Mazel Day School in Manhattan Beach only private school in New York to win honor for exemplary performance
By: Faygie Levy Holt
A Jewish day school in the Manhattan Beach section of Brooklyn, N.Y., was named by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Blue Ribbon School for 2022.
The Chabad-Lubavitch-affiliated Mazel Day School is the only Jewish school in the nation and the only private school in New York State to receive the designation this year. The National Blue Ribbon award honors schools where students either achieve very high learning standards or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap. Mazel took home the Blue Ribbon as an “Exemplary High Performing School” in recognition of its students’ exemplary academic achievements.
Rabbi Avremel Okonov, who co-founded the school with his wife, Chani, said: “We are very proud of our students and our school for this achievement. It speaks to not only the quality of our academic program but to the overall approach of the school, which is focused on our students’ character development and Jewish values. We hope that this will encourage more families to send their children to Jewish schools.”
The 20-year-old Mazel school started with just three preschoolers. It has added grades each year and currently educates more than 375 students in preschool through eighth grade. Many of its students are from Russian-Jewish homes.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, often spoke about the importance of Jewish education for Jewish children, and encouraged Chabad emissaries and Jewish community activists to create and support Jewish schools wherever Jewish people live. Education, the Rebbe explained, should not just be about transmitting skills, but be primarily focused on building character to ensure children grow into responsible adults and leaders in their own surroundings. For this reason he often stressed the importance of moral education in all schools, including public schools.
Several of those schools have received the Blue Ribbon citation in the past.
The Chabad-Lubavitch Hebrew Academy of Orange County, Calif., won the prestigious award in 1997 and again in 2003, and the Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh won it in 1999.
Chani Okonov, who serves as the head of Mazel Day School, said “Jewish education is the greatest gift a parent can give their Jewish child, and winning the Blue Ribbon award is just a small taste of the long-lasting returns—and nachas—that come from this investment.
“This moment is true recognition and celebration of the combined, tireless efforts of our students, teachers, parents and community in growing a beautiful, proud Jewish day school in our neighborhood!” she continued.