The Teach NJ organization, the New Jersey arm of the Orthodox Union’s Teach Coalition, welcomed Governor Phil Murphy at their inaugural dinner on Wednesday, May 15, at the Newark Museum. Supporters included 15 state legislators and elected town and county leaders who attended the event to celebrate the success of the coalition and encourage others to support it.
“I’m honored to be with all the leaders of different faith communities and elected officials, brought together tonight by Teach NJ,” said Governor Murphy. “I applaud Teach NJ for working in coalition with schools of different faiths, to benefit all of our state’s children.”
Governor Murphy reminded the crowd of Teach NJ’s biggest success so far: the signing of two new legislative bills at Yeshiva Beis Hillel in Passaic in January. One bill the governor signed that day doubled the state’s allocation of security funding to nonpublic schools to $22.6 million, and the other established a program to provide security grants from the state’s office of homeland security to houses of worship, nonpublic schools and nonprofit organizations.
Governor Murphy credited state legislators for their leadership in crafting and passing these two bills. He added that after seeing the acts of hatred in Pittsburgh and at other houses of worship that “we had to act. And recent events, and new bias incidents, have sadly shown the wisdom of our actions.”
The governor concluded his remarks by saying, “We do all we do not just for our children but for our children’s children, l’dor v’dor (from generation to generation). And we are so glad to have Teach NJ as our partners in this work.”
The Teach NJ dinner’s success was built as well on the passion of their coalition partners. Speaking at the dinner, Mareeya Agheem, the middle school and high school division head of the Darul Arqam School, an Islamic parochial school in South River, mentioned Teach NJ’s work in bringing together eighth grade students from their school and Ben Porat Yosef Yeshiva recently. “This was a great event, and very productive, in discovering similarities between our students and opening the door to sharing information on our faith and practices. This was a really great stepping stone to getting to know each other and making things happen for our students,” she said.
Underscoring the importance of their work in building bridges to enhance their shared capacity for cooperation, Teach NJ co-founder and executive committee chair Sam Moed presented recognition awards at the dinner to three active partners in their work: Sufia Azmat, the executive director of the Council of Islamic Schools in North America; Archdiocese of Newark leader Mary McElroy, representing the Catholic Conference; and Dr. James Smock, head of school of Timothy Christian School in Piscataway, representing Association of Christian Schools International. The dinner also featured speeches by Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the OU, and Rabbi Menachem Genack, the chief executive officer of OU Kosher.
Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak from the 18th legislative district was particularly enthusiastic about the organization and the dinner. “It’s my honor to be here. This is a great event, for such a special purpose: to support Teach NJ and especially to help keep all our kids safe,” he said.
By Harry Glazer