I always ponder what my life would look like if Rabbi Ehrenreich from Bais Yaakov of Boro Park hadn’t accepted me into his school and let me continue attending even when I couldn’t come on Sundays and arrived late every day of the week. I had valid excuses, which they took into account, baruch Hashem. We lived in Flatbush at the time, so I would take two city buses to get to school every day and two to go back home. Sometimes the buses would run sparsely on legal holidays, causing me to be extra late, and on Sundays my parents asked me to stay home to keep my little brother company.
I’m sure Rabbi Ehrenreich got many complaints from teachers about my tardiness and absence, as they affected my class participation greatly. I can’t remember ever being reprimanded by him; actually, my memories are of his smile as he greeted us on the stairs. I have a sneaking suspicion that it was due to my secret mentor, the assistant principal, Rabbi Yossi Goldstein, z”l, of “Hashem is here, Hashem is there…” fame. He had this soft but firm way about him and though he would call me into the office upon the request of some of my teachers, he would always admonish me gently and with great caring and love. I hate to imagine how different my life would be had they expelled me. I still feel a tremendous hakaras hatov to both of them.
The third person who kept me in her school even though my Hebrew was not the greatest was Rebbetzin S. Soloveitchik, a”h, from Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley. I would struggle in the beginning with the teacher’s lecturing only in Hebrew, my marks reflecting the struggle. Rebbetzin Soloveitchik would always encourage me, mark a huge red X on my Chumash test but pass me anyway. She supported me all through high school, helping me become more confident and mature. The Rebbetzin was known to be very strict and taught with depth and breadth of Torah knowledge. She expected her students to excel, and yet, she was always there for me. She would tell me that she admired my smile and tendency to greet her every morning. Those years were transformative for me and I will always be grateful to her and to Rabbi Goldstein and, ybl”c, Rabbi Ehrenreich, shlita.
That is what mechanchim were and are about. Every child was precious. We can learn so much from them.
May Hashem grant Rabbi Ehrenreich many long, healthy years to continue doing his avodas hakodesh and be able to greet Moshiach b’karov, bimheirah b’yameinu, amein.