Religion & Beliefs

“Lean On Me” Meets “Yentl.” Sort of.

Here's the next in the inspirational genre of films that includes classics like Lean on Me, Stand and Deliver, and Dangerous Minds: the story of Shimon Waronker and the South Bronx junior high school that he has singlehandedly brought back … Read More

By / February 11, 2008

Here's the next in the inspirational genre of films that includes classics like Lean on Me, Stand and Deliver, and Dangerous Minds: the story of Shimon Waronker and the South Bronx junior high school that he has singlehandedly brought back from the throes of urban death.

A Hasid originally from South America, he speaks fluent Spanish, has a background in the military, is a former public school teacher, and is Yeshiva educated. Though it took him a while to get a job after graduating from the New York City Leadership Academy, he has worked wonders since becoming the principal of Junior High School 22, where students once "roamed the hallways with abandon" and attendance was a joke.

Despite critics who claim that Waronker is "more concerned with creating flashy new programs than with ensuring they survive," attendance is now above 93%, and Junior High 22 is no longer on the city’s list of the 12 most dangerous. Better yet, Waronker's students now have course options such as French and Spanish dual language programs and etiquette training. He's added "two guidance counselors, one psychologist, two social workers, three family workers, and one attendance teacher to the school staff."

Students and parents at Junior High 22 have even learned a thing or two about Jewish stereotypes: "One parent, Angie Vazquez, 37, acknowledged that her upbringing had led her to wonder: 'Wow, we’re going to have a Jewish person, what’s going to happen? Are the kids going to have to pay for lunch?'"