With the support of Congregation Bnai Avraham members and parents of her Gan Menachem Kiddie Korner Preschool, who filled the courtroom of Brooklyn Borough Hall, Chabad-Lubavitch emissary Shternie Raskin received an award for 20 years of excellence in Jewish education from Borough President Marty Markowitz.
Raskin, whose husband, Rabbi Ari Raskin, directs Chabad of Brooklyn Heights, launched the preschool in 1992 with her eldest son and one other child. Since then, it’s grown to be the largest Jewish preschool in downtown Brooklyn, serving 130 children from infancy to age 5 from the neighborhoods of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo.
Markowitz and the Brooklyn Jewish Heritage Committee also honored Rabbi Jack Meyer, director of the Misaskim non-profit organization, and Hadassah, the women’s organization that is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Hadassah regional president Gail Hammerman represented her group at the Wednesday ceremony.
In accepting her award, Raskin told a story about the 18th century Chasidic leader Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi and the home he shared with his oldest married son, Rabbi Dovber. One night, the son, who was known for his unusual power of concentration, failed to notice the cries of his young infant in the midst of his Torah studies. But Rabbi Schneur Zalman interrupted his studies to come downstairs and soothe the child.
“No matter how preoccupied one may be with the loftiest occupation, one must never remain insensitive to the cry of a child,” Rabbi Schneur Zalman admonished his son.
Raskin saw in the story a lesson for all who are involved in Jewish education.
“Presently, there are many children that have fallen from their cradle – people that have become alienated and cry out for help,” Raskin told the crowd. “These souls are hungry for the word of G‑d and for His Torah, and there is no one attending to them.
“It is forbidden to remain indifferent to the cries of these children,” she continued. “We must interrupt every other activity and attend to the needs of these people.”
A daughter of Rabbi Shmuel and Devorah Plotkin of Berdichev, Ukraine, Raskin graduated from the Beth Rivkah Seminary in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights and continued her education at the Kfar Chabad Seminary in Israel. She graduated in 1989 with a degree in early childhood education.
The Jewish Heritage Night awards followed the launch of the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative’s new website and project to focus on each neighborhood’s unique Jewish past.