A Meaningful Journey

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For many years my husband, Antoine, and I were thinking about moving to America; we wanted a better Jewish life for our children. We just needed to find a place to live and send our kids to school! We came to New York on several occasions, spending a Shabbat in many different communities and visiting many schools in Long Island, NY and in Bergen County, NJ.

One thing led to another, and in the end it was our final visit to SAR in Riverdale, NY that became the catalyst for our family to act and succeed in what is probably our most adventurous family decision, when my husband and I with our four children ages 2 to 12 immigrated from Paris to New York ten years ago.

The story started with Rabbi Binyamin Krauss in May 2008, when he first welcomed us into his office and helped us turn a dream from so many years into a reality. From our first encounter, and a few other shared expériences, he grasped (possibly better than we did) the urgency and significance of our situation. On that same day, as he was handing us the registration forms for our four children to attend SAR, he said that we should bring our children in person before school starts next September!

And this was it. We completed the forms, flew back to France, and three months later, as simple as that, we returned to his office, this time with Clara, Samuel, Deborah and baby Isaac. Later that day, as we were about to leave the school and get back to our new home on 231st Street, Rabbi Krauss was followed by Rabbi Moshe Drelich, who came up to us and, with the most comforting voice, asked, “Now, you need to tell us what we can do to assist you in the next days.”  Of course, we had no idea at that point. But they both already had their own answers and a few days later, Samuel (AC ‘11, HS ‘15) was having his first American playdate, Clara (AC ‘09, HS ‘13) was meeting a classmate whose mother was and spoke French, and then we were, of course, all invited for the next Shabbat to come for a meal!

Rabbi Krauss’ comforting attitude and determination were later replicated by his team of teachers  and administrators. They provided us with the most unexpected, intelligent suggestions, dedicated to making our children’s adjustment easier and happier. The examples are numerous, whether it was Mrs. Helen Sprinkle, the French High School teacher, walking each day after her class from the High School to the Academy with a donut in her bag for Deborah (Grade 12) or Mora Revital, Judaic Studies teacher in the Academy, who happened to be a native Moroccan woman, fluent in French, who offered to sit each morning in the class next to our 7-year-old girl, and help her connect with her new friends, the  message was glaring: we now belonged to the joyful, committed and generous SAR community!

Tell us how the school can cooperate,” were Rabbi Tully Harcsztark’s words to me and our oldest girl, Clara, was thinking about switching to a different school in 10th grade. I will never forget the long oval table, chaired by the Rabbi and by Ms. Nancy Lerea, and surrounded by Clara’s teachers, the school psychologist and nurse. Rabbi Harcsztark, with the most reassuring smile, looked me straight in the eyes and asked, “What can we do to encourage Clara to stay in SAR HS? We love Clara, and we want to keep her with us in SAR.” Our decision took place within seconds. Four years later, Clara graduated SAR High School and became a Macaulay Honors student at Queens College.

From Dr. Mark Shinar’s advice at the High School to Dr. Barbara Gochberg’s insightful suggestions in 1st grade at the Academy, the list of examples showing the schools’ combined effort of embracing our family would be exhausting to write.

Overall, and what matters most, is that we always remember how SAR genuinely included our children and allowed them to leave our house each morning with the happiest smiles radiating across their faces and to live each day in a place enabling them to grow academically and spiritually: gaining faith, curiosity, and developing middot that will benefit them throughout their lives and encourage them to become better themselves. Thank you SAR!