This week, Rabbi Judah Isaacs, the OU’s Director of Community Engagement, and I visited the Five Towns on the south shore of Long Island. While there, we met with the heads of some of the most important educational institutions in the area, including Rabbi Yaakov Bender, Dean Yeshiva Darchei Torah and Mesivta Chaim Shlomo; Mrs. Helen Spirn, Head of School of the Stella K. Abraham Yeshiva High School for Girls of HALB (SKA);Rabbi Yisrael Yair Kaminetsky, Menahel of the Davis Renov Stahler Yeshiva High School for Boys of HALB (DRS); and Rabbi Zvi Meir Friedman, Rosh HaYeshiva of Rambam Mesivta of Lawrence.
During the course of our visit, we discussed and were enlightened regarding the challenges and opportunities facing the high schools in the Five Towns. School enrollment continues to grow in the Five Towns, while tuition revenue continues to decline. Schools are faced with greater burdens when it comes to fundraising and finding creative ways to reduce costs. Rabbis Isaacs and I shared the OU’s initiatives addressing the affordability of Orthodox Jewish life, and the schools were encouraged to pursue these initiatives.
It was most gratifying that these master educators praised the work of NCSY in addressing the spiritual needs of teens, particularly the summer programs that are offered for yeshiva students. The schools are engaging teenagers living in a technology age, and are looking at new ways to educate this generation. Students access and integrate information in new ways, and each of the schools is using new methodologies to reach and to teach today’s teens.
Finally, Rabbi Isaacs and I also met with Rabbi Simcha Lefkowitz, rabbi of Congregation Anshei Chesed of Hewlett, to learn more about his shul and to offer the support of the OU’s Department of Synagogue Services to strengthen programming for youth and adults in the shul.
All in all, it was a very well-rounded, fulfilling trip that reflects the type of work going on throughout the OU with special emphasis on education and tuition affordability. I thank Rabbi Isaacs and all the educators for their ongoing efforts, and especially for ensuring that our next generation continue to receive quality upbringings despite increasingly challenging economic realities.