Photo Credit: David Miller Studios
By Alisa Roberts
The Uncle Moishy concert held Nov 17 by the Yeshiva Ketana of Los Angeles was enjoyed by many. A crowd of over 800 children and families attended the event, held by a new elementary school from over the hill.
“Yeshiva Ketana of Los Angeles opened at the beginning of the last school year,” says Rabbi Aharon Rubenstein, the school’s principal. “We created the Yeshiva because there were over 200 children traveling out of the valley to go to the Hancock Park/La Brea area for elementary school. There were too many kids who were traveling, so we started a school to service these families.” The school is located on Burbank Boulevard near Laurel Canyon. It’s in the North Hollywood Valley Village area, but its students come from North Hollywood, Valley Village, Encino, and Tarzana.
Rabbi Rubenstein summarizes the school’s brief history. “We started with 20 kids and two classes, a nursery and a kindergarten class. Now we have another class, pre-1A, so we have three classes with 39 kids.” Rabbi Rubenstein hadn’t planned on starting a school, but he had planned to be an educator. Originally from Valley Village, he left to attend yeshiva in Milwaukee and then New York. He received a Master of Arts in Education, and semicha from Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim Rabbinical Seminary of America in Queens, New York. The plan to come back wasn’t originally his idea. “I moved back to start the school after being approached by various people over the years,” he explains. “I started the school myself and I have a great partner who joined me this year. His name is Rabbi Aryeh Davidowitz, and he also received semicha from Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim. He’s a native of Rochester, New York, and comes from a choshuv family of mechanchim.”
This is the third event held by the school, including a similar concert. “We held our first Uncle Moishy concert last year. We sold out.” Rabbi Rubenstein is a fan of Uncle Moishy for more than just the entertainment value. “Our goal, besides the fundraising aspect which is important to us, is to provide something for the community. Uncle Moishy’s songs have very important messages about doing mitzvahs and having good middos. We liked this event because it wasn’t just a fundraiser – it provides kosher entertainment for the children. ”
Because of the success of last year’s event, the school decided to hold it again this year, in a slightly larger venue. This year, the concert was held in the city. “We realized that the city has the larger population of Orthodox Judaism,” explains Rabbi Rubenstein, “so even though we’re a valley school, we held the concert where more people would have easier access to it.”
It was a success: over 800 people attended. “It went really well. There was incredible ruach – seeing the kids dancing. Uncle Moishy is an entertainer who doesn’t just stay on the stage. He comes down with the kids all around. He even stayed after the concert and took pictures with the kids. He also comes with a clown, Cousin Nachum, which the kids – and adults – found really funny.” Rabbi Davidowitz agrees: “It gave me such nachas to see so many happy, smiling Jewish children.”
Both Rabbis are quick to share credit. “The effort and energy put forth by our many volunteers was evident throughout the event,” says Rabbi Davidowitz. “The smooth ticketing process, flawless sound and lighting, timely program and efficient concession tables all attest to the professionalism and dedication of our PTA, parent body and many friends.” “The event coordinators – Mrs. Nechama Nafisi, PTA President and Mrs. Jennifer Manosh, PTA Treasurer – are the ones who ultimately deserve the credit for making both this year’s and last year’s concerts such huge successes,” says Rabbi Rubenstein. But he also credits those outside of his school. “A couple of other schools agreed to help us by advertising in their schools even though they weren’t making any money from the event, which is very impressive. It makes it much more of a community event: even though it was hosted by one school, other schools didn’t feel that it was exclusive of them and everyone felt welcome.”
That inclusion is important to Rabbi Rubenstein, who is hoping to hold more community events in the future. “We want to be more than just a school. We want to provide for the students inside and outside of the school so that school can be represented with fun, and learning can be exciting. It also gets people from the valley and the city mixing together, which doesn’t happen so often. It’s good for the city people to see that the valley is developing a lot, and to see that the valley is not a different country. We’re stepping up also, raising the bar.”