With photos by Bruriah senior Abby Leykin of Staten Island and RTMA junior Binyamin Weitz of Passaic. 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 Jewish life in our area.
“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 outstanding 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 “Grandparents of the Year” Dr. Aryeh and Mrs. Myra Pirak of Springfield, NJ; “Parents of the Year” David and Sarah Goldstein of Passaic; and Family Legacy Award recipients David and Debbie Schiff of Teaneck. Special presentations were made to former associate dean Rabbi Eliyahu Teitz for his nearly three decades of contribution to the JEC and to RTMA associate principal Rabbi Sharir Yablonsky, who is leaving the JEC after a quarter-century to assume the helm of RJJ on 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 of 1967, RTMA and Bruriah also recognized the two graduating classes of 1967.
David and Naomi (Pinchas) Graber were recognized as the first of almost 100 JEC–Bruriah alumni couples, and Gilda Baime Brandwein, a member of the first Bruriah class, which graduated in 1967, her daughter Hinda Brandwein Landa, Bruriah 1994, and granddaughter Fruma Landa, Bruriah 2017, were recognized as the 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 number of 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 Ha’ir 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.