Celebrating family this Monday, nearly 600 parents, alumni, faculty and friends came together at Factory 220 for the Jewish Educational Center’s Annual Gala. The spirit was lively as guests enjoyed the company of good friends while supporting an institution central to local Jewish life.
“The atmosphere was electric,” said Dr. Steve Singfer, JEC president. “People were genuinely happy to be there,” he explained. “These honorees, our faculty, parents and friends, are such a special part of this incredible family. It was really a wonderful evening.”
The gala featured parents, alumni and educators who personify the values of the JEC and its three divisions—The JEC Lower School, Rav Teitz Mesivta Academy and Bruriah High School.
“The JEC means family,” said Brian Ness, who emceed the event. “And tonight we have first-, second-, third- and fourth-generation families celebrating with us. That shows the success of our institution,” he declared. “When parents and then grandparents entrust us with the education of their children as they did their own, it says something about who we are.”
Honorees included Dr. Aryeh and Myra Pirak of Springfield, New Jersey—Grandparents of the Year; David and Sarah Goldstein of Passaic, New Jersey—Parents of the Year; and David and Debbie Schiff of Teaneck, New Jersey—Family Legacy Award. Special presentations were made to former Associate Dean Rabbi Eliyahu Teitz for his nearly three decades of contribution to the JEC, and RTMA Associate Principal Rabbi Sharir Yablonsky, who is leaving the JEC after a quarter century to assume the helm of RJJ in Staten Island next year.
The 50th anniversary of the reunification of Yerushalayim played a central role in the evening with a special video presentation on the IDF’s retaking of Har HaBayit, bringing many in the audience to tears. The JEC also paid special tribute to the many JEC alumni, boys and girls, who served in the IDF, donning the uniform in defense of the Jewish State, including nine RTMA graduates and four Bruriah graduates who are currently on active duty in the IDF.
In keeping with the 50-year anniversary theme, RTMA and Bruriah also recognized the graduating classes of 1967.
David and Naomi (Pinchas) Graber were recognized as the very first of almost 100 JEC-Bruriah alumni couples, and Gilda Baime Brandwein, a member of the very first Bruriah class, which graduated in 1967; her daughter Hinda Brandwein Landa, Bruriah 1994; and granddaughter Fruma Landa, Bruriah 2017, were recognized as the very first three-generation Bruriah graduate family.
In a late addition to the program, Bruriah junior Mikayla Elk was recognized for reaching her 1.5 million penny goal after a year of fundraising in memory of the number of Jewish children who perished in the Shoah. Her mentor, veteran Bruriah faculty member Joel Glazer, was thanked to large applause for his innovations and empowerment of students over the last decades.
The event space was transformed into an incredible school showcase with students from all three divisions participating in the event. The Lower School choir led the singing of the national anthems and students from both Bruriah and RTMA led live demonstrations of their latest STEM innovations, which have earned international attention with a slew of recent competition wins.
JEC Rav HaIr and Dean Rav Elazar Mayer Teitz inspired the crowd with his humor, passion and strength as he took to the podium with a message of confidence and great expectation for continued and even bolder success in the future.
As the final video of the evening closed to the strains of the energetic “Kulanu Yachad,” it was clear that the united path of the JEC into the future is stronger and brighter than ever.