By COLlive reporter
Photos: Shimi Kutner/COLlive
The new board of directors of Associated Beth Rivkah Schools of Crown Heights hosted a cozy rooftop barbecue to connect with parents of students and discuss the plans they have for the future.
On a rooftop deck at the Crown Condos, members mingled and answered questions as the crowd enjoyed the sunset view of New York City, grilled delicacies, and live entertainment by singers Eli Levin and Mendy J.
“Many people don’t fully comprehend the enormity of the many challenges that we took on when we entered the school,” Yerachmeal Jacobson, a real estate businessman and board member, told COLlive.
“The school is in years’ worth of heavy debt, and at the same time, many people are not paying their tuition bills,” he said, referring to the school’s financial woes and the board’s efforts to begin the upcoming school year smoothly.
Due to past debts still being paid down, the new board is still working to settle the finances, and plans to finish paying the teachers for past due payrolls, he said.
“We have secured the funds for payroll owed the teachers,” Jacobson said, pointing out that “they are owed from before we were instated as the board.”
An idea to help parents cover their children’s tuition, even if their finances are low, is to hold a raffle program in which parents will sell raffle tickets in exchange for tuition, “dollar for dollar.”
Before the new school year, the board is working to make sure that all families reach a tuition agreement to ensure timely payments from all students, as Bais Rivkah is a community school which accepts all of the community’s children.
“We are working with all parents,” Jacobson said. “This is the Rebbe’s school, everyone will be accepted. Those who need to supplement their payments can sell raffle tickets, which will be counted as tuition.”
Bais Rivkah’s Director of Development Rabbi Moshe Pinson said that the purpose of the barbecue was for parents to “get together, to see that there is a dedicated group of people that is working behind the scenes, day and night, to make a difference.”
In addition to Jacobson, members of the board are Rabbi Avrohom Shemtov, Chairman, Mr. Mendy Gansburg, Rabbi Ephraim Goldfein, Mr. Dovid Junik, Mr. Yoseph Kazarnovsky, Mr. Yigal Niasoff, Mr. Itchik Orimland and Mr. Dovid Sputz.
Jacobson remarked that their motivation to take on the leadership role came when the news was announced last year that a new Chabad Center is opening in South Dakota, the last remaining state in the U.S. that didn’t have Shluchim.
He said it was a somber wake-up call to him and some of his friends. “Everyone was celebrating that Chabad finally conquered every state, but ironically, our own flagship Chabad school was closed that week, with the teachers on strike,” he recalled.
“That gave us the push to realize, this is just not right,” Jacobson said. “We have the biggest Chabad school in the world in our backyard, and it’s not functioning. If we don’t get involved, then who will?”
Jacobson said the school plans in the future to maintain “an open dialogue between board and parents, board and teachers, and teachers and parents. This is just the first such event of many in the future.”
Assisting Pinson’s work is Rabbi Yossi Baumgarten, a Crown Heights resident, who has recently been hired as Assistant Director of Development for the school.
Baumgarten says there are many new programs in the works, such as the new raffle program. A gala dinner is also being planned for sometime in the near future, and Pushkas will be distributed to all Crown Heights homes.
“Our goal is to not only survive but thrive,” Baumgarten told COLlive. “This is our school, this is our community. We are educating the future mothers, Shluchos and leaders in Chabad. Charity begins at home.”