Ben Porat Yosef headed for Paramus
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Ben Porat Yosef headed for Paramus

Move leaves Teaneck and Leonia synagogues without tenant

After seven years of renting space in a Leonia synagogue, Yeshiva Ben Porat Yosef is moving into the old Frisch building rather than the Jewish Center of Teaneck as its board had planned. It will share the space with a girls’ high school relocating from Suffern, N.Y.

In the spring, BPY’s leadership signed a contract to move its kindergarten through fifth-grade classes to the Jewish Center for the coming school year while keeping its preschool program in Leonia’s Cong. Sons of Israel. Ben Porat Yosef had held classes in Sons of Israel since the school was founded in ‘001 and needed more space each year as it added grades. The Jewish Center was looking for a tenant after Metropolitan Schechter High School, which had rented space in the center, closed last year.

When the prospect arose for BPY to move the entire school to Paramus, however, the yeshiva had to take it, said Yehuda Kohn, BPY’s vice president. He described the building as "virtually a perfect location."

"We weren’t expecting it, but when the opportunity came about it was too good an opportunity to pass up," he said.

The Bat Torah Academy–The Alisa M. Flatow Yeshiva High School in Suffern, N.Y., had been looking to move to Bergen County for seven years, said its principal, Miriam Bach. After several dead ends, Bat Torah signed a deal with The Frisch School this spring to rent its old building. While Frisch asked for a fair price, Bach said, Bat Torah could not afford the entire rent. Bach would not disclose the exact amount Bat Torah and Frisch negotiated.

"We needed some help in defraying the cost of the rental of the building," she said. "I started calling elementary schools. Everyone was very receptive but the one that seemed in need of it the most was Ben Porat Yosef."

Bat Torah will use the building’s first floor while BPY will use the second. Both will share the school’s computer labs, gym, library, and cafeteria. Both schools have room to grow, as well.

"People were excited about the Jewish Center, but to say there wasn’t a lot of concern about the dual locations is an understatement," Kohn said. "It’s almost as if somebody went into our minds and created exactly what we were looking for."

BPY has added a grade each year. It had been poised to add a fifth-grade class in the fall but the school is now scheduled to continue through only fourth grade as it had last year.

"The decision was made that it was not in the best interest to proceed at this time," Kohn said. He would not comment on the reasons for not adding the planned grade. Classes from toddler through fourth grade are full, he said. He projected an enrollment between 140 and 150 students with two classes per grade.

With moving trucks arriving last week, both schools are on schedule to begin classes shortly after Labor Day.

Parents have reacted positively to the new location, Kohn said.

Shoshana Glickman of Teaneck, who has three children in BPY, is happy that the school will not be split between two locations. Her children Idan and Lital are entering first grade and kindergarten respectively, while Ori will be in the nursery school. They will now be together in Paramus rather than split between Teaneck and Leonia.

"I’m very excited about it," she said. "I feel that the new facility is going to further enhance the learning environment."

The Paramus location means less of a commute for Dara Saker of Passaic, who also would have had her three children split between Teaneck and Leonia. To her knowledge, hers is the only family coming from Passaic.

"It was definitely a positive thing because the whole school’s together now," she said.

BPY’s move has not pleased everybody, however.

The Jewish Center’s membership began receiving letters from its president, Howard Wang, in June declaring that BPY had pulled out of its contract. The move strained the center financially, according to letters this paper obtained.

Telephoned several times through the summer, Wang declined comment until the yeshiva submitted its decision to the center in writing. Reached last week, a week after BPY officially announced its move, Wang still gave no comment on how the pullout would affect the center.

Cong. Sons of Israel received no advance notice of the yeshiva’s decision to leave but its leadership is now looking for a new tenant for the more than 7,000-square-foot space suddenly left empty.

BPY is working to reach agreements with the center and Sons of Israel about its unplanned exits, Kohn said.

"We’d like to wrap that up as soon as possible," Kohn said, adding that he has "the highest respect" for the Jewish Center’s leadership.

BPY’s agreement with Sons of Israel "was a great partnership while it lasted and we’re very grateful for their hospitality," Kohn said. "There was no way from a capacity or physical plant point of view that we could fit. It was time to move on."

Nancy Vorbach, assistant vice president of Sons of Israel’s board of directors, said, "We are working to attempt a mutually satisfactory resolution with Ben Porat Yosef. But at this time we do not have one."

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