Public School Students Celebrate Their Hour of Jewish Education

By Hamodia Staff

A Released Time student displays his award.

An hour a week may not seem like a lot of time, but for the 300,000 Jewish public school students that have joined Released Time since its inception 81 years ago, that hour hour is life-changing.

The Released Time program, under the auspices of the National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Educations, sponsors one hour of free Jewish education every Wednesday to over 800 Jewish children from over 60 public schools across New York City, in local shuls and Jewish centers.

Every Wednesday at noon, vans, buses, and Ubers pull up to the Released Time offices in Brooklyn to pick up over 150 Rabbinic students, volunteer instructors, and transport them to public schools around the city.

This week, hundreds of families gathered at the Bukharian Jewish Community Center in Queens to celebrate the impact that just sixty minutes of Jewish education has, at the annual Released Time banquet at the end of the school year.

“Ever since my children started Released Time I’ve noticed a real difference in them,” Boris Paltielov, a parent, shared onstage at the event. Paltielov has two children in the program, and both are motivated to practice the new mitzvos they learn about in Released Time. “Lately Shabbat has been given new life in our home.”

“Because of Released Time, I’ve come to love Wednesdays,” declared 9-year-old Shylee Shabat as she addressed the crowd. A student at P.S. 178, Shylee is finishing her fourth year of Released Time — almost 200 accumulated hours of Torah study. “Every week I come home with new knowledge about Judaism. What I love most is that we’re never bored—we get to learn by having fun!”

At the banquet, room burst into high energy songs as the families took the opportunity to sing Jewish anthems taught at Released Time, like, “I”m a Jew and I’m proud, and I’ll sing it out loud” and “Hashem is here, Hashem is there, Hashem is truly everywhere.”

There was also an awards ceremony for children who showed outstanding dedication to their learning.

One family was so uplifted following the banquet that they committed to take their children out of public school and send them to yeshiva. “After sitting together surrounded by other Jews, hearing from other parents in the program, I realized a Jewish school is where my children belong,” the parent shared. Rabbi Sadya Engel, coordinator of the Released Time program, immediately set out to connect the family to a school that would best suit their needs. 

Two children at the banquet were overheard telling each other, “Next week in day camp, let’s tell all the Jewish kids in camp to join Released Time next year, because it’s the most fun program in the world.”

A Released Time student and his father at the annual banquet.

A parent speaking

An awarded student
Rabbi Sholem Ber Hecht, chairman of the National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Educations
Rabbi Shea Hecht (L) and Rabbi Shalom Ber Hecht (R) thank philanthropist Yosef Yitzchak Popack (C) for his support of Released Time.

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