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Wednesday, October 05, 2022
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This past Sunday, supporters of SINAI Schools and Cross River joined together to celebrate the adding of the name “Cross River” to the SINAI School at Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, one of the eight campuses that now comprise SINAI Schools. This generous gift by a community financial institution formalizes a relationship that has been continuously developing over the past few years, building an increasingly strong bond between a community-conscious financial institution and a Jewish day school system for children with special needs. SINAI’s RYNJ campus was the first SINAI school that Cross River executives ever visited, so the naming ceremony was seen as solidifying that initial and foundational experience where shared goals were identified.

SINAI’s Managing Director Sam Fishman spoke at the naming ceremony about the qualities that drew SINAI to Cross River: kindness, compassion, community service and the shared goal of finding ways to help others thrive. “These are values that permeate Cross River, and these are values that we share. And that’s why SINAI and Cross River are such a great fit,” he said.

Cross River’s Head of Social Responsibility Miriam L. Wallach echoed those sentiments as she cut the ceremonial ribbon to establish the opening of the newly named school. “We are strengthening bonds, facilitating inclusion and reminding one another that a unified people acting as one—with shared vision, value and purpose—can really do most anything,” she said.

Wallach spoke following the screening of “In the Blink of an Eye,” SINAI’s most recent documentary, about Yoel Feder’s miraculous transformation as a student at SINAI at RYNJ. At the age of 2, Feder was the victim of a catastrophic car crash in Passaic that caused a traumatic brain injury. He is now almost 12 and just began seventh grade.

“I really do believe that miracles are happening every day at SINAI, and SINAI at RYNJ is here to serve the children in our community who need us,” said Rabbi Dr. Yisrael Rothwachs, SINAI’s dean. “This is the school that local families turn to when they have a child with special needs. Cross River’s generosity helps us to serve those families with the kindness and dignity they deserve.”

For years Cross River has served as a vocational partner to SINAI’s Rabbi Mark and Linda Karasick Shalem High Schools’ students from Ma’ayanot, TABC and Heichal HaTorah, welcoming their students as interns and incorporating them into their workplace community at Cross River’s headquarters in Fort Lee. Since 2019, when Cross River was awarded a community partnership award at SINAI’s annual dinner and Cross River established a scholarship fund for SINAI students, the two organizations have spoken about what else the two entities can do together.

“At Cross River, we believe that we are only a custodian of God’s riches, and it is our responsibility to distribute them to the best of our limited understanding,” Gilles Gade, Cross River’s chairman and CEO shared at SINAI’s 2019 annual dinner. “This is why we have established the Cross River Scholarship Fund at SINAI Schools.”

“We are so proud to have Cross River’s name associated with SINAI Schools,” said Fishman. “From my very first meeting with Gilles Gade in 2018, it was clear that Cross River is a unique institution. Kindness, compassion, community service, finding creative ways to help others thrive—these are values that permeate Cross River.”

Fishman shared that his initial impressions of Cross River came from the way that they welcomed SINAI’s students as interns. This dates back to before SINAI had a relationship with Cross River’s leadership. The students were given meaningful work and made to feel they were part of the fabric of the institution.

“It was only later, when I met with Cross River’s leadership, that I learned that this was by design; that having our students working within the bank was not intended as a chesed—an act of kindness—but rather as a palpable lesson in values to the Cross River’s employees: that everyone has worth, that everyone has what to add, that everyone should be included, that we are measured by how much good we do in the world and by how we bring out the best in others,” said Fishman.

“Cross River and SINAI Schools have been community partners for years and our relationship continues to grow in order to serve students whose needs cannot be met in regular education settings and ensure they receive the outstanding education they deserve,” said Cross River Senior Vice President of Global Public Affairs Phil Goldfeder.

“Students from the program join our employees for a vocational program and have developed deep connections where both the students and employees learn from one another—it is truly beautiful. Our joint partnership continues to grow, and we are humbled to have been able to celebrate the expansion of this partnership this past Sunday with the official naming of Cross River SINAI School at RYNJ,” Goldfeder added.

Cross River employees were eager to share their impressions of their SINAI interns and the value of the internship program to the bank’s inclusive culture. “They are not visitors; they are friends,” said Jackie Taylor, a Cross River employee from Bergen County. “One student helped with the mail delivery and sorting, and to every employee he approached, he brought such a smile. I watched as he went from desk to desk.

“He didn’t just deliver the envelope or newspaper,” Taylor continued. “He stopped and smiled. In turn, the employees would stop what they were doing, and turn to converse with the student, instantly infected with his warmth and big grin, which then continued to spread as the student went throughout the office. You can just feel the energy that he brought.”

“Being a part of an organization that values inclusivity and community is so important to me,” added Aviva Ehrenberg, another Bergen County-based Cross River employee. “Cross River makes a point to open its doors to SINAI students every week as they join our corporate workforce, and it’s special to me to be able to develop relationships with the students.”

“We are particularly grateful for the example Cross River has set in naming one of our schools,” said Pam Ennis, SINAI’s development director. “A named gift, whether it be an individual school, a school program or a scholarship fund, is a powerful way of conveying—to family, friends and the community at large—a donor’s dedication to SINAI and the cause of outstanding Jewish special education.”

For more information or to contribute to the Cross River Scholarship Fund at SINAI Schools, visit www.sinaischools.org/crossriver.

By Elizabeth Kratz

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