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Saturday, January 19, 2019

The hammering of nails and the fragrance of fresh paint permeated the halls and classrooms of the Moriah School up until opening day. On Tuesday, September 5, the school opened its doors to reveal to the excited staff and ebullient returning students three new educational spaces within their building that would further enhance the excellence of their educational experiences at Moriah.

The additions of a new Sephardic beit midrash, a state-of-the-art STEM Lab and a cutting edge audio/video studio are all part of the five year capital campaign initiated by Moriah three years ago. According to Head of School Rabbi Daniel Alter, “School excellence is a priority in every aspect of our school operations at Moriah. I see these spaces as furthering our mission. We have worked hard to make sure that the spaces are carefully and thoughtfully designed to enhance the educational experience of our students so that they can thrive intellectually and spiritually.”

The Sephardic beit midrash, donated by The Setton Family, is an extension of the learning space overseen by Rabbi Mordy Kuessous, of Englewood, who serves as a rebbe as well as director of Sephardic cultural activities at Moriah. Serving his third year in the school, Rabbi Kuessous will oversee the daily Shacharit services in the new beit midrash which will be led by seventh and eighth grade students and will hopefully be joined by fathers from the local Englewood, Tenafly and Fort Lee communities. As the Sephardic population grows at Moriah, boys, as well as girls, will have the option of joining the daily Sephardic minyan.

The beit midrash was lovingly designed and decorated by Daniel Setton’s mother, Denise, proud Moriah grandparent. A professional interior decorator, she attended to every detail of the space throughout the summer. The space also includes the Sephardic sefer Torah donated by the Malka family and the artistic ner tamid, which was funded by 60 families from the community last year in memory of Evan Levy, a”h, a four-year-old Moriah student who passed away of cancer.

The state-of-the-art STEM lab was donated by Sandy and Alex Solomon in memory of Sandy’s father Ezat Bagdadi. The Solomons are parents of one former and three current Moriah students. The lab will primarily be utilized by the lower school, grades one through five, and periodically by the middle school. Two classroom spaces were connected to create this giant space which contains a cool 3D printer alongside a variety of innovative math and science equipment. The STEM program is directed by Sharon Sherman who has been on the science faculty of Moriah for three years and has led the STEM initiative since its inception.

According to Erik Kessler, executive director of Moriah, who has seen the school grow and develop exponentially over the past 10 years, “These are exciting times at Moriah. Upon reaching our 50th year, we embarked upon a five year capital campaign to expand our facilities so as to enhance our educational program. We are delighted with our progress to date, with the addition of these three new and exciting learning spaces, and we look forward to our next stage which will be the creation of our new early childhood center for which we will break ground in 2018.”

The 3rd space inaugurated this year is the cutting edge Multimedia Production Studio, a gift of Sharon and Jeff Jacobs, parents of two current Moriah students, in memory of Jeff’s father Sol Jacobs. Complete  with broadcast cameras, professional audio equipment and live-streaming capabilities, the new studio will facilitate the students’ filming their own videos and editing them. Moriah students have already created original music videos and the new lab will offer them opportunities for many future creative undertakings. The studio will be overseen by Moriah music teacher Rabbi Michael Nadata, himself a professional musician, who will guide the students in the artistic and technical production of the audio and video projects.

Ari Lewis, events and marketing manager at Moriah, commented, “Very few elementary schools can boast of a fully equipped audio/video lab. In keeping with its vision of building toward the future, Moriah is never stagnant. We are always growing based upon the needs of our students and the desires of our parents who are willing participants in our growth.”

By Pearl Markovitz