‘Like Yogi Berra on Old-Timers’ Day’

‘Like Yogi Berra on Old-Timers’ Day’

Yavneh recognizes the Gordon family with new baseball field of dreams

Yavneh’s cheerleaders added even more spirit to the dedication.
Yavneh’s cheerleaders added even more spirit to the dedication.

The new red-and-white illuminated scoreboard dedicated at the renovated Yavneh Academy ball field on May 3 is inscribed “Rebecca and Herb Gordon Field of Dreams.”

In the movie “Field of Dreams,” an Iowa farmer played by Kevin Costner tears up his cornfield to build a baseball diamond. He is spurred by a voice telling him “If you build it, he will come,” referring to the ghost of the late great player “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.

The field of dreams at the Paramus day school was spurred by the exact opposite situation. Nearly 800 lively pre-kindergartners to eighth-graders already were there; what was lacking was a field they could play on even in wet weather.

“Over the last couple of years we took one of our fields and created a gym,” Yavneh’s executive director, Joel Kirschner, said. “So all the kids have been playing on one ball field and it gets pretty beaten up pretty quickly.

“Last summer we decided to put down AstroTurf and it’s been an incredible hit. Kids can go out and play immediately after it rains or snows. They used to have to wait days or weeks for the grass to dry. Now they all use the field from 10 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon, for outdoor play and scheduled sports.”

When friends of Rebecca Gordon learned about the ball field improvement project, they decided to raise money to pay for the upgrade and dedicate it in memory of her late husband, Herb, an avid Yankees fan, and in honor of her longtime devotion to the school.

Ms. Gordon has worked in the principal’s office at Yavneh since 1977, but her involvement goes back much farther.

Yavneh’s choir sang as the baseball field was dedicated.

“This September will be 53 years since we enrolled our son Eric at Yavneh, and almost from that moment I just hung around the school all the time volunteering for whatever needed to be done. I ended up serving as president of the women’s club and on the board of directors,” she said.

Herb Gordon got involved too; he regularly sent over medical supplies from his drugstore without charging for them. He was president of Yavneh men’s club from 1967 to 1971.

In 1977, Ms. Gordon agreed to fill in for a sick employee of the school’s business office, but soon she moved over to the office of the then-new principal, Rabbi Eugene Kwalwasser. He retired in 2008 and Ms. Gordon has stayed on, working with current head of school Rabbi Jonathan Knapp three days a week.

“My husband and I were honored in 1986 and 2012 at the Yavneh dinner,” said Ms. Gordon, who lived in Teaneck from 1958 until her recent move to Paramus. Her husband died in January 2013.

“Even my mother was involved in Yavneh, and she was honored by the parents’ organization. She sent out the ‘golden books’ when someone made a donation to the school, and she did that until she was in her 90s and I took it over.”

All of the above, reasoned the Gordons’ friends and family, was more than enough reason to pay tribute to the couple in a tangible and appropriate way.

Ms. Gordon will not soon forget the grand entrance arranged for her by event chairwomen Barbara Frohlich and Joanne Zayat of Teaneck at the dedication ceremony on May 3. That was the Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer, when day schools traditionally offer outdoor games and activities.

The field of dreams was named in memory of Herbert Gordon and in honor of his wife, Rebecca. Here, Rebecca Gordon thanks the school and its supporters

“They put me in a convertible so I could wave to people,” she said. “We had a police escort from the Yavneh parking lot to the field. It was like I was Yogi Berra at Old-Timers’ Day! It was really nice.”

That afternoon, the entire school body took part in the ceremony and a celebratory parade — complete with a choral performance and little cheerleaders — at the Rebecca and Herb Gordon Field of Dreams.

Out on the field, which measures 125 by 150 feet, Joyce Heller of Fair Lawn made a formal presentation to the Gordon family. Then the piece de resistance, the lighted scoreboard, was unveiled by Richard Baum of Montvale, Meyer Berkowitz of Fair Lawn, and David Jackson of Franklin Lakes. Bonnie Silfen of Teaneck also worked tirelessly on the project.

And there was a surprise in store. “They announced at the dedication that they also will expand the effort to incorporate a running track around the field and an area for soccer,” Mr. Kirschner said.

Ms. Gordon’s children, Yavneh alumni Amy Gordon Kushmaro and Eric Gordon, were on hand. Ms. Kushmaro lives in Closter with her husband and two children and is an active volunteer at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County in New Milford. Eric Gordon and his wife and two children live in West Orange.

Ms. Gordon proudly said that her granddaughter, Rachel Gordon, an Israel Air Force lone soldier, was chosen as one of 119 Israeli soldiers to receive the President’s Award of Excellence during a Yom Ha’atzmaut ceremony at the president’s residence in Jerusalem last month.

Rabbi Kwalwasser, who also now lives in Israel, sent Ms. Gordon a message of congratulations on the Field of Dreams honor. “I truly believe that, without you handling so many tasks and day to day issues, the school would not have enjoyed the success that it achieved and continues to enjoy,” he wrote.

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