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Boys to Open at Heichal HaTorah

SINAI’s Karasick Shalem High School for Boys to Open at Heichal HaTorah

By: Elizabeth Kratz
for The Jewish Link

Teaneck—Last week, SINAI Schools signed an agreement to establish a new high school in partnership with Heichal HaTorah, adding on to SINAI’s three other high schools, currently housed at Torah Academy of Bergen County, Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls and the Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School.

Heichal HaTorah, a boys yeshiva high school that opened in Teaneck in 2014, received the green light this past January to begin the process of purchasing the Jewish Center of Teaneck building. “While the Jewish Center of Teaneck will be the permanent home of our yeshiva, we also dream of this historic Jewish site serving the entire Jewish community,” said Rabbi Aryeh Stechler, Rosh Yeshiva of Heichal HaTorah. “To that end, we will continue to partner and welcome into the center numerous Jewish institutions, for example Yachad and SINAI, which play a vital role in educating the children of our community with sensitivity and caring.

“We welcome the SINAI students, and we believe that creating an inclusive school community will benefit not only the SINAI students, but our own boys as well,” added Rabbi Stechler.

Officially titled as SINAI’s Karasick Shalem High School for Boys at Heichal HaTorah, the school will serve boys between the ages of 18 and 21 with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This population was previously serviced by TABC, and TABC will now be able to tailor their program specifically for the 14-to-17 age group. “We are taking our current population and splitting it. Due to TABC’s recent growth as well as ours, this is a way of better serving our students,” Rabbi Dr. Yisrael Rothwachs, SINAI’s dean, told The Jewish Link. “This will also give our students at TABC the opportunity to graduate with their friends and, in a similar fashion, move on to a new school. While there will still be some of the same kinds of classes, such as reading and math skills, there will be a much stronger focus on life skills,” he explained. Rothwachs predicted that between six and eight students will begin at Karasick Shalem at Heichal this fall.

Reflecting on the name of the new school, Rabbi Rothwachs shared the following: “Everything that we have accomplished and are accomplishing here at SINAI sits on the shoulders of what Mark and Linda Karasick have built over the past 30+ years. Mark has been the chairman of our board for over a decade, and was president for 10 years before that. Linda chaired our fundraising dinners for 30 years. Mark and Linda are the heart and soul of SINAI, because they have invested their own hearts and souls with us. They lead the rest of us by example, reminding us to not only have a healthy dose of hishtadlus (effort) in reaching our goals, but balancing that with the belief that the one above always comes through for our children.”

“It gives me such pride to have Mark’s and my name attached to this new school,” said Linda Karasick. “I am so inspired by the incredibly dedicated staff and educators at SINAI for always looking for new ways to help the students grow. Heichal also holds a very dear place in our hearts, so it’s particularly special for us to have them join with SINAI to become our newest partner school,” she said.

Mark Karasick also shared his thoughts: “SINAI has done so much for the community over the past 30 years. Linda and I are humbled to have our name associated with the newest high school in this way. We look forward to SINAI’s continued expansion, and their increasing ability to serve even more children and families in the years ahead. SINAI’s growth is really remarkable, and we are really moved to see how enthusiastically SINAI was welcomed by Heichal HaTorah when we knew it was time to expand.”

Jordan Silvestri begins this month as SINAI’s director of Karasick Shalem at Heichal. A social worker by training, Silvestri comes to SINAI after serving as an area coordinator for Ohel Children’s and Family Services, which provides employment, residential and clinical services. The attributes he has lend themselves well to his new role: “He strikes a wonderful balance of confidence, energy and professionalism on the one hand, with humility, thoughtfulness and care on the other,” said Rabbi Rothwachs.

“Over the past seven years at Ohel, I had the pleasure of working with young men and women (among them, several SINAI graduates!) as they entered their post high-school life, which demands increased vocational and independent living skills. These experiences will help inform my work in helping prepare our Shalem at Heichal students and their families as they transition from our high school into residential and vocational services. I know what they are likely to experience as adults with developmental disabilities once they have graduated from our school, and I can work towards preparing them for life ahead,” Silvestri told The Jewish Link.

For the past three years, Silvestri, originally from Fair Lawn, has served together with his wife, Eileen, as co-youth directors for the expanding Congregation Ohr HaTorah community in Bergenfield, which is headed by YU Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky. “We have had huge success in integrating educational and recreational programming with a focus on program growth and investment. I believe that a key to success for all young people, but especially for teens and young adults who have developmental or intellectual disabilities, is to create an atmosphere of ruach, excitement and enthusiasm for Torah,” Silvestri said.

“These boys need to recognize themselves as valuable members of the community, who have something valuable to give back just like everyone else. I look forward to reinforcing this self-awareness within my students, and engaging the community to provide the same inclusive opportunities that Heichal HaTorah, TABC and Ma’ayanot have all extended to the Shalem students during their high school years.”

This will be SINAI’s sixth school in total, joining Karasick Shalem High Schools at Torah Academy of Bergen County and Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for students with developmental disabilities. SINAI’s Maor High School at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School serves college-bound high schoolers with learning disabilities and social/anxiety disorders. SINAI’s two elementary schools, which partner with Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey and Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy, serve students in Grades 1-8 with a broad range of special needs.

The new partnership between SINAI and Heichal HaTorah reflects the tremendous growth of both SINAI and TABC over the past few years. “We are thrilled to be able to continue our special partnership with TABC, a partnership that has helped nurture and include our students for more than two decades,” said SINAI’s Managing Director, Sam Fishman. “We are so grateful to TABC—and to all of our partner schools—for the inclusive, warm and welcoming homes they provide to our students. And now, the enthusiasm with which Heichal has expressed their desire to include our students and join our community of partner schools has been heartwarming.”

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Originally published by The Jewish Link at…