An East Brunswick synagogue and Yeshiva at the Jersey Shore have formed a new preschool, the first step in a “strategic” community partnership between the two institutions.
Planners hope the students at the preschool — at the Young Israel of East Brunswick — will continue on to the Ocean Township yeshiva.
School officials say the partnership is intended to expand the student base, while offering a new draw for the East Brunswick Orthodox community.
“The relationship really began a couple of years ago when we began to get some interest from East Brunswick families at our main campus,” said head of school Rabbi Dr. Elie Tuchman. “Over the years our school has grown from one serving the community of Long Branch to becoming a regional school, and we now serve students from Long Branch to Highland Park.”
Another yeshiva, Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva in Edison, previously ran a preschool at Young Israel before leaving last year by mutual agreement, said the synagogue’s nursery school committee chair Mendy Bohm. The congregation voted overwhelmingly to seek out another school, even if it meant raising dues, he said.
“A nursery school is the lifeblood for any shul if it wants to continue to grow,” he said. “It’s always sad when a nursery school closes in any shul. It means the congregation is getting older.”
Bohm and Tuchman both said Young Israel approached the yeshiva about establishing a branch in East Brunswick.
“When you go visit the school, you see its hashkafa [Jewish world view] with regard to religious practice is a perfect fit with our shul,” explained Bohm. “Its Zionist beliefs are right up our alley.”
Tuchman said the yeshiva’s main campus has 93 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, mostly from Long Branch and East Brunswick. Another 33 students were enrolled in the preschool at Young Israel, which is considered a satellite campus of the school.
Tuchman said the strategic plan calls for a permanent site for the yeshiva midway between Long Branch and East Brunswick. Tuchman said the timeframe for that is “yesterday if not sooner, but this is real estate, so unfortunately you can’t rush that.”
In addition to the growing number of synagogue members sending their children to the yeshiva in recent years, officials hope the nursery school will help the yeshiva expand its base in Middlesex County. Of the seven youngsters in the two-year-old class, only one is from East Brunswick, said Bohm. Many of the others are from Highland Park and Edison.
The preschool, which students can attend full or part-time, has a teacher for each grade level. Its kindergarten teacher, Lori Hirsh, also serves as head teacher.
Three synagogue members volunteer weekly at the school: Judy Goldrich brings her guitar and teaches music; Sylvia Kirschner, known as “Bubbe Sylvia,” reads books; and Debra Tune, a recently retired public school teacher on Staten Island, teaches arts and crafts.
The yeshiva was founded about seven years ago by members of Congregation Brothers of Israel in Elberon and was located until last year at the Ruth Hyman JCC of Greater Monmouth County in Deal. It moved to its current location — which once served as an early home of Hillel Yeshiva, now in Ocean, and, more recently, Deal Yeshiva — to accommodate its growing student body.
“Making community partnerships is both strategic and makes sense for the community as a whole,” said Tuchman. “We’re being foolish when we try to go it alone. This is in the interest of both institutions and will make us a bigger, stronger, more vibrant community. It helps the shul’s recruiting efforts, which helps us in attracting students while we help to make them stronger.”
Bohm agreed. “What a nursery school does is unite a community,” he said. “People are late for work because they’re hanging out talking after they drop their children off. It brings in volunteers from the shul.”