By Chanita Teitz
Last week, we attended two inspiring dinners. The first dinner was on motzaei Shabbos, February 17, and we drove in the sudden snowstorm to Da Mikele Illagio for the Ezra Academy 50th anniversary dinner. The large and beautiful venue created an elegant backdrop for this milestone event. Rabbi Eli Freilich, dean, and Mrs. Francine Hirshman, principal, have made Ezra Academy into a premier school giving public school students a chance at discovering their Jewish heritage. Without any pressure, these students, many of whom can’t read Hebrew when they start, become part of a family—the Ezra Academy family. Through love, warmth, and caring, the staff infuses the school with Judaism while also providing a stellar secular education. Many of the students grow to become mitzvah-observant Jews, marrying and establishing Jewish homes and families.
The other dinner took place on Monday night, February 19, at the White Shul in Far Rockaway. Bnos Malka Academy honored a group of dedicated parents, grandparents, and staff. Every word spoken that night attested to the fact that Bnos Malka cares about each student.
One parent read a letter he wrote to the Board of Directors telling everyone not to take the school for granted. When any child is having a hard time in school, the staff meets and works out a plan to help that girl succeed. As menahel Rabbi Weichselbaum said, they don’t lower the school’s standards, but give the girls the extra help and tools they need to reach those standards and become the best they can be.
Both evenings were so inspiring. As parents, grandparents, and educators we can have a tremendous influence on our children. In today’s difficult world, it is quite a challenge, but here are two schools that are succeeding!
On motzaei Shabbos, February 24, we attended a melaveh malkah at the home of Michael and Gila Rollhaus. The featured speakers were Rabbi Moshe and Leah Goldsmith of Itamar in the Shomron. The Goldsmiths spoke about their move to Israel after their marriage and how they, along with 11 other couples, started this yishuv near Shechem.
When most of us think of the yishuv of Itamar, we associate it with the murders of the Fogel family and several additional attacks. But despite that, people are determined to stay there and the town keeps growing.
The town of Itamar was established in 1984 in “the heart of Israel” in the mountain ridges overlooking the city of Shechem and facing the mountains of Har Eval and Har Gerizim, bordering the portion of Menashe. When the Goldsmiths first arrived there in 1984, the Bedouins called the mountain the “dead hill” because it was just dry, rocky, empty land where nothing grew. Sounds familiar. Anita Tucker, from Gush Katif, spoke years ago and said the Arabs from Gaza came to greet them and said the same thing—nothing grows there. Well, Leah Goldsmith said that when Jews come back to Eretz Yisrael, the land blooms. That was a promise Hashem made to Klal Yisrael and is fulfilling in our own days.
There were eight attempts to settle Itamar prior to 1984, but the Israeli government did not allow it as a concession to the U.S. attitude that new settlements are an obstacle to peace. Finally, it was established and has kept growing and is now the largest geographical area in Yesha. One hundred years ago nothing was there. And now, this rocky, dry terrain is filled with green rolling hills.
Today Itamar is the largest producer of organic eggs as well as vineyards producing world class wines, a perfumery, sheep and goat farms, and more.
Leah told of how she was always inspired about Israel and about the Shechem area in particular, as it was the place where Avraham Avinu stopped first when he came to Eretz Yisrael. Kever Yosef is there, which the Arabs have tried to destroy numerous times. They blew the roof off the kever and used it as a horse stable. Jews are only allowed to go there once a month at night with an army escort.
There is so much history in this area. The sons of Aharon HaKohen, Elazar and Itamar, were buried nearby and that is how the yishuv got its name. In 1980, archaeologist Adam Zertal was doing a survey of the land and discovered the mizbeach of Yehoshua ben Nun.
Itamar is situated equidistant from Tel Aviv to the west and the Jordan River to the east. Strategically, its access and proximity to the Jordan Valley is important. Yerushalayim is one hour to the south.
Rabbi Moshe Goldsmith, who is also the previous mayor of Itamar, showed us a slide show of the area with pictures tracing Itamar’s history and geography. He said that the mission statement of the yishuv is “to save the biblical heart of Israel by turning Itamar into a major city.” From 12 pioneering families, they have grown to 300 families, 1,800 people. They have a full educational system including nursery, kindergarten, elementary, and high schools, a yeshiva and seminary. The younger generation is getting married and staying in Itamar so there is a natural, exponential growth.
Security remains at the top of the list of the yishuv’s needs. The security budget for day-to-day operations is approximately $6,600 per month. A volunteer 25-member Rapid Response Team costs $8,000 to train yearly and must be outfitted with night-vision goggles and high-resolution binoculars. The fence surrounding the yishuv must be maintained.
There are other projects being planned for children as well as a visitor center. All visitors are invited to come and see firsthand what is being accomplished in this yishuv. You can see more about Itamar at TourItamarSupportIsrael.com. They have also established a nonprofit tax deductible charitable organization called Friends of Itamar. Your support is needed and truly appreciated. Checks can be mailed to Friends of Itamar, Attn. Goldsmith, 1483 East 34th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11234.
YCQ Makes Mishloach Manot To Distribute
To Holocaust Survivors
To help students at Yeshiva of Central Queens understand the full meaning and importance of Purim, Rabbi Nafi Orlofsky from the Gift of Unity organization and rebbe at HANC High School visited a group of YCQ second-graders to lead a hands-on activity teaching the students the importance of giving. On February 22, class 2-204 had a mishloach manot letter-writing activity.
The Gift of Unity organization aims at providing opportunities for uniting Jews all around the world. Its purpose is to give a “gift,” to enable one Jew to feel recognized and cared for by another. The mishloach manot packages will be distributed through Project Lead, an organization that distributes to those in need. The letters from the students at YCQ will be given to Holocaust survivors to help them celebrate the holiday of Purim. Rabbi Orlofsky shared information with the children about Purim and the importance of helping the less fortunate, followed by students writing messages on cards they designed themselves. Prior to the visit, the students were taught a lesson on how to properly write and address a letter by their teacher, Mrs. Michal Fuchs.
The idea behind programs like this and other ongoing chesed programs at YCQ is that the earlier we begin to teach children about the importance of giving, the more it will become a matter of practice and habit as they develop into adults.
Chazaq Events: March 5 at 8:00 p.m. Rebbetzin Devorah Kigel will speak on “Keeping the Fire Alive in Your Marriage” at Beth Gavriel, 6635 108th Street, Forest Hills. For married women.
March 6 at 8:45 p.m. Rabbi Yigal Haimoff will speak on “Sanctity of the Law of Love in the Jewish Home” at Yeshiva Ohel Simcha, 141-41 72nd Avenue, Flushing. For married couples only.
March 6 at 7:45 p.m. Rabbi Jonathan Rietti will speak on “The Power of the Media” at Beit Eliyahu, 71-52 172nd Street, Fresh Meadows. Refreshments will be served at 7:30 p.m. and lecture at 8:30 p.m. For men and women.
March 11 from 9:30 a.m.–2:00 p.m. Elder Care Expo at Shaar HaTorah, 117-06 84th Avenue, Kew Gardens.
March 12 at 8:00 p.m. Charlie Harary at Beth Gavriel Center. For men and women.
For more information on all these events, call 718-285-9132 or visit Chazaq.org.
Chanita Teitz is a real-estate broker at Astor Brokerage in Kew Gardens Hills, serving the entire Queens vicinity. For all your real-estate needs, call her at 718-263-4500 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.