July 12, 2024
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July 12, 2024
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RPRY Dinner Draws Hundreds for Celebration of School and Community

The Maza family.

There was something about the annual dinner of the Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva (RPRY) in Edison on June 19 that felt quite a bit bigger than just another yeshiva dinner.

It may simply be a function of the fact that in Central New Jersey, there is one day school that aims to serve the broad spectrum of observant Jewish belief and practice and that school is RPRY. And that is why the dinner drew well over 300 people, including rabbonim and lay leaders from five area shuls and attendees representing many others.

It may also reflect the fact that, in choosing honorees for this dinner, the school designated six people who have led RPRY’s annual effort, now 10 years old, to meticulously preserve the memories of Holocaust survivors and engage students in the process, and two young alumni who are on the vanguard of current Jewish struggles. The yeshiva’s effort is built on its participation in the nationally renowned Names Not Numbers © project, an interactive, multimedia, Holocaust oral history film project, created by educator Tova Fish-Rosenberg.

Highland Park Mayor Elsie Foster, left, and Edison Councilman Asaf Shmuel.

“We are exceedingly grateful to Tova Fish-Rosenberg and the whole Names Not Numbers © team,” said Rabbi Michael Ribalt, head of school, to The Jewish Link after the dinner. “This project has become the centerpiece of RPRY’s eighth grade experience and is a major, major draw of the school’s educational program.”

The RPRY dinner brought well-earned attention to Guests of Honor Moshe and Susan Wiesel. Susan’s parents, Imre and Rachel Lefkovits, were both Holocaust survivors and the school’s dinner is named in tribute to them. Susan and Moshe have shown great dedication to many local causes and it was Susan who first introduced the Names Not Numbers © project to the school. Moshe and Susan are the parents of RPRY second grade teacher Chani Weisel and grandparents of three recent graduates.

Recognition awards went to RPRY teacher Nitza Adler, consultant Chaya Friedman, lay leader Penny Kaplan, and teacher Rabbi Nachum Lapa, who are all deeply involved in RPRY’s annual year-long Names Not Numbers © project, that involves the entire eighth grade class in researching, interviewing and filming a cohort of area Holocaust survivors.

Honoree Chaya Friedmann, center, with two good friends from her shul (Congregation B’nai Israel, Manalapan).

Medal of Honor awardee Sandy Getraer, RPRY alum ’07, lives with his wife, Shifra, and their four children in Talmon, Israel. He previously served in the Kfir Brigade in the Israeli Defense Forces and is now serving again, as Sergeant First Class, in the fighting in Gaza. Medal of Honor awardee Liana Maza, RPRY alumna ’15, was a staunch advocate for Israel on her college campus of Cornell University over the past year and was very active in Jewish life and causes on campus.

The school dinner was held in the Hillel building on the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus and was filled with proud school parents, teachers, administrators, school alumni and other community members.

Commenting on the caliber of the honorees, Rabbi Ribalt referenced the introduction of Pesach Sheni in Parshas Naso, read the previous Shabbos. He said: “Rabbi Gavriel Friedman discusses moments when we have an opportunity to perform a mitzvah, but circumstances prevent us from seizing it. One response might be to accept that the moment has passed and move on (an approach known as the Pesach Rishon or PR Jew). However, the PS Jew, the Pesach Sheni Jew, refuses to give up. They actively seek out opportunities to assist, to act and to support those in need.

“Tonight, we honor individuals who embody the spirit of resilience and dedication. They are the Pesach Sheni Jews among us, continuously seeking opportunities to make a difference and uplift those in need.”

School President Rabbi Jordan Kaplan thanked the elected officials who came to support the dinner—Mayor Elsie Foster of Highland Park and Councilman Asaf Shmuel of Edison—and recognized the volunteers who led the effort to organize the dinner, including Marninah Hersh, Elana Kurtz, Jordy Lipschitz, Sara Fischer, Leslie Ostrin and Laura Weiss.

Rabbi Michael Ribalt, head of school, standing—far right, with community rabbis.

Kaplan celebrated the top awards and victories that groups from the school received this past school year, including robotics, Torah Bowl and the girl’s soccer team. He noted the arrival and/or elevation of three leaders in the school: Rabbi Yaacov Feit, new Middle School assistant principal; Benjamin Klein, new school CFO; and Sara Fischer, the new development director. And he proudly pointed out the recent accomplishments of the school, which include a 10% increase in enrollment, a 95% retention rate, and $2.6 million in pledges received from 50 families for the Dream It campaign (including $1 million already in the bank).

Harry Glazer is the Middlesex County Editor of The Jewish Link. He can be reached at [email protected] and he welcomes feedback (really, he does).

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