By Koby Lerner
A life-changing directive of the Rebbe 30 years ago is coming to fruition with the opening of a new yeshiva in South Florida. TAG Academy, an acronym for Torah, Avodah, and Gimilus Chassadim, will create an individualized educational experience for Bochurim ages 14-16.
The school is being opened by three trailblazers – Rabbis Pinny Andrusier, Aizik Chanin, and Zalmy Raksin – who are teaming up on a mission to create an environment where young men can thrive and grow into their healthiest selves.
The unique story begins in Brooklyn, New York. Growing up in Crown Heights, Rabbi Pinny Andrusier always dreamt of going on Shlichus. Unfortunately, after a year of Kollel, Rabbi Pinny had not received any offers and decided to use his talents to start a company wholesaling paper goods and janitorial supplies. In only two years, he had grown the company to the point that he was ready to purchase a home.
He narrowed his search to two options and naturally wrote to the Rebbe seeking his advice and blessing. The Rebbe’s response was quite surprising. Instead of advising on one of the two homes, the Rebbe suggested Rabbi Pinny consult with his wife, Gitty, and see if she would consider setting out on Shlichus. The young couple seized this tremendous opportunity and with the help of Rabbis Raphael Tennenhaus and Moshe Meir Lipszyc, they were appointed as the Rebbe’s emissaries to Chabad of SW Broward in Cooper City, Florida.
Rabbi Pinny quickly transformed himself from a businessman into a dynamic shliach who now spearheads many of the larger programs that take place in the sunshine state. His all-inclusive High Holiday program held at a five-star resort will attract more than 700 guests this Rosh Hashana. Together with Rabbi Chaim Lipskar, he is also renowned for lighting each year the giant menorah at the Miami Heat games during Chanukah.
Despite his great success, there was one area that Rabbi Pinny always sought to address – the prevalent issue of children and teens struggling with Yeshiva and drifting away from their Jewish roots. Operating out of a modular building on a one-acre lot, this dream seemed impossible to achieve.
By Divine Providence, Rabbi Pinny received an email from the now-shuttered High Point Treatment Center, a rehab facility, located directly across from his Chabad House, inquiring if he would be interested in purchasing their campus before they placed it on the open market. Without hesitation, Rabbi Pinny jumped on this offer and acquired the magnificent 6.5-acre campus, along with five spacious buildings, all overlooking a picturesque lake.
With a gorgeous, wooded campus and the existing buildings perfectly equipped for a dormitory, classrooms, shul, commercial kitchen, sports facilities, recreation lounge, and much more, Rabbi Pinny reached out to Rabbis Aizik Chanin and Zalmy Raksin, renowned for their exceptional educational acumen and magnetic personalities. Both leaders spent over a decade guiding youths and teens at the Jewish Educational Trade School (JETS), where they grew into remarkable educators.
Rabbi Aizik is loved and respected by his students and the many others under his tutelage. He nurtures and cares for them with sensitivity, patience, and devotion while emphasizing the importance of individualized education. Rabbi Aizik, based on the Rebbe’s approach, strongly encourages the teens to uncover and develop their G-d given talents, interests, and passions and apply them in their service of HaShem.
Rabbi Zalmy began his journey as an educator at age 19 and has helped hundreds of teens and young adults connect to Judaism in a personal, healthy, and balanced way. As a certified rabbi, life coach, grief recovery specialist, and Mind Map therapy coach, Rabbi Zalmy has a unique ability to aid individuals in their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual development.
The team recently met great success with their six-week VIP Bochurim summer program, where 68 teens enjoyed the summer of a lifetime on the newly renovated campus. The boys experienced an action-packed summer, full of outdoor adventures and tremendous personal growth. (For a glimpse into the summer, view the video and pictures below.)
A recent story involving one of the summer participants reaffirms the incredible and much-needed life-saving work being done by the newly formed TAG Team of rabbis. “Avrumi”*, having been expelled from many schools, had not attended yeshiva for nearly four years. As he had become lax with kashrus and Shabbos observance, he was hesitant to attend the summer program. However, he was welcomed to VIP with open arms and experienced an awe-inspiring summer. Avrumi’s father was shocked and overwhelmed with emotion when his son returned home and begged to be enrolled in the new TAG Academy. Unfazed by the school requirements to keep kosher and observe Shabbos, Avrumi can’t wait to embark on his new journey at TAG.
Rabbi Pinny suggests, “Perhaps, this was the prophetic vision of the Rebbe when he took a newly married businessman out of Brooklyn and sent him to Cooper City, to one day save a yiddishe neshama like Avrumi.”
TAG Academy will be opening immediately after the Sukkos holiday on October 5th.
Rabbi Aizik declared, “In addition to working with each student on his own personal development and growth in Torah, Avodah, and Gemilus Chassadim, making Chassidus and therefore all of Yiddishkeit real and applicable, we are going to demonstrate to each Bochur his special significance and show how at ‘TAG, you’re it!’”
The TAG Program includes:
Experienced and Committed Faculty and Staff
My Shlichus and Skill Development
Career Exploration Program
Personal Health Development
Chavrusa and Classroom Learning
Mental and Emotional Health Care
Trips and Travel
Registration is quickly filling up. For more information or to invest in this exciting project, please email [email protected] or WhatsApp (954) 451-1092.
*Name has been changed to protect the students privacy.