By COLlive reporter
Students of Cheder Menachem School in New Brunswick, NJ, did not receive their usual warm welcome to school on Wednesday morning, as they arrived at school to find the doors to the building locked and bolted.
The Cheder, which provides education to 45 children of Shluchim and Chabad families in the area, is directed by Mrs. Goldie Azimov and Mrs. Chani Zaklikovsky. It is run out of the Conservative Congregation B’nai Tikvah building in New Brunswick, New Jersey, which the school has been renting for over 10 years.
On Tuesday, school administrators received an email from the building’s owners, Congregation B’nai Tikvah, requesting that the school shut down for in-person classes and switch to virtual classes, beginning tomorrow.
“We were shocked to receive the email yesterday, since our school has not a single case of Covid now. For what reason would we have to shut down?” the school’s Principal, Mrs. Chani Zaklikovsky, told COLlive.com.
When they responded that they will not be closing, they received an email response, telling them that since they are not following Covid regulations, they are not being granted access to the building on Wednesday.
At this point, they contacted a lawyer, who informed the school that the building owners had no legal right to evict them at a moment’s notice.
“Our lawyer informed them that they would at least need an injunction to evict us, and would need at minimum 30 days’ notice,” Zaklikovsky said.
Nevertheless, the students arrived on Wednesday morning to find the building locked and inaccessible.
They were forced to wait outside in the icy rain and freezing temperatures while the school staff contacted the police, who were finally able to assist them in gaining access to the building.
“For months now, the building’s owners have been spying on our school, watching our every move through the cameras of the new security system they had installed, ostensibly for ‘security reasons,'” Zaklikovsky said. “They have been taking pictures and videos of the children, and have decided that we are not following mask guidelines properly.”
But there are many circumstances that can’t be understood from a video camera, she said.
“We do follow mask guidelines, the kids are masked all day, but can you see from a photo if a child is eating a snack at that moment? Can you tell that a child has a medical exemption for all types of reasons, to not be wearing a mask at that moment?”
The children were dismayed, upset and confused by the turn of events, Zaklikovsky said. It should also be noted that the school is in its own, self-contained wing, with 2 security doors between it and the wing where employees and members of the synagogue frequent, so there is no contact – or risk – to them, she explains.
“The children don’t understand what happened. They have been following guidelines and wearing masks, and now they are locked out of their beloved school,” she said. “And, we have no idea what will happen tomorrow.”
COLlive’s request for comment from Congregation B’nai Tikvah has not been returned.