Yeshiva Rambam Building Displays X-mas Tree In Window


rfw21.JPGIt has come to this.

The Yeshiva Rambam building, on the corner of Kings Highway and New York Avenue, diagonally across from the Beth Israel Medical Center of Brooklyn, is displaying a Chanukah menorah, a Kwanzaa candelabra, and an X-mas tree, in the main floor window of the corner office of the building.

The building, which while still popularly referred to as Yeshiva Rambam, has the newer name of the high school division, Zvi Dov Roth (ZDR) Academy, more prominently displayed. Recently ZDR rented out exclusive use of the first floor – which includes all classrooms, offices and the auditorium – to the Hebrew Language Academy, a non-sectarian, tuition-free, city- and state-supported charter school. The stated curriculum of that school is to teach its students Hebrew and “Israel studies” with no mention allowed of religion, bible, Torah values, etc. In fact, the school not only has a non-discriminatory admissions policy, it has been reported that only about 60% of the students are Jewish.  The student body currently comprising about 150 students in the Kindergarten and 1st grade classes only, are extremely diverse in ethnic background, religious affiliation and color.

The auditorium on the first floor has been a point of contention involving three parties:  ZDR Academy, the HLA, and the community minyan that has been part of Rambam for over 60 years and that has been davening in that auditorium daily since the building opened in 1976. The Rambam minyan, which was founded by Rabbi Isidore Lefkowitz, the founder of the Yeshiva, who also served as the congregation’s rabbi for a number of decades, now goes by the name Congregation Machzikei Torah, as well. Its current Rav is Rabbi Moshe Toiv.

Rambam has been trying to evict the minyan since August as the HLA’s lease demands exclusive use of the premises. Although potential compromises exist, none has yet been hammered out as the HLA is strict about not displaying on its premises any religious icons, and the minyan’s Aron HaKodesh and s’forim could be considered a violation of their requirement to honor separation of church and state.

rfw21.JPG[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] The display of the items in the office window apparently relies on court rulings that these symbols of the so-called “December holidays” are not religious icons.

(Shmuel Bufferberg – YWN)


  1. icon:

    1. a picture, image, or other representation.
    2. Eastern Church. a representation of some sacred personage… painted usually on a wood surface and venerated itself as sacred.
    3. a sign or representation that stands for its object by virtue of a resemblance or analogy to it.

    5. Semiotics. a sign or representation that stands for its object by virtue of a resemblance or analogy to it.

    All they have to do is go into detail about how the Aron Kodesh and Sefarim are part and parcel of the “December Holidays”. Natch!

  2. ZDR brought this on themselves when they “recently rented out exclusive use of the first floor – which includes all classrooms, offices and the auditorium – to the Hebrew Language Academy, a non-sectarian, tuition-free, city- and state-supported charter school”.

  3. omg! shocking. and to think how many frum yidden learned alef bais there over the years….and no one would have believed the place would look like this one day….hashem yerachem

  4. So where is the hiddush in a Jewish building being sold to goyim? It has happened frequently (regardless of the halachic dimensions).

    While a charter school that delivered a single sex curriculum condensed into a half day might be a good idea, the sort of charter school discussed here is clearly incompatible with orthodox Judaism. Indeed, given the antagonism towards Judaism among secular New Yorkers (especially Jews), it is unlikely any public school in New York City would ever conduct itself in other than an anti-Torah manner (not true in other cities – the goyim are much less anti-Semitic than frei Jews).

  5. I live in the area, this is the most disgusting thing that has happened to this community. We all moved in here and built this community from the ground up!!! Why are we all standing idle and allowing this to take place. We quick to protest stupidity yet allow this to ride?? I’m baffled…

  6. ZDR did this, by renting it out exclusively. How frum is ZDR anyway?? Did someone there realize this would happen and didn’t care??!! Don’t blame the ciy, blame the higher ups in ZDR.

  7. ZDR did this, by renting it out exclusively. How frum is ZDR anyway?? Did someone there realize this would happen and didn’t care??!! Don’t blame the ciy, blame the higher ups in ZDR.

  8. Nebach. The Ramabam is probably doing somersaults in his grave!

    If this is the direction they are going they will be doing the world a bigger favor by just closing their doors instead of being Choteh U’Machta.

  9. Akuperna there you go again sticking up for the liberal non religious party. Anything that’s seams against frum religious people you put a spin on it to make it sound all right.

  10. The entire HLA situation – and the Rambam/ZDR situation – is a tragedy for klal yisrael. The HLA, through the misguided efforts of mega-philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, is built on the principle that Jewish Identity can be successfully promoted thru the Hebrew language and Israel studies alone, WITHOUT any Torah and mention of Hashem. As Torah-principled Jews throughout the world know, this concept has been proven a failure EVEN in Eretz Yisrael and (al achas kama v’kama) in the Diaspora. It is a faux brand of Jewishness that cannot even be called Judaism.

    As for Yeshiva Rambam, they’ve fallen on hard times but the school board seems to have given up on their hopes for the high school. It has to hurt even the students, and especially the rebbeim and menahel, to have to walk past the X-mas tree each morning of Chanukah, as they do. The depicted window is on their way in to the school.

    By the way, I walked past there this morning and the tree is even more visible from the street than the picture depicts. All I can say is: Oy vey.

  11. In other words… The city bought them out and put a PUBLIC SCHOOL there because Rambam was BANCRUPT.

    I mean its sad and all but just move the shul. If the parents really cared that their kids where with non-jews they’d switch them. Right?

  12. Why can’t we show some tolerance for other beliefs? This isn’t a shtetl or a ghetto, if we want tolive side by side with non-Jews, and ask them to tolerate us & accept us, maybe we should do the same!!

  13. Many important issues have been raised here.It is not Lashon Harah to say what avaryan’s are doing to what was a wonderful yeshiva. If children are in ZDR it is because it is the only place left for them to go. They cannot get in any where else and they cannot afford anywhere else. ZDR is down to 70 students they will go down to even less next year and yet they will be building another floor ( a third floor) . WHy? Because the city gave themn a 99 year lease but only if it remains a yeshiva. So if ZDR has 3 students left they will still run the school as they can now rent out the entire building two floors to the HLA and the basement to the special ed school . There is no board. It is a scam. The board is run by two people. The other people on the board are paid employees to rubber stamp everything.
    This is just a money grab. The politicians lookm the other way because the person who named the school gives them money.
    Kesef ya’aneh es Hakol.
    The rabbonim of Brooklyn need to tell all their students at ZDR to no longer attend , place them in other yeshivos and then go to Mr. Cuomo and to insist that thier charter be taken away. They are not providing suitable or adequate education. Their diplomas aren’t worth the paper they are written on.

  14. I’m not looking to get into a dialogue here, but a number of you – akuperma and sacrilege, in particular – got the wrong impression.

    The building was NOT sold. The Yeshiva owns the building and is still there, but only on the second floor. The yeshiva has rented out the first floor to the HLA, which is a Charter School (tuition-free) which, IMHO, is “selling” a faux brand of Judaism. The building displays the names ZVI DOV ROTH ACADEMY and YESHIVA RAMBAM prominently. The yeshiva students talk of that building as their building, their school. The HLA is PREDOMINANTLY JEWISH. Yet, displayed prominently in the window of the building still functioning as and known as Yeshiva Rambam there is an X-mas tree. Do you get it?

    As far as tolerance for other beliefs goes, I have the UTMOST TOLERANCE for everyone’s beliefs (unless their beliefs include trying to harm me physically or prevent me from having my beliefs). I don’t have a problem with a Chanukah menorah next to a X-mas tree in the lobby of the Empire State Building. Or even an X-mas tree without a menorah. And I have no doubt that the HLA is completely within their rights to display what they are displaying.

    I’m just saying that it hurts so bad to see an X-mas tree in the window of the Yeshiva Rambam building.

    (As to the two people who wrote that this is loshon hora – please explain who the article is committing loshon hora against.)

  15. This could have been prevented through careful drafting of the lease with limitations on use of the facilities. They could at least have provided that no religious decorations would be displayed on the school’s windows.

    It could be worse — I heard about a Reform shul that rents out space to an Islamic school.

  16. I just checked the NYC Finance website.The Land belongs to NYC and is leased until 2045 by Yeshiva Rambam.So really NYC is the landlord,Rambam is the tenant.I was surprised to learn this since I learned there as a child.So really NYC can decide what goes on there.You can view the documents on

  17. Isn’t it enough if some participants find a worshipped tree to be idolatry, and a symbol of an idolatrous cult, that it makes it a hostile environment to a significant amount of members of that location’s community, and should not be allowed?

  18. I’m a student as ZDR, and to hear all this really hurts. You think they should shut the down the school? I’ve in there since nursery, all my friends are there, and I’ve known the teachers for years. Yes, our school is getting smaller and smaller, but rather than getting help, we get asked how “Frum” are we? I guess just being Jewish isn’t enough anymore. Yes, they have an x-mas tree in the office, doesn’t mean that we’re going to go down to it and pray. We aren’t even allowed to go past the door to go up stairs. So next time rather than take a picture from the outside, why don’t you go inside and actually see what we think of out school. While many would speak bad, there are those of who really care. For such a “bad” school, I learned not to judge, only god has a right to do that. Since when did you become on god’s level?

  19. To n97711: You present an interesting fact, although your conclusion is not 100% correct. The land IS owned by NYC and Rambam is a tenant on the land. But the building erected on that land is ALL RAMBAM’S; they raised the money for it (privately) and they OWN the building 100%. We have NOT been able to find out yet if NYC put any restrictions on what Rambam can do with the property or the building they built on it. A valid assumption, however, is that the city gave them the right to run a yeshiva there and NOT, for instance, to put there a profit-making store or factory. The question of whether or not Rambam has the right to rent it out to the HLA (they rent out their basement to yet another educational center, this one non-Jewish and private) and whether or not they applied for and were approved to rent it out to the HLA is a good question which I do NOT have the answer to.

    But clearly your statement that “… really NYC can decide what goes on there” is not 100% accurate. I believe that NYC cannot force Rambam to take in anyone. It is Rambam’s decision what to do with their building (the powers that be clearly wanted the HLA), although they may need NYC’s permission to do certain things (like make a profit on rent).

  20. dphill5913-
    if i would have as much time as the people who comment daily on this site i would get into all the tanayim required to say or write loshon hora l’toeles (for constructive purposes). The author of this article apparently did not meet all thos requirements. To demonstrate that look at comment 21 in which someone was hurt by the article. Proper investigation is needed, mussar is first to be attempted, adequate and i stress adequate constructive reasons are needed, and completly alruistic intentions are some of the requiremnets that are so obviously lacking to condone writing such an article. using this forum to publicize such events without clearly knowing the facts is loshon hora if i’ve ever seen it. At the bear minimum it is avak (the dust) of loshon hora. Now i’ll open the floor to the conviluted rationilaztions people will present and commonly use to placate their loshon hora tendencies.