By Sandy Eller

More than 450 Monsey residents trekked to New Jersey on June 18th to enjoy what may very well be the first ever dinner theater featuring a full cast of yeshiva students.

The show, titled “Expectations,” was presented by the members of Yeshiva Shaarei Arazim’s after- school program and featured the talents of approximately 50 10- to 12-year-old boys from all over the Monsey community. Guests arriving at the trendily chic Factory 220 in Passaic were greeted to a red carpet welcome before enjoying a lavish reception complete with a photo booth and chamber music played by members of the Expectations orchestra.

The excitement was palpable as everyone filed into the main room for an elaborate five course dinner.  Despite the exquisite decor and magnificent menu, all eyes were focused on the center of the room, where a long stage jutted out onto the floor. Throughout the night, the performers charmed, entertained and impressed guests with their talents in an original dramatic production that included an orchestra of more than 20 pieces, a 10 person choir and an acrobatic troupe featuring 13 boys from the after-school program and 10 adult members from Mesivta Shaarei Arazim.

The Rappaport Foundation after school program was started a year ago in conjunction with Mesivta Shaarei Arazim, as an opportunity to give boys a chance to excel and develop their G-d-given talents.  Over the past two years, more than 150 boys have taken part in the program, the brainchild of Rabbi Zev Freundlich, Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta Shaarei Arazim.

“There is no forum for a regular kid to shine,” Rabbi Freundlich told Monsey.com. “If your kid decides to take guitar lessons, he will stop in a month or two because there is no way for him to showcase his talents as they develop. Public schools have concerts, but in our schools, the only place a boy has to shine is either in learning or maybe sports. By giving them a chance like this to be in the spotlight, the kids are motivated to continue growing their talents, and more often than not, that same growth extends to other areas of their lives as well.”

Another important facet of the program is a sense of achdus, as participants hail from most area yeshivos including ASHAR, Yeshiva of Spring Valley, Yeshiva of North Jersey, Yeshiva Darchei Noam, Yeshiva Degel Hatorah, Yeshiva  Bais Dovid, Vien, Satmar, Pupa, Munkatch and Skver. High- caliber professionals are brought in to work with the boys, with Mendel Deutsch heading the orchestra, Berel Sofer leading the choir, Sam Klaver teaching drums and Olympic gymnast Frank Adams training the acrobats.

“Expectations” was directed by Ari Abramowitz and Rabbi Freundlich is already thinking ahead to next year’s dinner show, which will be bigger and better, showcasing similar after-school programs from multiple locations throughout the New York metropolitan area.

“My goal for next year is to have a 50-piece orchestra,” said Rabbi Freundlich. “There is no other venue for a kid to have the chance to be  a star. This is all about the kids and giving them a chance to shine.”

Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who writes for numerous websites, newspapers, magazines and many private clients.  She can be contacted at sandyeller1@gmail.com.

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