By Mrs. Zlata Press, Principal,
Bnos Leah Prospect Park High School
The building, wedged into a row of houses on an avenue on the outskirts of Boro Park, is modest. Step inside and you are in the gleaming, newly renovated building of Tiferes Miriam Junior High and High School. With 40 students in the school, about 10 in each grade, Tiferes Miriam provides a Bais Yaakov chinuch tailor-made to the needs of each student.
Walk the halls, glance at the school newspaper, full of photos of students enjoying school activities, and you will see and hear wholesome, joyful girls indistinguishable from hundreds of their contemporaries attending school in Brooklyn.
Visit the classrooms. In many ways they are identical to those in other Bais Yaakov schools in terms of hashkafos that are taught, the neat, tzniusdik look of the girls, the derech eretz, the Torahdige flavor. But in important ways, Tiferes Miriam is unique.
Rabbi Chaim Stamm is the founder, director, and principal of Tiferes Miriam; he is also rav, friend, confidant, and problem-solver to its many students, past and present.
“We are a school for underachievers,” he says. “At best, our students sat silently through years of school relying on the compassion and sensitivity of individual teachers who were dealing with classes of 25 to 30. Here we keep our classes very small deliberately. While some subjects are taught to groups of 10, many more are taught to 3 or 4 students at a time.
“We are licensed by the state of New York as a regular junior high school, authorized to offer a modified curriculum. We teach in an environment that maximizes individual instruction and requires the involvement of every student. No one sits passively in the back of the room hoping to remain unnoticed.”
Rabbi Stamm lays out a curriculum, standards, and assessment procedures for every subject each year, working with a staff of teachers who are vibrant, engaged, and devoted. “I set up a program. I take full achrayus for every course and every student. We take chanoch lana’ar al pi darko as far as we possibly can.”
A child who has underperformed for many years is often, though not always, socially reserved. Tiferes Miriam takes the social development of each child as seriously as it takes her academic development.
Mrs. Stamm speaks with passion about the school’s rich extracurricular offerings. “We have a G.O., a chesed program, Mishmeres, big sister/little sister, a school Shabbaton, Chanukah and Purim chagigos, school trips, and a school newspaper and literary journal that are written by the students. With 40 students in the school, everyone gets two leadership jobs each year. The shy student, the student who lacks confidence, or an eager child who could not get a chance when she was one of hundreds cannot sit back and let the ‘machers’ run the show. With a maximum of 10 girls per grade, each and every one has a chance to be a ‘macher.’”
It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Parents reading about the school sigh and murmur, “If only I could send my daughter there. It sounds ideal—but where will she go from there? What will we say when shidduchim inquiries are made?”
A recent visitor asked Rabbi and Mrs. Stamm the all-important question, “What happens to your girls after four years in the school?”
In answer, the visitor was overwhelmed with an array of anecdotes, photos, and letters. “Some of the students go on to seminaries in Eretz Yisrael and locally. We’ve had students in Peninim, Sha’arei Bnos Yerushalayim, and Afikei. Some of our students enroll in college programs. Marriage? Of course. Our graduates proudly continue the mesorah of being wives and mothers in Klal Yisrael.”
“But . . . what will people think when they hear that our daughter went to a small, tailor-made program? Won’t that be a stigma?”
Mrs. Stamm answers this movingly. “Leave a seriously underachieving student in a mainstream high school, and five years down the road, when inquiries are made, principals, teachers, and even classmates will stammer for a moment, trying to remember the shadow in their classroom. They will compensate quickly with sincere words of praise for middos and sweetness, but the impression will have been conveyed.”
Ask anyone in the Tiferes Miriam community about a graduate and you will hear warmth and enthusiasm bubble over as they describe a leader, an achiever, a G.O. president, a newspaper editor, or a chesed head. This young woman is not a “shadow”; she is clearly a person of capability and achievement.
Somehow, the building itself conveys Rabbi Stamm’s core message. One enters hallways painted in a muted array of earth tones—browns, beiges, and creams. The classrooms, however, are painted in a range of soft, beautiful sky blue hues. Timid junior-high and high-school students enter, remembering past failures. But in the safety of the small classes, guided by loving, caring teachers, directed by Rabbi Stamm’s educational vision and Mrs. Stamm’s innovative programming, they soar academically and personally.
“We give them legs to stand on—and more, wings with which to fly.” Those beautiful sky-blue classrooms carry the compelling message of Tiferes Miriam: The sky is the limit!
Tiferes Miriam School for Girls is located at 6510 17th Avenue in Brooklyn. For more information or to visit, please call 718-837-3100. v