Robert Ivker, 57, lives in West Orange with his wife and their two children. A member of Congregation AABJ&D, Ivker has lived in the community for nearly seven years. After announcing his run for the board of education, Ivker spoke with The Jewish Link about his goals for West Orange and why he is the man to make them happen.
What inspired you to get involved in the local community at such a grassroots level?
In high school, we would get a ride to the Jewish Federation Senior Housing across town, where we would spend time with the folks who had no family. That’s where it all started for me, along with the example my parents set. More recently, in honor of the birth of our first child, my family set up a fund for Holocaust survivors living in Brooklyn. These kind souls are living on handouts and donations, so we decided to try to help. Thank God, 15 years later, the Ivker Fund for Holocaust Survivors at the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst is still going strong. I am grateful to Hashem for giving me the opportunity to help so many people over the years.
You have a successful career as an oncologist, but what qualifies you to be on the board of education?
Treating cancer patients for so many years has trained me to identify the goal, put the right team together and then achieve success. I have been working since I was 15 years old, in large and small companies, for-profits and nonprofits. I believe that my experience in dealing with budgets as well as my track record of bringing people together to solve problems makes me a worthwhile candidate for the West Orange board of education.
What made you decide to run for the BOE instead of a different position?
My son is in the special needs program at West Orange High School, and my daughter is a fifth-grade student at the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy. Regardless of where your kids go to school—in fact, whether or not you have any kids in school—the board of education matters. More than half of our property taxes go to the schools. In addition, there are many areas where schools such as Kushner rely on a strong working relationship with the township. Bussing is just one example. I want to make sure that this wonderful community in which we are blessed to live has a seat at the table when important decisions, that affect all of us, are made.
On your website (https://ivker4woboe.com/), you list “measurable improvement in every school” as one of your primary goals. Can you tell us how you plan to measure improvement?
Anything that can be counted or measured can be improved upon. This goes for test scores, class sizes and every other method we use to see how the schools are doing.
Likewise, you list “total parent involvement” as a primary goal. While admirable, this seems quite lofty. How do you plan to achieve this?
Parents must be provided the opportunity to weigh in on all issues concerning their children. To do so, we must make a better effort at getting the word out on what these issues are. By doing so we will increase attendance at school board meetings and improve communication between parents, teachers and administrators.
According to New Jersey Urology, as chairman of radiation oncology at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, Ivker has enrolled more prostate patients in clinical trials than nearly all other physicians in New Jersey. He has served as president of the Oncology Society of New Jersey and has been recognized as one of New Jersey’s Top Doctors by New Jersey Monthly. This interview has been edited for clarity and space.
By Talia Liben Yarmush