June 25, 2024
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Bergen County High School for Jewish Studies Celebrates Gala Dinner

Bergen County High School for Jewish Studies (BCHSJS) will hold its annual gala dinner on June 5 at Congregation Beth Sholom, 354 Maitland Avenue in Teaneck, at 7 p.m. The Hebrew school relies on community support to continue molding their young men and women into adults with a strong Jewish identity and affiliation.

BCHSJS opened in 1974 with 160 students as a community Hebrew school, open to any denomination. At that time, even many Orthodox children didn’t attend yeshiva, so BCHSJS was their window into Jewish studies. In the early 80s, though, the school almost shut its doors due to low enrollment. Educator and Teaneck resident Fred Nagler was in between jobs at the time and was asked to take on the task of reviving BCHSJS. It was August and there were no students registered to begin in September. Nagler took on the challenge and through his perseverance, signed on 47 students that first year, grew that number to 91 the following year, then 117—and the rest is history. Today, BCHSJS is Bergen County’s only community Hebrew high school for teens in grades eight through 12 and, after a short break, Nagler is still at the helm as principal.

What makes teenagers give up their Sunday mornings to come to Hebrew school? “Fantastic teachers,” said Nagler. The school, now based out of The Moriah School in Englewood, offers a variety of courses on Sunday mornings, senior seminars for college-campus readiness, special programs for the holidays as well as shabbatonim and trips. Nagler is very aware that the school provides a Jewish home for its students and strives to imbue Jewish values along with the regular curriculum. The school participates in a myriad of chesed opportunities from Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Super Sunday and other programs, to Tackle Kids Cancer, Chanukah Toy Drive, Yad Leah, NCSY and more. The Jewish Volunteer Corp. brings teens to visit with seniors at Daughters of Miriam on a regular basis, enabling the development of relationships between the teens and the residents. The school also provides opportunities for social interaction with other Jewish teens with trips like bowling, a broadway show and ice skating. BCHSJS is a “place for Jewish teens where they can feel comfortable, ask questions, be themselves and really learn,” said Nagler— and that formula works.

The key to the school’s success is its dynamic faculty, devoted parent body and dedicated students.

This year’s L’Dor V’Dor award recipient Susan Tuchman is the director of the Zionist Organization of America’s Center for Law and Justice (ZOA). Under her leadership, the ZOA has made great strides in the fight against anti-Semitism, especially on college campuses, and Tuchman was named one of the “50 most influential members of the Jewish community” based on her legal work on behalf of Jewish students.

Dr. Lia Tsveniashvili and Dr. David Pichkadze are this year’s parent honorees. Both highly respected medical professionals, they are the parents of two boys and their involvement with BCHSJS has been invaluable to the school’s growth. They appreciate the wonderful academic and social environment of BCHSJS and are grateful to be part of this dynamic community.

The educator of the year award is being given to Dr. Daniel Rynhold. Rynhold is a professor of Jewish philosophy at Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel Graduate School and teaches a BCHSJS course in conjunction with Fairleigh Dickinson University in which students can receive college credit. Nagler describes Rynhold as a “remarkable kind of person…It’s rare you get someone with a Ph.D. who can also get down on the floor with eighth graders.”

The recipient of this year’s Walter Ramsfelder Exemplary Service Award is The Jewish Link of New Jersey. Since the development of the hyperlocal, Jewish community newspaper in 2013, co-founders Moshe Kinderlehrer and Mark (Mendy) Schwartz have been supportive of the school, consistently including BCHSJS in its publication and helping spread awareness of the school and its mission.

The BCHSJS experience creates a strong community that lasts long after graduation, with alumni staying in close touch with each other, and their teachers. The memory book at graduation holds messages like, “The friends I made here will be my friends for life.” “The teachers are great. They are also mentors and friends…They are people who really care about me.” “I didn’t want to go, but my parents forced me and I’m so glad they forced me because I see they were right.”

For information about BCHSJS, call 201-488-0834 or check out their website www.bchsjs.org.

By Michal Rosenberg

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