Almost immediately after the news broke on April 12 that Moshe Aaron Yeshiva High School in South River was planning to close its doors, a group of parents sprang into action to “fill a dire need.”
Within a few weeks, they had devised a plan to establish a new high school, made an offer on a building site, lined up a head of school, recruited more than 50 volunteers to head committees and other functions, and raised about $200,000 in cash, pledges, and in-kind donations to launch the Rambam Yeshiva of New Jersey.
“There’s tremendous interest and we have a lot of dedicated individuals,” said finance committee chair and building committee cochair Dr. Richard Kleinmann of Highland Park, who explained the urgency behind the swift response to the MAYHS announcement (see related article).
“If we don’t open now and local students are dispersed to other schools, I don’t think we or anyone else will be able to recreate this in the future,” he said. “We’ve also had expressions of interest from families in Lakewood and Staten Island inquiring about transportation routes.”
In an e-mail sent to supporters, the planning committee said it felt the community was “large enough and strong enough to support a first-class centrist Jewish high school here in Central New Jersey” and added that MAYHS’ “excellent faculty members and outstanding students represent an asset which should not be squandered.”
Kleinmann said organizers wanted to provide local students with options and said he felt “it was a terrible thing to have to put students on a bus 6:40 in the morning and have them come home 7 at night” to attend other yeshivas.
The school is being named for the renowned sage — also known as Moses ben Maimon or Maimonides — because, Kleinmann said, he epitomized the blending of the secular and Jewish worlds, similar to the new school’s philosophy. That philosophy, said founding committee member Melissa Rosen of East Brunswick, will drive the founding of a school “that combines rigorous academic standards, Torah scholarship, proud citizenship, a commitment to Israel, and extraordinary enrichment opportunities.”
Both Kleinmann and the committee made a point of noting the new high school is a completely separate entity from MAYHS.
“Our philosophy of education is different in terms of the social fabric of the school,” said Kleinmann. “We want our philosophy of education to be consistent with the values of our community.”
The ninth-12th grade school will enroll both male and female students, but Jewish studies and most secular classes will be gender separate. At least initially, most advanced placement classes and extracurricular activities will be mixed, as will busing.
“Our community allows our boys and girls to talk and meet in synagogue and in town,” said the e-mail.
Kleinmann said “a perfect” site for the new school has been found; although he would not specify the exact location, he did say it is central to the Highland Park, south Edison, East Brunswick area, from which the school is expected to draw most of its students. Kleinmann said he could not reveal the location until after the contract was signed, which, on May 4, he estimated would be in seven to 10 days.
Organizers are also in contract negotiations with a “a very experienced” educator to assume the position as head of school.
Volunteers with expertise in the matter are handling acquiring state accreditation, said Kleinmann.
Tuition will be priced at $15,975 to make the school accessible for middle-class families, said Kleinmann. Opportunities to write off some of that through credits for fund-raising or donation of in-kind services will also be available. However, MAYHS parents who still owe tuition will have to settle their debt there to be considered for enrollment at Rambam.
“We feel a commitment to Jewish education has to be a priority,” said Kleinmann. “It shouldn’t come behind the car payment or vacation. If parents have multiple children in the school there will be a discount, but we haven’t yet formalized what it will be.”