Thanks to the parents of slain terrorist victim Alisa Flatow, a secular Israel high school will dedicate space to a Torah scroll.
Steve and Roz Flatow of West Orange have contributed toward a beit midrash, or study room, at MetroWest High School in Ra’anana in memory of their daughter and three graduates of the school who were killed as paratroopers in the Second Lebanon War.
Founded in 1991, the school is named for United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ, which has supported the school and its community, which is north of Tel Aviv.
When the Flatows visited MetroWest High in 2011, its principal told them a benefactor had pledged to donate a sefer Torah to the school.
“You could have knocked me off a chair,” Steve Flatow told NJ Jewish News Feb. 6. “It just doesn’t happen that in Israel they bring a true religious item into a public school setting.”
The Israel government funds separate tracks for religious and “secular” schools.
“I told the principal, ‘It has to be placed in a beit midrash, a special house of study. You just can’t plop it on a shelf,’” recalled Flatow. “So he asked us to partner with him on that, and Roz and I committed to it.”
Flatow said the sacred space — which will be carved out of an existing schoolroom — was “attractive because Alisa’s appreciation of who she was and what she was came about through her introduction to religion. The kids in Israel’s public high school system are not getting that introduction. If the school was willing to go out on a limb and get municipal approval to do it in the face of opposition, I am willing to give them the facility in which the Torah can be housed.”
Alisa Flatow, a graduate of the Frisch School in Paramus, was 20 when she was murdered in a bus bombing near the settlement of Kfar Darom in April 1995.
“Steve announced that he would like to help the school take its Jewish identity efforts to the next level,” wrote Amir Shacham, director of UJC MetroWest’s office in Jerusalem, in a Jan. 26 e-mail to federation leaders.
“He will contribute a meaningful sum of money which will be supplemented by the Municipality of Ra’anana and the school itself. Our goal is to introduce Jewish values and tradition to this public school in an open, inclusive, and tolerant way,” Shacham wrote.
According to Flatow, some parents were opposed to the idea of a Torah scroll on school property. “Some of them are anti-religion, but I get the idea there are kids who are interested in this, even if their parents are not,” he said.
Flatow said the room is a perfect tribute to his daughter.
“Alisa had many friends who were less religious than she was and many friends who were more religious,” he said. “She wanted to teach one group and learn from the other. She wanted kids to see they could be religious and observant and still in touch with the world. I think this is a great step.”
The room will be created during the school’s summer break and open when the fall semester begins.
“I would like to be there when the space is dedicated,” he said.
The school’s library has already been dedicated in her memory.