Teaneck—Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC) celebrated the completion of its expansion and renovation of its school building with a Chanukat HaBayit (home dedication) for donors, parent volunteers and the community on Motzei Shabbos, November 23. In his introduction, current board president Nachum Barishansky credited former presidents Etiel Forman and Yisroel Grossman with having the “visionary leadership” to see the project through from dream to inception. He thanked donors, who contributed more than $3.3 million and emphasized that every gift was appreciated, quoting a Mishna that says “the one who gives more and the one who gives less are the same as long as they give with pure intent.” And while the building is new and beautiful, he said the hallmark of TABC is its “warm learning environment.”
In his D’var Torah, Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yosef Adler explained how the establishment of Chanukah as a Yom Tov contains the essence of what TABC represents. The Ravid said that the menorah should only be lit in the Beis HaMikdash—because only learning inside its walls is valid. However, the Rambam taught that the candles can be lit outside and brought in. This is the model of TABC—Take what you learn from the outside world and use it within the framework of Torah.
Rabbi Adler said that TABC has fully adopted the model that there are many pathways of service under Hashem. Some students seek the inner depths of Torah learning while others are inspired to be an oved Hashem by studying the precision of law and government. Science is a path to Hashem for students who, when they study the incredible way the body is put together, can only conclude that there is a Creator with a Grand Design. He said it is TABC’s mission to provide many opportunities for students to “kindle their soul” and go on to have an impact on the broader community and the world.
Rabbi Adler introduced keynote speaker, Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University, by noting that the education he received there had an enormous impact on his life.
President Joel said that renewal is at the center of Jewish survival. The Jew is always looking for ways to adapt our sacred story to new times. The Pew survey showed that Modern Orthodoxy is successful—but we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back. It can be lonely at the top. We have some responsibility not to be complacent; we should always be aware that our successes have to be constantly renewed or they will get stale.
Joel said it is our commitment to education, passion and community that allows us to thrive. Jewish literacy through education is the basis of our experience; it is the cornerstone of a value system based on text and tradition. Passion must be the fuel that keeps the fire lit. The biggest challenge today of Jewish high school education is for students to “own” their education. Joel said he often hears students say they don’t want to go to YU because they have “done” the dual curriculum. He asked, “Where is the pride and passion?” The starting point for true internal passion for Judaism has to be the home and it starts with what you talk about at the Shabbos table. He said we must make Avraham and Sarah not just historical figures but members of the family.
To paraphrase what he said, Joel stressed that community is the glue that keeps us together. Orthodox Jews are “blessed”in that we are forced to live together. We need each other to daven, have a mikvah, and a butcher. We live in an increasingly individual and entitlement centered society. Children must learn that there is me and we. We have to create a community of trust and kindness and there must be a parallel in our schools. This is not the time for spectators, he noted. All must build and contribute; we must always renew ourselves.
The building and renewal of TABC has put a lot of smiles on the faces of students and faculty at TABC. In an earlier interview with JLBC, Rabbi Adler said the expansion “will enable us to service current students, now a record 293, more efficiently, in a dignified fashion, and enable us to accommodate growth coming up through the pipeline during the next five-seven years.”
The new Beit Knesset holds 400 people so students, parents and visitors can attend programs together. The new gym is favored by the basketball team, while the hockey team voted to continue in the old one. There is a new lunch room and seven new classrooms. The hallways have been expanded with full size lockers lining the walls. Teachers now have private offices to allow for student-faculty meetings in a more comfortable setting. There is also more room for the 21 boys from the Sinai Special Needs Institute housed at TABC.
Education, passion and community: TABC has plenty of all three, may it live long and prosper.
By Bracha Schwartz