Bnos Malka Academy will be celebrating its 18th Annual Dinner on May 20, at the White Shul in Far Rockaway. The Guest of Honor for this milestone year will be their menahel, Rabbi Michael Weichselbaum. Now in his 15th year as principal, Rabbi Weichselbaum has guided the school from its infancy to that of a premier school serving the Queens community.
Mr. David Berger, the school president, explained, “It was an obvious choice to pay tribute to Rabbi Weichselbaum as we mark this milestone for Bnos Malka. When we hired him in 1999, we were a small school with 60 girls in five classes. Under his guidance and vision we have grown to 344 girls and multiple classes through 8th grade.”
Rabbi Weichselbaum had previously been a rebbe for eight years, spending four years each at Yeshiva Har Torah and the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach. When he was offered the position as menahel, HALB Executive Director Mr. Richard Hagler remarked, “Rabbi Weichselbaum was a star rebbe. In his four years here he had distinguished himself and built very close ties to his talmidim. It was only a matter of time for him to advance into an administrative position.”
Rabbi Weichselbaum is a product of Kew Gardens Hills and was a natural fit for the new school, according to Mr. Berger. “We were obviously very impressed with his body of work at Har Torah and HALB. However, as a lifelong resident of the neighborhood, whose family was, and remains, so active in the Young Israel of Queens Valley, it was clear he was the ideal candidate.”
Bnos Malka Academy opened very modestly in 1996 with a pre-1A class of 10 girls. Each year, the school added a grade. As enrollment grew, the school opened additional classes and needed to relocate a number of times to increasingly larger facilities. Often, changing locations can be interpreted as a lack of stability. In the case of Bnos Malka, it was a testament to their success. Since 2006, Bnos Malka has called the Dov Revel Building their home. Ironically, the building which served the Jewish community for nearly 50 years was the elementary school for both Rabbi Weichselbaum and Mr. Berger. Their return has reenergized the Forest Hills community.
After graduating from Dov Revel, Rabbi Weichselbaum learned in Chofetz Chaim and in Ner Yisroel. He continued his learning in Eretz Yisrael, in Netivot, before graduating Adelphi University with a degree in education. He returned to Eretz Yisrael and spent over 5 years learning at Yeshiva Torah Ohr in Yerushalayim, where he received semichah in 1990 from Rav Shia Chaitvosky, shlita.
Rabbi Weichselbaum has continued to advance his education, earning his master’s degrees in ESL and educational leadership. In 2009, Rabbi Weichselbaum was introduced to the educational philosophy of “Understanding by Design” by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins. The program is designed to empower the students to delve deeper into their understanding of the material taught in class and seek practical applications in real life. The girls develop skills to question and analyze and not merely learn by rote. Empowerment is not left just for the students, but for the administration and teachers as well. While always under the watchful eye of the menahel, the assistant principals and teachers are given the latitude to use their experience and skills to manage the classroom and the curriculum. Rabbi Weichselbaum explained, “Our assistant principals are immensely talented. If I were to micromanage and dictate every detail, I would not benefit from their vast talents and I would stymie their creativity.”
Mr. Berger, excited about the upcoming dinner, concluded by saying, “The hallmark of Bnos Malka has always been, providing excellence in education, in a warm and caring environment. That emanates directly from Rabbi Weichselbaum. He is the role model to which all of our staff, teachers, and students look.” Clearly, the admiration for Rabbi Weichselbaum goes far beyond the school walls. In addition to the calls from alumni and parents of alumni, many rabbanim and members from the community have already made plans to participate in the dinner and journal. They are all eager to show their support for this extraordinary school and its beloved menahel. v