Monday, July 22, 2019

After three years of loving attention to every detail, the state-of-the-art facility that will house Hillside’s Cheder Yaldei Menachem will open its doors on September 4. On that day, little ones from the ages of 18 months to 4 years old, coming from the local community of Hillside as well as Elizabeth, Linden, Union, Passaic, Staten Island and most recently Baltimore, will enter its exciting and eye-catching portals to begin their journey into their rich Jewish, cultural heritage.

Yet the opening of the cheder’s new building, after being housed nearby in the headquarters of Bris Avrohom for 16 years, represents quite a bit more! It is the culmination of the dreams of hands-on executive director Shterney Kanelsky who has been preparing and planning for this moment for as long as she can remember. As a child in Russia, daughter to a family of seven siblings, little Shterney could never imagine a time when being Jewish would be a source of pride that could be displayed openly. For her, those dark days from the age of 6 to 10 were overshadowed by the daily fear that her pious father would be arrested by the Russian authorities for his pursuit and encouragement of religious life despite all odds. Never could she envision a time when young Jewish children would be initiated proudly into both their religious and secular cultures through the latest teaching methodologies and the finest physical surroundings.

Kanelsky’s vision for the new cutting-edge venue is to educate its little ones “al taharat hakodesh,” meaning in accordance with the highest values of Judaism, and to connect them early on with the observance of the mitzvot throughout the day. Every activity will combine the Jewish component with concepts in math, science, the arts, and the environment. Every head teacher and assistant in the classrooms will be a model of upright and principled religious and social behavior in addition to being experienced instructors.

Kanelsky’s search and securing of the new venue was a venture of cooperation that included many of the local Hillside officials, including the mayor and the city council, the police department, the fire department and the health department. The 5,500-square-foot facility will fulfill optimum security standards and more. At the suggestion of the local chief of police, the large numbers of windows throughout the building will be reinforced with “blast film” that will prevent them from shattering and breaking into the classrooms. A full-time security guard will be on duty throughout the school day, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., as well as throughout the extended hours from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and from 3 to 5:45 p.m., to accommodate working parents. In addition, free breakfast will be provided in the early-care program.

Kanelsky pored over extensive catalogues before selecting the furnishings for the classrooms. She ultimately chose Community Playthings, the company rated highest for school furniture in the country. The materials used in every chair, desk as well as the play areas including kitchenettes, toy washing machines, painting centers, water and sandboxes, are child-friendly and skin-sensitive. The facility will host an outdoor customized gym as well as a highly innovative sensory gym, one of the few existing within the New Jersey school system. This highly advanced gym includes a climbing wall, a ball pit, a sensory swing and a specialized projector for transmitting relaxing sounds, shapes and images. Kanelsky recently provided a tour of the facilities to the board members of Bris Avrohom. During their tour through the sensory gym, they were “speechless”!

The walls, carpets and even supportive poles throughout the building are tastefully and colorfully decorated with child-friendly fabrics, colors and images. The beautiful classrooms, designed specifically for young children’s safety, including rounded edges on every corner, will be located on the main level. A separate area has been designated on the floor for teachers and their assistants to prepare their lessons and newsletters. The lower level is home to a fully-stocked indoor gym, and the upper level houses the administrative offices. Working along with Executive Director Kanelsky is Dina Schwimmer, educational director, a Lakewood resident with multiple M.S.Ed degrees, who has been instrumental in the opening of a dynamic preschool program in the past and has extensive hands-on experience with many early-childhood teaching techniques. Assisting in the daily running of the program is Ilana Ezra of Elizabeth, who also has many years of experience working in early-childhood education.

As her dream culminates into reality, Kanelsky firmly believes that Cheder Yaldei Menachem provides “The right education TODAY for a bright future TOMORROW.”

Rabbi Mordechai Kanelsky, founder and executive director of Bris Avrohom, offered, “I am ready to work overtime in order to provide the opportunity for young families to raise their children at the highest level of education blended with Torah and mitzvos, in the most exquisite building with the highest security. As Chabad chasidim who follow the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s teachings, we try to emulate the Rebbe’s saying that ‘great leaders begin at the early stages of childhood.’”

Limited spaces for the upcoming school year are still available at Cheder Yaldei Menachem. For more information and to arrange for a tour of the facility at 1128 North Broad Street in Hillside, please contact [email protected] or call 908-391-7874. To register online and see the latest updates, please visit

By Pearl Markovitz