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Guiding Light

Bassi Gruen

What’s the secret formula tapped by Bais Yaakov of Passaic to create students with a strong inner compass? Veteran menaheles Rebbetzin Baila Stern – armed with the values of her parents and esteemed husband, rosh yeshivah Rav Meir Stern —explains how she’s fused European influence, classic Bais Yaakov education, and her precious years in Eretz Yisrael to create a chinuch pathway that illuminates hundreds of lives.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In a small city in New Jersey, there’s a community of ovdei Hashem, a kehillah with frum Jews of every stripe living and striving together. The high school they’ve built, the Bais Yaakov of Passaic, produces thoughtful, solid students, girls proud of their Yiddishkeit and connected to their Creator. It’s the result of the dream of the menaheles and the efforts of the entire staff. “Rebbetzin Stern has a vision of what a bas Yisrael is, and she has the inner strength to see the vision through even if others don’t yet share the vision. Many of them return to thank her for having stood firm,” says Mrs. Amy Rothenberg, general studies principal of BY of Passaic. “It’s something she transmits to her staff. It’s so easy to get swayed by emotions or by pop psychology, but we’re expected to stay strong and always speaks the emes.” Convictions don’t grow overnight. Decades ago, in a different city, a different school, they were already being put to the test. Rebbetzin Stern was the new teacher at an established school when an older teacher approached her in the teachers’ room, brandishing a piece of paper. “We’re making a petition asking that they cancel school on December 25,” she told her, explaining how hard it was to work with the lack of buses, the children at home, the logistics. The new teacher paused. It was important to give the students the message that this was not our holiday. Inconvenience or no, it was important to have school on December 25. But she was the newbie. She wanted the other teachers to like and accept her. A brief inner battle, then she gave the other teacher a smile and quietly stated her beliefs and why she couldn’t sign the petition. A moment of silence. “I respect that,” the veteran teacher finally responded. A discussion with the Rebbetzin about the chinuch principles that are the foundation of Bais Yaakov Passaic invariably leads us to the source of her convictions: She deflects any credit, pointing to her parents’ staunch convictions and the vibrant Yiddishkeit in their home.

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