April 8, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

NJ Day Schools Welcome Students From Israel

BPY’s Suissa family.

Ben Porat Yosef (BPY) has been home to approximately seven students from Israel since Oct. 7. All the families had a connection to the Paramus-based yeshiva, and in some ways, it was like they were coming home to visit.

“True to BPY’s mission, the entire school has a love and connection to Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Medinat Yisrael,” said Renee Klyman, BPY director of admissions.

She said the school is constantly checking on their visiting families, adding, “They are doing great. The second they came in they were welcomed with hugs and warmth and all the parents and children were so excited to have them. It was such a warm welcome.” The playdates were instant and the parents all reached out immediately to embrace these families. “It was absolutely amazing. Our kids were so happy that the families made the decision to come here.”

Since one of the families of shlichim is from the town of Ofakim, the school decided to “adopt” the town and have since held many fundraisers for the residents still there. “Each grade is aware of what is going on at a level that is age appropriate, while also learning and understanding that everything they are doing is having an impact in its own way,” Klyman continued.

“They are happy that their friends are here and that their community was able to help them. But we don’t want them to be fearful for their visiting friends so we do Zoom sessions with kids in Israel, who are the same age, in order to give them the opportunity to see what’s going on with children in their own grade. To them it is a relief that life is still going as usual for their peers,” she added.

The faculty also felt that it was important to show the students what is happening in classrooms in Israel so that when their friends do return, it won’t seem scary and will give them a sense of comfort to know that they will be okay.

A couple of families have since returned but the situation remains fluid and inquiries are still coming, although not as many as there were. But the faculty, students and parents are always ready to welcome new students and their families with open arms.

At The Moriah School in Englewood, approximately 11 Israeli students have been temporarily enrolled. When the school first began receiving requests from families, faculty and staff unanimously agreed to do it. Rabbi Daniel Alter, Moriah head of school, said, “When the war started we made a decision, along with other yeshiva day schools in this country, that we would do whatever we could to help our brothers and sisters in Israel. One of the many ways that we were able to help was by supporting the hundreds and thousands of families who have been either displaced by the war or had their lives turned upside down. Through the joint efforts of many schools around the country, Moriah and the day school network made life a little easier for all of these families who needed elements of normalcy in their lives during this difficult time.”

“Everyone was just happy to do what they could to help. No questions asked. We might not have the space, but we will make the space,” said Ariella Lazaros, Moriah director of admissions.

“We are just so happy to have these families but we understand that it is really hard for them and can be difficult in different ways for them. We are happy to do whatever small things we can do to make them feel supported while they are here, for however long that may be,” added Lazaros.

Like most of the other schools, the families all have some type of connection to Moriah, whether through family or the community itself. Some of the parents of the students grew up here and attended Moriah while others have grandparents and cousins who live in the neighborhood. A couple of the students even attended Moriah just a few years ago before their families made aliyah. Just as with many other Israeli families across the tri-state area, some had been here since the chagim and decided to stay.

When parents and faculty first received word that families from Israel would be making their way to Moriah, they went all out to welcome them. “We sent challot for Shabbos to their homes. We called on them regularly just to check in. We wanted to make sure that the kids felt integrated into the classroom while ensuring that the parents were included in all the community events, both formal and informal, like challah bakes, Tehillim groups and the various school programs that take place, said Lazaros.

Lazaros continued, We wanted to make sure that the families are coming, participating and genuinely feeling like they are a part of the school community. It’s been terrific! The kids have been acclimating really beautifully.” For the students who had previously been in the school and made aliyah, it was like no time had passed between them and their friends. “Socially it’s been really great.”

As for the permanent students, Lazaros said, “They are thrilled to have new friends. They are so excited for them, especially because they are from Israel.” She said that the older students appreciate them on a different level because they are aware of what is going on in Israel and have a deeper understanding of what it means for them to be here. “Yet they are still very excited to have a new friend join their crew.”

Some families have since returned while some arrived just a few weeks ago. The situation, Lazaros said, seems to change from day to day, and they are always monitoring the situation to see what they are going to do for these special visiting students.

But, she said, there is no avoiding those mixed emotions when a family returns to Israel. There’s that feeling of sadness over saying goodbye to new friends who are leaving, “The kids have made new friends and are sad for them to leave. It is also sad for the parents who felt like they became a major part of the community. For the most part, when the families leave it is bittersweet.”

To learn more about Ben Porat Yosef, visit www.benporatyosef.org.

To learn more about the The Moriah School, visit www.moriahschool.org.

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