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Rabbi Jonathan Knapp to Be Honored at Yavneh Academy Dinner

Yavneh Academy in Paramus, now marking its 79th year and currently educating over 800 students from pre-k through eighth grade, is gearing up for its upcoming dinner. On Motzei Shabbat, January 15, the Marriott at Glenpointe will host a festive dinner honoring Rabbi Jonathan Knapp, devoted head of school for the past 20 years. Also recognized will be Dr. Rachel Jacobs, ’93, who will receive the Service Award, and two long-standing faculty members, Morah Jordana Baruchov and Linda Gans.

Rabbi Knapp said: “After my family, my greatest pride and joy is serving in my role at Yavneh Academy. There has always been excitement in preserving Yavneh’s great history as a creative and dynamic educational institution.Yavneh’s mission in providing premier Judaic and general studies education remains a sacred trust to be delivered in a caring, thoughtful and spiritual environment.

“Over the years, the methods of delivery have evolved so that we now incorporate the latest in modern educational research into our classrooms. Uppermost in our goals is to create an atmosphere in which our students are energized and engaged in their love of Torah, Yiddishkeit and medinat Yisrael.”

Rabbi Knapp joined Yavneh Academy in 2001, serving first as assistant principal of Judaic studies. Since 2006, he has served as principal/head of school. Under his expert stewardship, Yavneh Academy was twice granted Middle States Accreditation. Always seeking innovative additions to the school offerings, Rabbi Knapp has spearheaded the Inclusion Program, the new Social-Emotional Learning Program through the Foundations Program, and an extensive elective program through which students can select from multiple offerings throughout the school day.

In addition, Rabbi Knapp instituted expanded dean and student programming roles, which promote school ruach through co-curricular programming; and has increased the emphasis on spoken Hebrew. Over the past two years, Rabbi Knapp, together with his co-administrators and faculty, did a yeoman’s job in keeping Yavneh steady and fully-functioning during the COVID pandemic, and created two grand-scale outdoor graduations.

Rabbi Steven Penn has worked closely with Rabbi Knapp for the past three years as associate head of school, prior to which he served as the lower school principal since 2008. “Rabbi Knapp encourages us all to be reflective, to be honest with our assessments,” said Rabbi Penn. “He is always encouraging us to improve through displaying his own energy and enthusiasm. Our school has grown academically through the expansion of courses and new programs and through the opportunities it offers us through conferences and workshops to study the latest methodologies that address all kinds of learners.”

Service Award Recipient Rachel Jacobs holds the distinction of herself having been a pre-k through eighth-grade student at Yavneh, graduating in 1993. Her two oldest sons are recent Yavneh graduates, and her daughter is a current sixth grader. Having been involved with Yavneh for close to a quarter of a century, she sees in Yavneh a second home, but notices the changes over the years, which she sees are all for the good.

Jacobs balances a busy professional life as a dentist in Dumont, New Jersey, with her parenting and the various roles she has assumed at Yavneh. She has served as YPAA co-president for two years, served on the YPAA Board for six years, and currently serves as a member of the Yavneh board of directors. In addition, she chaired the Yavneh calendar and directory for many years. She has also volunteered at numerous Yavneh programs including the open house, book fair, Purim chagiga, supper quiz and mom’s night out, and is a recent YPAA color war champion.

Jordana Baruchov is a lifelong learner herself, which accounts for the excitement that she brings to her classroom daily. Over the past 27 years, Baruchov has taught Chumash, Megillah, Navi, parsha and other limudei kodesh subjects to middle school students at Yavneh. She was responsible for incorporating the popular Daglanut ceremony for Yom Ha’Atzmaut as well as Project Shabbat, which provides food to as yet unaffiliated Jews. She currently serves as a middle school dean.

During the last 15 years, Baruchov has been creating innovative, engaging and spiritual programming for the Middle School. She holds the distinction of being the first Yavneh faculty member to be honored with the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. Baruchov has created a personal podcast called “Drink It In.” Her greatest thrill is seeing her former students tune in to continue learning Torah with her during her Thursday evening parsha class. “A famous chazal teaches us that the fish in the ocean who live in water, come to the surface when it rains to drink from the rainwater. Similarly, we can never learn enough Torah.”

It was Yavneh’s fortune that Linda Gans decided to put her career in finance “on hold” to pursue a teaching career while her three children were growing up and attending Yavneh Academy. Joining Yavneh’s General Studies faculty in 1995, Gans has taught English literature, math and reading for the past 26 years. She sets an example for her students by being a voracious reader herself. She also provides a readers’ workshop for Grades three through six, and most recently offers a class in organizational skills for sixth graders.She enjoys cooking, playing mahjong and “shepping nachas” from her four grandchildren. Gans and husband, Jerome, have been proud members of the Fair Lawn community for over 30 years.

As president of the board of Yavneh for the past three years, Adam Fried added: “We are incredibly excited to be celebrating Yavneh’s 79th dinner. Yavneh has been a fixture in our home for the past 16 years, starting with our first child in the school, and culminating with our youngest child, who is graduating this year. Yavneh has been our extended family and community and many of our closest friendships have been formed through Yavneh. We greatly value the commitment to Jewish education and academic excellence in a warm and nurturing environment, catering to the social and emotional well-being of our children.

“Our leader, Rabbi Knapp, has been instrumental in building Yavneh into the exceptional school it is today. He has led our school with passion, devotion and commitment. His energy and enthusiasm, coupled with his ability to relate to every child at their level, has helped Yavneh Academy achieve its greatness!”

The 79th Annual Yavneh Academy Dinner will be held on Motzei Shabbat, January 15, 2022, at 8 p.m. at the Teaneck Marriott at Glenpointe. (Program will be livestreamed for those who wish to watch from home.)

To RSVP or make a donation, visit www.yavnehdinner.com. Kindly reply by Sunday, December 26. All guests must be fully vaccinated.

By Pearl Markovitz


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