May 1 marked a span of roughly 26 years since the alumni of Yeshiva Institute, now Yeshiva Primary, attended the well-known kiruv school that began the foundation of learning about Jewish religion and its practices for many New York City immigrants. The reunion, beautifully catered by New Life Catering, was held in the Tov Shul of Kew Gardens Hills and attended by many graduates from years 1995-1997.

Founder and principal Rabbi Zalman Deutscher had a vision that he worked tirelessly to bring to fruition. Rabbi Deutscher set out to give every Jewish child whether they were in public school, or in a home where Jewish education was not affordable, a chance at a Jewish education. The rabbi welcomed kids from secular backgrounds, low-income homes, and especially those coming from other countries, because their parents migrated to the United States, a chance to flourish in Judaism instead of letting them get lost in the American public school system. Rabbi Deutscher looked past a parent’s ability to pay tuition and welcomed a child with but one goal: to get a child to learn about their Jewish roots and leave an everlasting impression, preserving religious observance for generations. And what an impression Rabbi Deutscher, as well as the yeshivah, had made for many of the graduates - me included. Most of us graduated eighth grade not only with so many wonderful, fond, and happy memories of Yeshiva Institute, but an everlasting spark of Judaism and its practices that remain in our daily lives. I am living proof that all it takes is a caring heart, an outstretched hand, and a little effort to go the extra mile to get a child on the right path to Jewish observance. Rabbi Deutscher went the extra mile by making sure that all the children in his yeshivah had a Jewish name, were personally taken home if they missed the bus, and were given a proper Bar or Bas Mitzvah. Upon graduation, the rabbi personally guided each child in helping them pick the perfect high school. Rabbi Deutscher never forgot his students and made sure to check in on them as they began high school.

Today, Yeshiva Primary is privileged to have Rabbi Deutscher continue these treasured traditions as the yeshivah continues to expand and evolve each year.

Attendees at the reunion shared their personal well-deserved hakarat hatov to a rabbi that took us under his wing and helped raise the next generation by giving over values and morals to live by that shaped and molded us into the adults we are today. We all shared fond memories of our time in Yeshiva Institute and the lessons we learned during those crucial academic years. Rabbi Deutscher graciously received our collaboratively shared ideas of how to make Yeshiva Primary better going forward. A slide show presentation featured pictures from the years that the alumni attended the school and current upgrades including smartboards and laptops. The evening concluded with Rabbi Deutscher receiving a plaque for his lifelong dedication from the WhatsApp group entitled “Fruits of Rabbi Deutscher,” and in honor of this reunion.

The alumni are eagerly looking forward to join the new incoming families at the open house on May 22 as we share our love for this school and the vision that Rabbi Deutscher continues to make a reality - one child at a time!

Leah Mashkabov Schwartz graduated in 1996 from Yeshiva Primary and went on to achieve a B.A. from Queens College in Speech and language pathology and master’s in early childhood special education from Adelphi University. Currently, Schwartz is an assistant director and UPK teacher on track to enter the special education therapy world.