far one has come.
If you can’t make the open house, it’s well worth your while to contact the school at 212-774-8093 or visit www.ramaz.org and request an application. You and your child will be forever glad you did. v