The Shalom Torah Academy of Western Monmouth County, which months earlier was teetering on the brink of financial disaster and whose leaders had planned to merge it with the institution’s East Windsor branch, has reversed that decision after parents raised about $1 million to stave off its closing.
“I guess you have to create a crisis to create a response,” said Shalom Torah director Rabbi Avrohom Gutman. “We were just blown away.”
Gutman said the decision to keep the Morganville school open was made June 20 after parents jumped into action and came up with the large sum through fund-raisers, donations, and matching grants.
“We are now making a full court press for September,” Gutman told NJJN. “It is very exciting.”
Robin Berko of Manalapan, who spearheaded the fund-raising efforts with her husband, Mitchell, called Shalom Torah “an excellent center of learning….”
“The parents and teachers could not bear to lose such a wonderful center of learning, and for this reason we are all working together to see it succeed,” she said.
In a May 16 letter sent home to parents, then head of school Rabbi Moshe Bak said that the school would merge with the one located in the Twin Rivers section of East Windsor “to consolidate in the short term to guarantee growth in the long term.”
“It is no surprise that current economic conditions have caused many schools to suffer huge financial losses and, sadly, caused the closing of others,” he wrote. “To assure this will not happen to STA, in January the board of directors…concluded that the best decision to promote financial strength was to combine both of Shalom Torah locations into one campus (located in Twin Rivers) starting September of 2011.”
The schools filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February 2010 in what it hoped was a first step in regaining solvency after a difficult period during which teachers and staff were at times not paid and debt mounted. Under a Chapter 11 filing the entity continues operations, but is protected by the court from its creditors.
Gutman said the schools also successfully emerged from bankruptcy at the end of May and have been paying teachers and staff on time.
“We do owe the teachers one paycheck, which they will be receiving shortly,” he said. “We hope most of them will be back with us in September.”
Bak, who had resigned from the school and accepted a position as head of school at the planned Rambam Yeshiva of New Jersey in Old Bridge, has been offered his old job, said Gutman. In the meantime, Rambam has delayed its opening for a year (see related article). Attempts to reach Bak were unsuccessful.
The Monmouth school drew its 187 students from mainly Monmouth and Middlesex counties. Families had been encouraged to send their youngsters to the East Windsor school after the announced closure.
“Private education today is not cheap,” said Gutman. “Parents pay what they can pay, and the schools are under tremendous pressure to raise money above that. The school itself was never the problem; the parents loved the school. Money was the problem.
“But now, thanks to them, we have the funds and are moving forward with a tremendous amount of self-confidence.”
The school is currently accepting applications for next year. Those interested should contact Risa Gold at the school at 732-536-0911.