I spent this past Shabbos, Parshas Lech-L’cha, in Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania, together with the Torah Umesorah family at their 66th Annual National Leadership Convention, held in memory of its pioneering formative director, Dr. Joseph Kaminetsky zt”l. I participated as a volunteer for TorahAnytime, which was privileged to provide video recordings of panels and lectures, a first for the organization that represents 760 schools, 20,000 educators, and 260,000 children. I urge every rebbe, teacher, or Yid who cares about upholding our values to take a moment to view the convention recordings, as they hold a vast array of groundbreaking tools to improve classroom life, as well as sh’eilos u’t’shuvos with the roshei ha’yeshivos.

Rabbi Yaakov May has served Yeshiva Tiferes Moshe in Kew Gardens as menahel since 2000, the year of my graduation. Over the decades, I kept up with the master m’chaneich, sharing life updates and discussing inyanei d’yoma. Over Rabbi May’s tenure, the Orthodox educational system evolved, and it was his steadfast leadership that ushered Queens into the new era. With over 40 years in chinuch, Rabbi May has always stood true to the Torah Umesorah path of instilling Torah values in today’s world.

On Friday afternoon, Rabbi May accepted the Dr. Joseph Kaminetsky zt”l Memorial Award in a touching tribute led by Rabbi Dovid Nojowitz, National Director, Torah Umesorah – National Society for Hebrew Day Schools of North America, who once served as a high school rebbe in Queens.

The plaque stated: “His greatness lies in his being a master m’chaneich who understands talmidim and considers every student as his prime responsibility. His sincere feelings for each and every boy propel him to treat each talmid as if he were his own child.” Rabbi May does not have a one-size-fits-all approach to chinuch. He treats every talmid as a distinct entity and tailors his methods accordingly. Rabbi May deals with each student with such patience, understanding, and compassion that he literally transformed the lives of hundreds of individuals. Rabbi May’s innovations encompass everything from implementation of a Holocaust studies course to a Torah learning program in memory of fallen Israeli soldiers, to the addition of a rooftop playground. Rabbi May is revered by his entire staff not only for his insightful understanding of chinuch and talmidim, but even more so for the great respect with which he treats the entire faculty.

Dr. Joseph Kaminetsky, born in 1911 and passed on March 17, 1999, was directly responsible for the establishment of hundreds of yeshivah day schools across America. The Brooklyn-born rav initially attended public school, moving from their East New York home to Brownsville after his father sold the first home to afford the tuition at Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin. Dr. Joe also attended Talmudical Academy High School on East Broadway on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and was a graduate of Yeshiva University’s first class, graduating magna cum laude in 1932. Kaminetsky then led Manhattan’s prestigious Jewish Center synagogue’s afternoon school, and in the 1930s and 1940s served as its assistant rabbi. Later, he assumed the role of Executive Director at Manhattan Day School, moving on to become educational director at Torah Umesorah and two years later became director following the p’tirah of Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, serving over 35 years as he established day schools in every Jewish town and city in the United States.

Other Queens notables in attendance included HaRav Dovid Harris, Rosh HaYeshivah, Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim; Rabbi Elimelech (and Chavie) Gottlieb, Menahel, JIQ; Rabbi Moshe Hamel, Assistant Principal, Judaic Studies, JHS Division, YCQ; Rabbi Shlomo Dovid Pfeiffer, S’gan Menahel, Yeshiva Ketana of Long Island, and his wife Mrs. Chaviva Pfeiffer, mechaneches, Bais Yaakov Academy of Queens.

By Shabsie Saphirstein