The Jewish School of Sunnyside
by Lee Stonehill
In 1945, together with other neighborhood parents, my father organized a secular Jewish school that met weekly on Sunday mornings. It was called the Jewish School of Sunnyside. The students numbered about 100 and were of primary school age. The school disbanded in 1950.
Archives are on file with Gella Schweid Fishman, Project Director, The Secular Yiddish Schools of America, The Stanford University Libraries, Special Collections, Stanford Calif 94305-6004. Also, there are archives in my home.
Unfortunately, Yiddish was not taught as a subject until the end of the final semester according to my memory. My guess is the parents could not readily agree on which language to teach: Hebrew, Yiddish or English only. All of the pupils came from English-speaking households.
As a business man, my father was mainly involved in advertising for students, recruiting teachers, interviewing prospective teachers and hiring and paying them. The leadership positions were rotated yearly among the most interested parents.
My theory is that the disclosure in 1945 of the extent of the Holocaust prompted an impulse among Sunnyside parents to do something to ensure the survival of secular Jewish culture. My father may have been the originator of the idea of forming a school, sending meeting notices to a list of likely parents.
Lee (Lenox) Stonehill grew up in Sunnyside Gardens, attending PS 150, JHS 125 and William Cullen Bryant High School (June 1955). He retired in 2009 from the NY City Human Resources Administration. His avocation is local history. He is married and the father of three adult children. He currently lives in Astoria, Queens.