EDITORS NOTE: This article was submitted by the author on Tuesday afternoon, and since that time, a Lakewood school has reached out to him to offer to accept his child into their school.
Having been overwhelmed by the public show of support that my wife and I received after sharing the story of our failed attempts to get our daughter into school, I feel compelled to express our gratitude to the many people who contacted us to let us know that they are there for us as we face this challenge, with far too many sharing that they were in the same boat. I wish I could tell you that our daughter has been accepted by a Lakewood school in the past week, but sadly that isn’t the case. One school offered to accept my child, if I was willing to retract my letter and apologize.
To be honest, I did not expect the letter to change much of anything. It wasn’t intended to promote or create arguments about my Instagram page, which I run under the direction of my rov. It was simply me, giving voice to my feeling. It is the story of my pain and that of many others as well. There is so much more that I could say on the matter but my goal here isn’t to write a second letter.
With the start of the academic year just a month away, the time has come for my wife and me to revisit an option we had considered earlier: putting together a small group of like minded individuals who are interested in a program for five year olds, with an eye towards possibly creating a warm and welcoming school with solid Torah hashkafos. Perhaps it is too late to make anything happen for this year, but we are certianly willing to try.
Our concept is simple. Right now we are seeking to have a primary group of a few girls run out of a basement and will be hiring in an experienced morah who will work with mechanchim to develop a solid curriculum. We have already spoken to a few promising candidates but the bigger question is can we get a group of students together. If we can make a go of it this year, then looking ahead to the future, if the program evolves into a first grade for the following year, we will bring a vaad of rabbonim on board to ensure the integrity of our blossoming school.
It is important to mention that my Tisha B’Av letter was not intended to create problems or generate gossip but to find a solution to an untenable situation. While I may be only a young father at age thirty, I already have considerable experience getting projects off the ground: an overnight Denver summer camp that I founded 12 years ago is still running today, as is Yeshiva in California that has already given semicha to 100 bochurim since I helped launch it eight years ago. I spent six successful years teaching as an elementary school grades and my photography business is B”H one of the most successful in the tri-state area. In short, I have no problem stepping up when there is a need to be filled and while I know that not every endeavor can succeed, I am davening fervently that perhaps this one can flourish because there is no doubt that Lakewood needs a school where all children who seek a Torah education in a loving environment are welcome.
I also need to set the record straight. I didn’t come here to change Lakewood. I didn’t come here to be the next chabad Rabbi in town. I am just a father looking for a nice quiet life for my family.
This morning as I was walking through the airport on the way back from a business trip, I saw a sign bearing the sad looking face of a child soliciting donations to feed hungry children in Africa. Looking at that picture a thought occurred to me: we have Kriyas HaTorah every three days because just as a person can not go three days without food, so too one must not go three days without Torah. Seeing the picture of that hungry child in Africa had me thinking sadly of my own daughter and others like her. There are children right here in Lakewood who are hungry, yearning for a taste of Torah. Maybe we can still feed those children. Maybe it isn’t too late to make a difference. People have called me and offered to try and push my kids into schools where they have connections, but I would rather not be the one being pushed in. Maybe I am dreaming, but I want someone who wants my child. Not someone doing me a favor. I would rather make a difference in our community. Because no child should ever be hungry for Torah.
If you have a five year old daughter who needs a placement for the upcoming school year, know of an available property, would like to support our endeavors, or are interested in contributing your time or services please email us [email protected] or call me direct 718.781.6405 . We look forward to hearing from you.
Yosef Shidler – Lakewood, NJ
(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)