The new headmaster of Shalom Torah Academy in Morganville is looking forward to a brighter future for the school.
Rabbi Moshe Bak, a former dean of the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School in Staten Island, succeeds Rabbi Eli Lapa. Lapa left the school after 26 years to begin his own school in Lakewood for students with learning challenges.
Bak’s appointment follows a period of financial hardship for the Orthodox day school. Because of budgetary shortfalls and the tough economic climate, the school fell short on paying its teachers, Bak said. Staff members filed a complaint with the state Department of Labor over unpaid wages, according to Asbury Park Press.
“Unfortunately, things happened,” said Bak. “Bad things took place.” He said it’s a “real testimonial” to the school’s staff that they’re still “here and that they’re teaching the kids.”
A new board of directors — made up of “amazing, dedicated businessmen” in whom, Bak said, he has “the utmost confidence” — has been formed. “Their plan to raise funds and to make sure that this school succeeds financially is a priority for them,” he said.
“My goal here is to create a school of excellence,” with high standards in Jewish and general studies and full “transparency” for the parents.
“It’s important that the community sees us and understands what we are trying to do,” Bak said.
To that end, he said, he is planning to offer Hebrew and Jewish studies and culture classes to the parent body and the general community.
Shalom Torah has 185 students at its preschool-eighth grade Morganville campus. The school also has a branch in East Windsor.
Last year slightly more than 200 students were enrolled, said Bak.
Bak said he wants to create an atmosphere of “ahavat Eretz Yisrael,” love for the Land of Israel, at the school. He has started a “What’s New in Israel” bulletin board and has begun labeling every object in the building in Hebrew to foster the students’ language skills.
Recognizing the need to rebuild the school’s reputation, he also plans to hold “town hall” meetings in the communities the school serves, including Morganville, Manalapan, and East Brunswick.
Before coming to Shalom Torah, Bak founded Strategies Inc., which provided staff development programs for day schools. He created Rayonos, a magazine for day school educators, and Project Innocent Heart, an ongoing program to identify and protect neglected and abused children.
At Shalom Torah, Bak said, “there’s joy and the kids are happy. It’s a pleasure to be here; it’s really a good place.