July 22, 2024
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Night of Celebration for JEC

Elizabeth—It was a night of recognition and celebration for the 520 parents, faculty, and friends of the Jewish Educational Center who came together for the institution’s Annual Dinner at the Venetian in Garfield, NJ, on June 17.

The evening included a gala dinner reception and a program that paid tribute to the Guests of Honor: Marty and Miriam Knecht; the Lev Tov Award recipients Harry and Mimi Stadler; the Ed­ucator of the Year Madame Esther Captan, and two maintenance personnel who have been with the JEC for over 20 years each, Stella D’Onofrio and Dennis Van Ness.

Marty Knecht is a past president of the JEC’s Board of Trustees and his six children are gradu­ates of the JEC’s girls and boys high school divi­sions. The Knechts moved to Elizabeth in 1975 when Marty accepted the position of Director of Social Planning with the then Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey. He was the first Federation representative to forge a strong relationship with Elizabeth’s Orthodox community and escorted Rabbi Pinchas M. Teitz, the founder of the JEC, to his first General Assembly in Texas, which gar­nered the European-born leader a standing ova­tion from all in attendance.

The Lev Tov Award, literally meaning “good heart,” is designated for an individual or cou­ple who has made meaningful contributions to the community and serves as role models. Har­ry Stadler is a longtime gabbai at the JEC’s Adath Israel (North Avenue) shul, and Mimi, an art­ist, has been a longtime advocate for the broad­er development of creative opportunities for the school’s children, as well as the planner and host of many educational programs over the years. The Stadlers’ three children are graduates of JEC’s high school divisions.

Madame Esther Captan was honored as Ed­ucator of the Year for her lifetime contribution to JEC. The Egyptian-born Captan immigrated to the United States in 1967 and began teach­ing at the JEC soon after her arrival in New Jersey. She started off in the boys’ high school division, teaching Arabic and French and after a few years moved over to the Bruriah girls’ high school divi­sion, where she has remained until today.

Stella D’Onofrio and Dennis Van Ness, the beloved maintenance staff who have been with the Jewish Educational Center for over two dec­ades apiece, received the most energetic ova­tion of the night as they took the stage to receive their awards. Most gratifying, shared D’Onofrio, is “seeing the mothers and fathers bringing in their children to school and they remember me from when they were children, too.” Indeed, many peo­ple shared that both Stella and Dennis are espe­cially cherished for their care and personal con­cern for each child who is a student at JEC.

In attendance were also community rabbis from across the demographic that JEC serves, representing the communities of Elizabeth, Hill­side, West Orange, Linden, Springfield, Living­ston, Lakewood, Edison, Highland Park, Passiac/ Clifton, Teaneck, Bergenfield, Monsey, and Staten Island, NY.

The mood was celebratory and the ambi­ance modern yet elegant, thanks to the lighting, mega screens and special effects by Uri Abram­ov and his Olam DJ & production crew. They also produced the video presentations made for each of the honorees, which are available for viewing, along with a photo album of the evening, at Face­book.com/theJEC.

Catering by Marty Mayer was delectable and featured an array of creative offerings which left all of the guests both awed and extremely satiat­ed.

Adina Abramov, the institution’s chief market­ing officer remarked, “For what some have con­sidered an ‘off’ year, raising $300,000 and gener­ating such great interest and participation…one might say that the dinner was indeed a smashing success.”

For more information, please contact Adina Abramov 908-355-4850, extension 6205 or email [email protected].

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