Rambam Mesivta, under the leadership of rosh mesivta Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman and Principal Rabbi Yotav Eliach, has been a leading institution promoting excellence in limud haTorah, academics, and religious Zionism for over 20 years. On Motzaei Shabbos this past week, these traits were on full display as Rambam Mesivta welcomed eighth graders to their open house “to make themselves at home.” At this packed open house, even the “overflow room” was overflowing. The night highlighted the uniqueness of Rambam Mesivta’s program as well as the special kesher that is created between the rebbeim and talmidim in what is by design, a small school environment.
The program began with students and principals opening doors for their guests. The parents and eighth graders were ushered to the shul for a slideshow that featured events such as blood drives, sukkah building, rallies, father/son learning, 5K and family day, cemetery clean-up, meet the author book club, 3-on-3 basketball tournaments, and pictures from over 200 academic and sporting events that are held over the course of a school year.
The school was filled with the sounds of beautiful music coming from violinists, one of whom was a survivor of the Shoah, and special lighting as befitted a Motzaei Shabbos event. Student volunteers were dressed in suits, ties, and in some cases bowties and vests, and served scrumptious Carlos and Gabby’s hors d’oeuvres to the guests.
As Rambam Mesivta celebrated its 20-plus years of producing bnei Torah, academic scholars, and community activists, prospective parents and eighth graders were welcomed with open arms to experience the chevrah and warmth that are hallmarks of the school’s success. After being introduced by Junior Phillip Nagler and Freshman Daniel Yitzhaky, Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman went on to discuss the school’s ideal graduate: A boy who can learn, earn a living, is a mensch, makes a Kiddush Hashem, and isn’t afraid to speak out on behalf of Israel, America, and what is right. Rabbi Friedman was proud to detail the mesivta’s successful efforts to deport Nazi war criminals and act as the vanguard of many protests.
He then outlined the myriad extra learning opportunities, including the masmidim program which includes daily voluntary lunch learning, night learning, and halacha shiurim. He spoke about the rebbe/talmid relationship which takes place both inside and outside the classroom through various tisches, Shabbatonim, and all-night learn-a-thons. This kesher continues to grow even after graduation.
Jacob Friedman, a junior, and Noah Schwartz, a freshman, then introduced Assistant Principal Mr. Hillel Goldman who elaborated on the school’s extensive activities program and its goal of developing leadership skills and a commitment to chesed. He also discussed the school’s diverse student body which includes a daily Sephardic minyan, and students from Queens, Brooklyn, West Hempstead, Five Towns, and Plainview, and how it combined as a determining factor to the school’s success. This year’s ninth grade class is represented by 12 different elementary schools of likeminded students who are “less focused on where they’ve been than where they are going.”
Mr. Goldman then introduced legendary Jewish educator and Middle East expert, Rabbi Yotav Eliach, who discussed the school’s track record of academic excellence. He mentioned that Rambam students consistently garner approximately $1-1.5 million in merit-based scholarships for all of its graduating classes. “The average SAT score for all students is approximately 1250 (based on the old scale), approximately 50% of our students score 90 and above on all Regents exams, students are disproportionately admitted to Cooper Union, Macauley Honors College, and other top universities. And the list goes on and on,” he said.
Rabbi Ari Boiangiu, ninth grade Gemara iyun rebbe and Coach Avi Herschman were then called up to introduce a video about achdus which was created by the school’s choir, The Harmonidies. They explained that the beauty of the video and its song was its message of “Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh LaZeh.” The video, which has over 20,000 views on YouTube can be seen there under the search: “Some Nights Jewish Lyrics.” The video drew tears of appreciation and meaningful applause from the crowd. In an institution like Rambam, where talmidim are comfortable to sing, or use technology to produce a video, amazing things can happen to produce meaningful art as well as spread positive messages about Yiddishkeit and Medinat Yisrael.
Parents were able to see classrooms and interact with teachers on their tour while the boys experienced a lesson on halacha from Rambam ninth grade Gemara iyun rebbe Rabbi Yosef Ziskind. They then went over some complex math brain-teasers with Rambam math teacher (and graduate) Mr. Jeff Ganeles, and technological magic from Mr. Matt Alpert, the school’s computer coding teacher. They then went to play basketball with Rambam gym teacher and former European League basketball star, Steve Howard, and received Rambam sweatpants and knapsacks.
After the tours, the guests were treated to Carlos and Gabby’s while the violinists filled the air with inspirational melodies. Juniors Itai Flam and Daniel Peretz, members of Rambam’s robotics team, RoboCup Champions, displayed their “flying machines.” Senior Binyamin Wallin manned a table highlighting the publications produced by the school’s writing program including Hamasmid, Rambam’s weekly dvar Torah publication; The Kol Yosef; The Harbinger; Expressions; and The Law Journal, just to name a few. Gili Israel, president of the Rambam Art Society, had on display some of the student-crafted art work. As seen from the over 15 clubs, and dozens of academic and sports teams, there is indeed, at Rambam, “A Team for every Talent. A Club for every Curiosity. And A Place for every Person.” v