Founded in 1953, the Adolph Schreiber Hebrew Academy of Rockland was created with a specific mission, according to Dr. Wallace Greene of Fair Lawn, who became the school’s managing director in June.
Committed to providing students with both a solid yeshiva education and a good grounding in secular subjects, “ASHAR is a perennial winner of the interyeshiva Torah Bowl,” Greene said. “But,” he added, “its hockey team also won first place in its division.”
While ASHAR’s goals have not changed, the surrounding community has “shifted,” Greene said, noting that while there still is a core of modern Orthodox families in the Monsey area, “the base is much more to the right.”
Given this demographic reality – and taking advantage of the superior facilities now available in New City because the Reuben Gittelman School closed in June – ASHAR will move out of Monsey, where it has been since it founding, and open in Gittelman’s old building next school year.
“I did some consulting for ASHAR last year and they liked what I did,” Greene said, explaining how he came by his new position. The educator – former director of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Jewish Educational Services and a key player in the founding of the Sinai School for special needs – will be primarily responsible for marketing, recruitment, and general development.
Not surprising, given his extensive background in Jewish education and his talents as a writer and lecturer, “I’ll also be available to assist ASHAR in many other ways,” Greene said. “I’ll work with the principal on a consulting basis, but I’m not involved in shaping educational policy – though we talk about it all the time.”
“ASHAR is a school that has gone through some transitions,” Greene said, pointing out that the 60-year-old institution had one principal, Rabbi Nachum Muschel, for 40 years. He noted that the current principal, Rabbi Ari Jacobson, is committed to continuing the programs “that set the school apart from other yeshivas.”
“It still has Ivrit b’Invit, we support Israel and march in the parade, and there’s a very strong academic program,” he said. While ASHAR – preschool through eighth grade – is coeducational, classes for boys and girls are separate from first grade on.
“We’ve also got a wonderful preschool program, ranked by the Ramapo district as one of the best in the county,” Greene said, adding that the head of the program is an ASHAR graduate herself.
ASHAR will open this year with 360 students. Most are from Monsey, Pomona, and Suffern, but others come from towns all around Rockland County, and some Bergen County families are considering the school as well.
“We’ve been steadily increasing, going up 10 percent every year,” Greene said, adding that growing numbers of people understand that in today’s society, “there is a need to have some basic skills beyond just sitting and learning. More and more of the yeshivish community is waking up to the fact that kids need a good secular education.
“We give them the same Torah values and yiddishkeit as other yeshivas, but we also emphasize reading, math, social studies, and extracurricular activities.” For example, he said, students can participate in after-school pursuits that include an investment club, a public speaking forum, and a cooking class.
Most ASHAR graduates eventually go to college.
Greene described the Gittelman building as a “very modern facility, on a beautiful piece of land.”
Larger than ASHAR’s old building and designed specifically as a school, it will accommodate more students while offering “a big gym, huge libraries, modern laboratories, computer rooms, and a huge outdoor area. Everybody is very excited about it.”
While the building will change, the school’s mission will not, Greene said.
“The school is a venerable institution,” he said. “The population may have changed, but the principles on which ASHAR was founded are still very much alive.”