It 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.
(Shmuel Bufferberg – YWN)