Rabbi Mordechai “Pinchas” Teitz had a vision. In Learn Torah, Love Torah, Live Torah, the author of his biography, his daughter Rivka Blau, underscores her father’s question, “What can be done to secure the future of Jewish life in our community?”
This year, Yom Yerushalayim, commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem, brought lots of Yiddishkeit, replete with smiles and laughter, to Nomahegan Park in Cranford, New Jersey. Sunday, May 17, 2015, marked the third annual walk-a-thon and family fun day of the Yeshiva of Elizabeth Elementary and Early Childhood Division of the Jewish Educational Center (“JEC”). PTA president Tara Speyer called it a “fundraiser and feel good event.” One of her co-chairs, Faith Fisch said, “The event creates tremendous school spirit and makes the kids feel excited to be attending the JEC.”
Faith was proud that, “all money raised goes straight to the kids for educational programming, such as bringing in authors, science events, and musicians, like when they were taught about Beethoven. The special programs are a component of education during the regular school day. Also, the money is used for things such as Hanukkah entertainment along with the school choir, and teacher appreciation events such as a luncheon at the end of the school year.”
Chief Marketing Officer for the Jewish Educational Center, Adina Abramov remarked, “It’s growing every year and really picking up speed.” With 500 pre-registered participants, there were many more expected in the Union County park.
The activities started under a colorful donated balloon arch, with parents, teachers and children wearing orange walk-a-thon t-shirts, walking or being pushed along in baby strollers. Afterwards, the participants scattered about the park for face painting, writing notes of well-wishes by the Western Wall flag to be sent to the Israeli soldiers, jumping on the carnival rides, or eating at the food stands set up by local kosher eateries.
Arielle and Brian Ness were walking with their four children, Ephraim 12, Pearl and Gavi celebrating their 10th birthdays, and Leebie, five. Ephraim was a volunteer at the event and when asked how he was enjoying it, exclaimed, “It’s fun!” Brian said, “The parents come from different communities to get together on a Sunday.” Arielle added, “Teachers are here on their day off, from far places like Lakewood. They are dedicated teachers, here with their families.”
Jacqui and Shlomo Kimmel, attendees with children in all divisions of the JEC, said they have a middle-schooler who was helping and a 4th grader who was walking. They’ve come to all three walk-a-thons and Shlomo said that it is a “great day with lots of enthusiasm and fun for the kids.” Jacqui remarked, “It’s nice to come to an event outside of school hours.” She explained that the walk-a-thon is always tied to the theme of when it falls. It could be on Lag B’Omer, or like this year on Yom Yerushalayim when Maor Tiri, the emissary from The Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, one of the Jewish organizations and businesses partnering with the Jewish Educational Center in the event, organized a banner swap with his hometown—the city of Erod, Israel.
The children in Erod created a banner to be carried by the students in the walk, and the students from the JEC created one for the students in Erod. Later in the week, the children at the JEC will get to see a video of the activities on Yom Yerushalayim in Erod, while the students at the school in Erod will view the recording of students at the JEC, as they walked with their banner.
Events such as this, spearheaded by Tara Speyer, and achieved with the help of her four co-chairs, Faith Fisch, Sharon Konigsberg, Sara Feit and Aliza Feuerberg, and 40 parent volunteers, student volunteers and community sponsors, enure that the Jewish community and Rav Pinchas Teitz’s legacy live on.
By Sharon Mark Cohen