Nov 04, 2011
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY SUSAN VARGHESE
The Hebrew Academy of The Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) is undergoing a renaissance. There’s a newly renovated library in the elementary school, a new courtyard, a beit medrash in both the middle school and high school, and all of it was spearheaded and funded by devoted parents. It’s all within the Targeted Gift Program, in which parents target certain areas and needs within the schools, and fund projects.
“This is all a testament to the commitment our families have. Once you start building something and the parents are committed to it, then their peers are committed,” President of the HAFTR Board of Trustees, Dr. Adam Lish said.
It all started when one parent approached the board about installing Smart Boards, which are interactive, electronic whiteboards. There are now smart boards throughout the school buildings, in almost every classroom, and in places like the school library. Executive Director of the HAFTR Board of Trustees, Rueben Maron, said, “One parent came to me and said, ‘we need Smart boards and I’m willing to give some money. If you can raise money, then I’ll give you more money…”
The library at HAFTR lower school has brand new computers and technology, filled with bright carpets, chairs, and walls to engage students. Librarian, Phyllis Horowitz, said, “The library is the heart of the school…we’ve upgraded the technology to meet the needs of this generation.”
The beit medrash is a room in each building, which serves as a classroom, study room and a place to pray. The beit medrash rooms were all gutted, made twice the size, painted, carpeted and had new furniture put in. The courtyard offers an aesthetically pleasing environment where classes can be held, or just a place where people can enjoy or eat lunch.
Everything is parent-funded and initiated, except for the current renovations happening outside the high school, which is funded by the school and the Village of Cedarhurst. The front of the high school should be done early next week, including a clean up and level ground. The Village of Cedarhurst is putting up some trees and lamps along the street and benches in the next few weeks, Maron said.
Maron estimated that parents have spent a few hundred thousand on the renovations in all the schools. But, one of the parents who also serve as vice chairman of the HAFTR Board of Education, Dr. Lisa Perl, doesn’t seem to mind.
“… I am certain that these exciting school improvements are directly impacting our students’ educational experiences and reflect the upbeat feeling among HAFTR parents as we know that our children are receiving a well-rounded, progressive and very excellent Modern Orthodox education in both general and Judaic Studies,” Perl said in a statement.
“We are in the midst of a renaissance,” Lish continued. “This is thanks to our staff and leadership’s collective ability to understand and articulate our mission statement: we are dedicated to providing the finest Torah and secular educations in a Torah environment in all of our grades. Our families are fervently committed to this, and as a result have actively supported our targeted giving programs.”
Lish noted how fortunate HAFTR is that they didn’t have to dip into their budget, but instead the parents generated ideas, took initiative, and helped create improvements for their childrens’ educations. “These projects were made possibly by parents who identified a need…were very luck because we have parents that are very committed to our mission,” Lish added.
Maron added that they’re planning to re-do their nursery playground, but that’s still in the planning stages. For now, board members and parents are enjoying the fruits of their labor. “I think it’s wonderful,” Maron said. “Parents are excited about it, children are excited, it’s given us a lot of positive buzz in the neighborhood.”
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