A rose among thorns. In Shir HaShirim, Shlomo HaMelech describes klal Yisrael as the rose among the nations. The Bais Yaakov Academy of Queens is a like a beautiful rose amidst the thorny world of secular values – a gift that our community cherishes. Our community is so grateful to have this wonderful school that is carrying on the legacy of its founder, Rabbi Moshe Neuman zt”l.
On Tuesday evening, May 31, a huge crowd gathered at The Sands in Long Beach to celebrate the accomplishments of the Bais Yaakov of Queens, to honor two magnificent educators, Mr. Moshe and Mrs. Liora Sdayeb, the guests of honor, and to pay tribute to the legacy of Rabbi Moshe Neuman zt”l, who was niftar just four weeks ago.
An elegant mural displayed photos of students and their messages of hakaras ha’tov to their teacher for specific actions those teachers did that made a difference in each girl’s life. Rabbi Neuman’s famous mantra was included on the mural in letters formed by roses. “Give a child your heart, and she will give you her mind.” That is truly the educational philosophy that continues at the Bais Yaakov of Queens.
Each detail of the dinner reflected so much effort and care. The elegantly set tables with fresh rose centerpieces and the beautiful booklet filled with inspiring articles about Rabbi Moshe Neuman adorned each table. The journal messages, thank-yous, and contributions were displayed on a screen. Everyone received a copy of a sefer on Emunah, courtesy of the Gordon family.
Nechemiah Hoch, Dinner Chairman, greeted everyone. The dinner was aptly titled a legacy for tomorrow, celebrating a future shared by our history. Next, Rabbi Morchechai Ginsparg, Menahel of the Bais Yaakov, led the reciting of T’hilim 130. Mr. Hoch shared that the day that Hashem took us to be His am s’gulah, He first addressed the Bais Yaakov which are the righteous women. Only through the women would the chain continue.
The Bais Yaakov of Queens offers the highest caliber of education. It is enabling our students to become the future link in our mesorah. He shared that we were gathered to honor two beloved teachers, Mrs. Peri Schonfeld and Mrs. Naomi Pacht and the guests of honor, Mr. and Mrs. Moshe Sdayeb. These honorees all exemplify the ideals of the Bais Yaakov of Queens. He thanked the Board of Directors, led by Mr. Bernie Shafran and Dr. Meyer Halberstam, the dinner committee, Mr Nechemiah Hoch, Mr. Shmuel Kazarnovsky, Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, and Mr. Chaim Kurz. In addition, he thanked, the parent body, the financial supporters of the school, and the business office led by Rabbi Simcha Noble and Rabbi Yosef Chaim Cohen, Director of Operations. “The Bais Yaakov of Queens is a second family to me,” he said. He added that he can’t thank the parents enough. He shared how happy everyone is that Rabbi Mordechai Ginsparg became the menahel. He described his exuberance and love for each of the 775 talmidos in the school.
Rabbi Ginsparg then shared that it is a great z’chus and honor to be the menahel of this Bais Yaakov. He shared that, in BaMidbar, Rashi quotes the Gemara that Moshe taught Aharon’s sons as if he was their father. Anyone who teaches his friend’s son Torah it is as if he made him. He explained that there are two types of teachers. One conveys knowledge to his students. This teacher made his students more knowledgeable. The second type of teacher gives heart and soul to each student, ensuring each student’s growth and care, beyond imparting knowledge. They are connected forever in a love that transcends time and distance.
Rabbi Ginsparg related that each of the educators being honored dedicated her heart and soul to her students. They were like mothers to them. The guests of honor are parents of three wonderful talmidos at BYQ. They are supporters of many organizations in klal Yisrael including Chazaq. He expressed his gratitude for being part of this wonderful school and he thanked the Board of Directors, the outstanding principals, Mrs. Sarah Bergman, Mrs. Nechama Jurkowitz, Mrs. Karen Reisbaum, and Mrs. Ora Love. He also thanked all the professional warm and caring moros and teachers who are the backbone of the school. He thanked the hard-working office staff and the business staff headed by Rabbi Simcha Noble and the school psychologist, Mrs. Moskowitz, and also Dr. Tovie Zakutinsky, Director of Special Services.
He then thanked the parents for entrusting their precious daughters to the school. He shared that the Bais Yaakov of Queens offers an outstanding education in both secular and limudei kodesh, as well as a growth in midos and love of Yiddishkeit. It’s a warm, friendly environment.
Next, Mrs. Sarah Bergman, General Studies Principal, shared how Mrs. Naomi Pacht teaches ancient world history. She shows the contrast between other nations and the Jewish people, and she encourages students to ask difficult questions. “She helps them to understand that we are a special nation.” She looks at the whole person. She encourages them to find their voice.
Her colleague, Mrs. Reva Tournheim, noted that Mrs. Pacht’s lessons are interactive. Mrs. Jurkowitz, Limudei Kodesh Principal, noted that Mrs. Pacht is an educator par excellence.
Mrs. Pacht and her husband both thanked the Bais Yaakov for being such a wonderful part of their lives.
Mrs. Bergman then spoke about Mrs. Peri Schonfeld, first grade teacher and Rebbetzin of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills. “We were so fortunate to have her at the Bais Yaakov for so many years.” When Mrs. Schonfeld walks into the building, she radiates exuberance.
Her colleagues spoke about how much they will miss her and how she brings that same energy into her classroom. She makes a deep connection with her students. Mrs. Bergman said that Mrs. Schonfeld is the first stop helping the children to find a voice.
Mrs. Schonfeld shared that she will miss the Bais Yaakov and that her colleagues are lifelong friends. “It was a gift to me and my children. It’s something I will be grateful for for the rest of my life.”
Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, Assistant Rabbi of The Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, then spoke about how Rabbi Yoel and Peri Schonfeld had a tremendous impact on the Young Israel, and the KGH community and our neighborhood like Bais Yaakov of Queens will not be the same without them.
Next, friends spoke about Mr. Moshe and Mrs. Liora Sdayeb. Rabbi Yaniv Meirov, Director of Chazaq, shared that Mr. Sdayeb has a heart of gold. He’s a man of action.
Rabbi Ginsparg shared that he is a role model for their children.
Mr. Sdayeb shared that the Bais Yaakov is an anchor of Queens, and he said that the school should continue to have strength for many years to come.
Following this, the audience watched a video of Rabbi Moshe Neuman speaking at a previous dinner. It brought tears to people’s eyes to see Rabbi Neuman again.
Mr. Bernie Shafran shared that Rabbi Neuman’s love permeates the Bais Yaakov today.
Mrs. Sarah Bergman shared that he is the perfect principal. He was kind. He greeted every child by name. He took personal interest in each child. She shared how he taught her so much that has impacted how she relates to people. He was an incredible person to work with.
Mrs. Karen Reisbaum, Associate General Studies Principal, shared that teachers stay at the Bais Yaakov for many years. The magic was Rabbi Neuman. “He ran the Bais Yaakov of Queens like his own personal family.”
Rabbi Paysach Krohn shared memories and thoughts about Rabbi Neuman. “He was a like a daddy – like a father. His energy was boundless. He gave people a pride in Yiddishkeit. When you saw him, you saw a happy Jew. “The magic is still here in the school.” He taught the parents, children, and grandchildren. He impacted klal Yisrael for generations.
Following this, Rabbi Nosson Neuman, Menahel of the Bais Yaakov Ateres Miriam, a wonderful school in the Five Towns that follows in his father’s philosophy of education, spoke about his father. “He was beloved by all who knew him. I miss him deeply.” He shared that he received emails from all over the world about his father. There are so many stories. Three thousand people came to be menacheim avel. He shared two poignant stories about Rabbi Neuman that really show what an inspiring, amazing person he was.
Rabbi Nosson shared that his father was hospitalized for a fall around the time of Parshas Lech-L’cha. In the hospital, he befriended a 29-year-old man who served meals. That man cried when Rabbi Neuman was discharged. This man said that Rabbi Neuman was the kindest man he ever met and that he convinced him to go back to school. He said, “He was the only person who believed in me.”
A second story Rabbi Nosson shared was that a woman flew in to come to the shiv’ah and she came in sobbing. She asked to speak to Rabbi Nosson privately and then she told him that Rabbi Moshe Neuman saved her life when she was in eighth grade. She came from a dysfunctional family, and a cousin had committed suicide. She was contemplating doing that, too. She went to his office. He said, “Are you nuts?” She shared that he sat with her and spoke with her every day for four weeks and built her up. He told her that she would have children and he would come to her wedding. She shared that when she felt better, she still wanted to speak with him and he understood that and he spoke to her every day from January until June. She said, “I have four children and it is because of your father.”
Rabbi Nosson shared that his father was niftar the week of Parshas K’doshim. The Torah says to be holy. When one looks at a person, he might not be able to see that person’s potential. “My father saw endless possibilities in every student. With my father, it was always about the other – that was who he was. May his legacy continue to inspire generations.”
Mr. Bernie Shafran then spoke on behalf of the Board of Directors.
Everyone left inspired by this beautiful dinner that celebrated the accomplishments of the Bais Yaakov of Queens and the values and legacy of Rabbi Moshe Neuman zt”l.
By Susie Garber