It was just about 60 years ago that Mr. Braverman, A"H, convinced my parents to send me to the Yeshivah of Flatbush High School. My ambition upon graduation (as was even noted in our yearbook) was to become the Principal of the High School. Upon graduating college, Mr. Braverman told me that if I still had that ambition, I should study for my Master's degree in Israel, but not in education. I followed his advice, which I realized later on was very wise. Sure enough, a few years following my return from Israel, I heard from a member of the school board, that just before he became ill Mr. Braverman recommended that I be appointed head of the Elementary School. I held that position for three years, until I made aliyah. There is no question that I, as well as thousands of other alumni, owe a great debt to Joel Braverman, and understandably, it was very important for us to visit his grave on February 6th/ י"ז שבט, the eve of his yahrzeit, to honor his memory.
I had been thinking about this for many years, but my busy work schedule, in addition to the great distance from Jerusalem to Netivot, where he and his wife Rivka are buried, made me procrastinate year after year. However, I was now retired and was recently remarried to Rochelle Stutman Mogilner, a former classmate of mine at Flatbush. She, too, had fond memories of Mr. Braverman and encouraged me to go, so I had no more excuses.
I shared my idea with Alumni Director Bebe Levitt, and she sent out an email inviting all alumni in Israel interested in traveling to Netivot to contact me. At first, only a handful responded, but ultimately, we had a group of over 30 eager participants and we hired a bus for the trip: Rita Baumgarten (Karp, ES 1957, HS 1961), Sharon Benzioni (Berman, ES 1965, HS 1969), Eli Berman (ES 1961, HS 1965), Shmuel Blumert (ES 1953, HS 1957), Tzippy Cedar ( Krieger, HS 1960), Arleen Eidelman (Pilzer, ES 1952, HS 1956), Moshe Even-Zahav (Marvin Goldstein, ES 1959, HS 1963), Sarah Farkas (Pinchuk, HS 1958), Chaim Fischgrund (HS 1965), Rochelle Gastwirt (Stutman Mogilner, ES 1954, HS 1958), Zvi Gastwirt (HS 1958), Rabbi Sidney Goldstein (ES 1949), Chana Greenberg (YOF faculty), Marcia Greenwald (Wilk, ES 1945, YOF faculty), Sarah Harris (YOF faculty), Aaron Katchen (ES 1956, HS 1960), Leon Kestenbaum (ES 1945), Sandy Kestenbaum (ES 1942), Harold Z. Levine (Honorary YOF President, Trustee), Maxine Ziva Maisels (ES 1953, HS 1957), Michael Michaelson (HS 1963), Serena Michaelson (Taub, HS 1964), Amy Persky (ES 1965, HS 1969), Sammy Pilzer (ES 1955, HS 1959), Yale Port (YOF School Psychologist), Oreet Segal (ES 1965, HS 1969), Chaya Staum (Levine, HS 1958), Ruth Wahrman-Schreiber (Gutman, HS 1960), Toby Winter (Berman, ES 1957, HS 1961), Judy Yocheved Zemel (Kamzan, HS 1959), Debby Zioni (Schwimmer, ES 1968, HS 1972), Sheila Zucker (Rosenfeld, ES 1956, HS 1960)
In preparation for our visit I contacted the President of the local teachers' college who spoke to the head of the Community Council of Netivot, and both enthusiastically helped in preparations for the trip. The graves were located and cleaned, and new signs were ordered for the building that was built with funds collected from Flatbush students as well as from Mr. Braverman's personal funds. Currently, the building houses an auditorium that services all of the educational institutions in the area.
We arrived in Netivot about 3:45 PM and stayed until after 7:00 PM., much longer than we had ever anticipated. We were greeted by the President of the college and learned about the institution currently housed on the campus; and the new signs and plaques, indicating the dedication to Yoel and Rivka Braverman, were unveiled.
From there, we made the short trip to the cemetery to visit the Bravermans' gravesite and conduct a memorial service, and we heard stirring memories shared by Sandy Kestenbaum (ES 1942), whose parents were founders of the Yeshivah. We returned to the College for refreshments and more reminiscences from members of our group. I dedicated a siyyum on Masechet Yevamot that we had just finished learning in the Daf Yomi cycle. Marcia Greenwald (nee Wilk, ES 1945), a graduate, daughter of founders of the Yeshivah, parent of alumni, and former member of the YOF faculty, read the moving tribute that Lynnette Gruenhut (nee Schulder, ES 1963, HS 1967) had delivered to YOF High School students at an assembly commemorating Mr. Braverman's yahrzeit several years ago. We all shared our own individual memories and stories about Mr. Braverman, evoking laughter and feelings of nostalgia.
We returned home spiritually uplifted and grateful that we could in some small measure honor the man who had such a great influence on our lives.