On the night of Sunday, February 13, the Conejo Jewish Day School – a unique Torah elementary school located in picturesque Agoura Hills, California – celebrated its annual Banquet at the Teichman Family Social Hall in Tarzana. Centered around the theme of “A joyous today; a brighter tomorrow”, the gala evening was attended by some 300 guests and was highlighted by performances by the CJDS Choir, a “silent auction” and a rousing keynote address by renowned author, lecturer and nationally syndicated radio talk-show host, Dennis Prager.
Rabbi Moshe D. Bryski, Executive Director of Chabad of the Conejo, who also serves as the dean of the Conejo Jewish Day School, told the Banquet audience that the astounding developments that have seen the Conejo Jewish Day School more than triple its enrollment in the span of its four year existence, was a tribute to the extraordinary dedication of a pioneering group of lay leaders who dared to transform the dream of establishing such a school into a living and dynamic reality.
Settling for nothing less the highest standards of academic excellence in both its Judaic and secular programs, the school also offers a warm, intimate and lively environment – enabling it to hold its own with the most acclaimed and reputable schools all throughout Southern California. Indeed, there are residents from areas as far away as North Hollywood who commute extra hours each day in favoring CJDS over the schools in their more immediate area.
The evening also paid tribute to community activist and founding board member, Lisa Friedman, who received the Eishet Chayil Award; as well as current board member and special projects coordinator, Giselle Scharf, who was presented with the Leadership Award.
While the banquet program was replete with many entertaining, moving and memorable moments, the most stirring and stimulating of all seemed to come during the speech given by Dennis Prager – punctuated by a roaring standing ovation upon its conclusion. In lauding the efforts of all those who support the Conejo Jewish Day School, Prager compellingly made the case that nothing is more vital to the betterment of society and the continuity of the Jewish People than providing an education rooted in innocence, goodness and G-dliness. As one of the founding board members of the Conejo Jewish Day School, Dennis Prager also reflected nostalgically about the fact that the school actually held its first year of classes in his former ranch/home in nearby Hidden Hills, and that he felt the school was particularly blessed to be under the spiritual auspices of Chabad.
“I lecture all over the country and am involved with groups from all across the spectrum of Jewish organizational life,” he said. “I can tell you that the beauty of Chabad is that all they really seek to achieve is to get people to do good. They do not judge, they do not evaluate; they do not measure a Jew by what mitzvos he does or does not do. They accept you for who you are… If they were faking it, I would know by now. I’ve been around them long enough to attest to the fact that this is real. They are real. Our community is truly blessed to have leaders like Rabbi Bryski to bring Torah and Judaism into our homes, our hearts and souls.”
The banquet, which served as the school’s primary fund-raiser for the year was an all around success. According to School President, Leora Langberg, and banquet corrdinator, Debra Laskow, the silent auction –- which featured an array of gifts, Judaica and unique works of art –- also generated thousands of dollars in vitally needed additional revenue for the school.
In the words of one grateful school parent: “The Conejo Jewish Day School is truly the Little Engine That Could. It is a school that runs on the sheer force of will that oozes from the founding board members and the love the students and teachers have for each other.”
The evening was indeed reflective of its theme: A joyous today paving the way for a brighter tomorrow.