More than 450 parents, faculty, alumni, and friends of the Jewish Educational Center came together for the center’s annual gala at the Venetian in Garfield on June 17. Community rabbis and partner agency executives from the area that JEC serves, representing Elizabeth, Hillside, West Orange, Linden, Springfield, Livingston, Lakewood, Edison, Highland Park, Passiac/Clifton, Teaneck, Bergenfield, Monsey, and Staten Island were there as well.
The gala commemorated 60 years of Torah and excellence at JEC’s Rav Teitz Mesivta Academy, and recognized two distinguished alumni: Rabbi Mordechai Tokarsky, RTMA class of 1988, is the founder and national director of RAJE (Russian American Jewish Experience), a Brooklyn-based organization that helps immigrants from the former Soviet Union both acclimate to life in the United States and develop a strong Jewish identity, and Rabbi Chaim Strauchler, RTMA class of 1995, is a Rhodes Scholar (one of only two from the yeshiva day-school world — the second is also a JEC alumna — Miriam Rosenbaum, Bruriah class of 2007) and now the rabbi of Congregation Sha’arei Shomayim in Toronto.
The evening’s program included the live finale of “RTMA’s Got Talent,” a competition held in the RTMA division over last few months.
The three semi-finalist acts were invited to attend and perform at the dinner. A trio from the RTMA Middle School division, Yair Cantor, Yonatan Swissa, and Jake Goldberg, led the national anthems, accompanied on piano by RTMA junior Uri Veit, also a semi-finalist. The third semi-finalist was RTMA senior Jake Stern, whose delivery of divrei Torah and talent at the pulpit reflected the school’s core Torah values.
The competition’s finale was held at the dinner, with the final vote left up to the viewing audience, both at the dinner and watching via livestream.
The two finalists were outgoing RTMA senior SJ Tannenbaum, an impressionist, and Isaiah Rappaport, a sophomore who played guitar and sang — and won the competition.
The evening also honored Charlotte and Howard Block of Springfield, who received Lev Tov award for their legacy gift to the JEC, and Dr. Brian and Shoshana Allen of Edison, named Parents of the Year for their generous support of the new Bruriah STEM laboratories.
Nearly 3,000 people watched the program livestreamed at vimeo.com/131155169. A photo album is on the school’s Facebook page, Facebook.com/theJEC.
Next year’s gala will mark the entire Jewish Educational Center’s 75th anniversary.