“I’m a parent and I’m a businessman and I wondered about the way things were happening at my son’s cheder. I woke one morning and realized that there’s only a limited number of people who can help my children and they’re doing their best and they’re underpaid. I thought it was time to try and make a difference. That’s how I came to create Corks and Forks,” said Levy Lieberman. With a jolt of energy, he turned to help the rabbis at Cheder Menachem and, working together with several younger parents, he went ahead with the organization of a glitzy banquet that would be enticing and affordable. In 2014, he collected a sum of money that resulted in every single teacher at the school receiving a check for $1,800.
This year, Lieberman thought he might raise the stakes higher. Given that it is the Hakhel year, he expanded the program to bring an even bigger crowd and he included the girls school, Bais Chaya Mushka, in the program. With more parents involved, he is hopeful that a financial bonus will be reaching a larger group of teachers from both the schools.
Rebbetzin Shternie Lipskier has children at the Cheder and Bais Chaya Mushka. She was delighted to hear of the banquet. “Firstly, it is amazing to be able to recognize our teachers because they do so much more for our children than we imagine. They deserve our support. And this isn’t a formal banquet. This is a relaxed event with great speakers and events as well. We reach the same goal, but this is an enjoyable way to get there.”
Lieberman has certainly shown a creative mind in arranging the events. This year the food will be created by pitmaster, Rabbi Mendel Segal. Based in Leawood, Kansas, Rabbi Segal is best known as Rabbi Q because he loves to BBQ. “First, I want people who keep kosher to not have to suffer with sub-par food categories,” he said of his popularity. “If they want barbecue, they should be able to get good barbecue. Kosher can be fun.”
Also flying in for the Corks and Forks banquet is Rabbi Simon Jacobson, from The Meaningful Life Center in New York and Rabbi Moshe Lieberman from Boston, MA. They will be running a symposium on hot button issues of 21st century education and guidance. The Rabbis will attempt to tackle the arena of education in a true and candid fashion.
Many parents are intimidated by “how the crowd” does things, and reluctantly toe-the-line of the “status quo” without being fully aware of what Torah, Halacha and Chassidus have to say on a given matter. The symposium will empower parents to take a more active role in their children’s education and schools, by shedding light on their halachic rights and communal obligations.
“I’m not a ‘schools guy’ but I know that teachers in day schools struggle with low pay and it’s in our interest to help every one of them. That’s ultimately who you’re banking on to educate your kids!” said Lieberman.
At the Agudah Convention on November 15th, Rabbi David Ozeri of Congregation Yad Yosef in Flatbush spoke passionately about the need for chinuch, the need to educate our children. He spoke about the situation for today’s teachers, noting they are inadequately compensated. Lieberman was not familiar with the speech Ozeri delivered, but neither was he surprised to hear the issue is being discussed in the broader community. “This program should be expanded so that all teachers at schools, cheders and yeshivas are supported with much needed financial help. I have spoken to several other Rabbi’s and I would like to spread the program. Life isn’t cheap.”
Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz, the young businessman and philanthropist agrees with this philosophy. Every Pesach he gifts various teachers, including those at Cheder Menachem and Kolel families, with $1,000 for the Pesach holiday. Lieberman recognizes that Rechnitz inspired him to build this program.