For Barrie and Simon Jacob, Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School has long been an axis of everyday Jewish life. With children attending JKHA and RKYHS from the early 1980s to 2016, their involvement in our school spans more than a 30-year period.
Born to an Iraqi-Indian Sephardic Jewish family with matriarchal lineage through Poland (Lodz) and Russia, Simon has experienced the richness of Jewish cultural diversity. Having immigrated to the United States with his parents in the mid 1950s, Simon started his formal education at The Hebrew Youth Academy of Essex County on Chancellor & Lyons Avenues in Newark, the predecessor of JKHA, where he began to build a foundation and appreciation for Jewish and secular studies. Simon later put those values into action as the Executive VP of Data Life Associates Inc., and a proud member of the Sephardic community of Congregation Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob & David (AABJ&D).
On the other side of the globe, Barrie’s ancestry included a long line of American Jewish woman who passionately led their communities and imbued in her a strong sense of communal responsibility and the power of Jewish unity. As a longtime congregant of AABJ&D in West Orange, New Jersey, Barrie has been an active member of the AABJ&D Sisterhood and has served as President of the West Orange Mikvah, helping to lead the expansion of the mikvah during her tenure.
After marrying in 1976, Barrie and Simon set out to create a home that would emulate all the love for community and the thirst for knowledge that their ancestors embodied. With spare mattresses at the ready, they created the Jacob home, a warm, encouraging environment that not only housed their nine children, all of whom attended JKHA, but also numerous boarders, friends, and at times even the entire RKYHS hockey team.
Simon was president of JKHA in the early 1990s and led the school during a period of growth and expansion. Seeing JKHA became a vital and prominent community institution with rapid enrollment increases, everyone realized that it would quickly outgrow its West Caldwell location. Simon helped plant the first seeds of change, which ultimately led to the school’s relocation years later to our current state-of-the-art Livingston campus. Simon later served on both the Executive Board and as the Chair of the High School Board of Education Committee.
Barrie, the true Commander in Chief of the Jacob household, was an active parent volunteer, helped with the lunch program and was a frequent chaperone on class trips. With several children in the school at every point in the last few decades, she earned the award for delivering the most forgotten-lunches to school throughout the day as well as meeting with the most teachers at any given parent-teacher conference night.
In 2016, Barrie and Simon followed the example of their children and made Aliyah. Now living in Yerushalayim as proud grandparents of many beautiful grandchildren, Barrie and Simon remain committed stakeholders at JKHA/RKYHS and have been key supporters of the school’s Sephardic minyan and Sephardic cultural programs. They are most proud of the continued accomplishments of their children, nephews, and nieces, which reflect the exceptional Jewish education and foundation they received. Their connection to JKHA and RKYHS continues as a deep and enduring legacy.
As die-hard New Yorkers, Jodi and Steven Reich wondered, when they decided to move “out west” to East Brunswick in 1992, if they would ever feel comfortable in the suburbs of New Jersey. Jodi was born and raised in Douglaston, Queens and Steven grew up in Jericho, Long Island. Once they got used to the NJ jug handles, they realized that they had made the right decision for their growing family.
They set down roots and became immersed in the Jewish community in Middlesex County. As they began to explore a more observant lifestyle, they joined the Young Israel of East Brunswick and became dedicated members of the shul. Their family also began to enrich their spiritual journey by taking classes and learning with Torah Links of Middlesex County.
As their observance increased, they needed to find the right place to educate their children. They began looking for a modern orthodox yeshiva for their two younger daughters, and RKYHS proved to be the perfect fit! It is their belief that RKYHS provides the perfect combination of rigorous academics, social responsibility, and opportunity for volunteerism all with an emphasis on being a mensch. Both Steven and Jodi try to support all of the wonderful programs, initiatives, and events that RKYHS offers and have proudly supported the ATID society since joining the school community. They have hosted parlor meetings in their home, Jodi has served as a Dinner Chair and Steven has been a “visiting professor” to discuss Spinal Surgery with his daughter’s classes in the science department.
They feel fortunate to be involved in the greater Jewish community. Steven is on the NJ Board of Directors of Israel Bonds, and serves as Chairman of Torah Links of Middlesex County, under the direction of Rabbi Shlomo Landau and Rabbi Dovid Gross. He has worked tirelessly on the building of their brand new 15,000 square foot home for Torah Learning in East Brunswick, which opened this past fall. Steven is an active participant at YIEB and has served as Baal Tekiah on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He and Jodi have spearheaded the successful annual YIEB Israel Bonds Appeal. He is a Spinal Surgeon who is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. He was appointed by the Governor to the New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Research, and ultimately served as its Chairman. He has served on the Departments of Health, and Banking & Insurance on their task force. He was the President of the Middlesex County Medical Society, and also founded the New Jersey Spine Society of which he was its inaugural President. Jodi is on the Board of Directors for Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ. She also served on the Board of Directors at YIEB and currently serves on many committees. She has chaired the annual Torah Links dinner and co-chaired the committee to celebrate the grand opening of their new building, which over 700 people attended. Jodi was an Account Executive at Young & Rubicam Advertising and then chose to be home full time with their children. Subsequently, she opened a woman’s clothing boutique fulfilling a dream of owning her own business. Currently, Jodi is self-employed, managing residential rental properties. Actively supporting Norpac as well as AIPAC, Steven and Jodi are proud Pro-Israel advocates and have chaired AIPAC’s Summer Dinner and serve on the Congressional Club. They are members of Congregation Brothers of Israel in their summer community of Long Branch, where they have continued to grow spiritually and where they fortunately have gotten to know many families from the RKYHS community.
They are the proud parents of Danielle and her husband Zach Felder, who made aliyah in 2014. Danielle is a Marketing Manager at a high tech start-up and Zach is a Lieutenant in the Israeli Air Force working on Advanced Drone Technology. Jessica (RKYHS ’13) graduated Barnard College last week and will begin working at AllianceBernstein next month. Ali, their youngest, will be graduating from RKYHS in a few weeks and will be attending Midreshet Harova for the coming year. They especially want to thank their parents, Betty and Gil Kashkin and Diana a”h and Lester z”l Reich, who instilled a love of Judaism and the midos of chesed and kindness that they best exemplified through doing. The example that they set through their involvement in shul and community has been Jodi and Steven’s guiding light. They thank RKYHS for bestowing them with the honor of being recognized at this year’s dinner.
Rabbi Richard Kirsch is one of the longest serving and most beloved members of the RKYHS faculty, and has helped to define the RKYHS experience for countless RKYHS students, alumni and their families. He began his career in 2000 and continues to teach Judaic Studies and Sociology and serve as a counselor within the Guidance Department.
During the last ten years he has also served as the Director of Athletics, founding many new teams. He has proudly helped lead the school to championships across a wide-range of sports, including girls hockey, dance, swim, wrestling, baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball.
Rabbi Kirsch is widely recognized for developing creative and unique learning opportunities that bolster his curriculums both inside and outside of the classroom. Within the Judaic Studies department, he connects students to Torah through Vaadim, boutique tefillah programs and Shabbatonim. In his sociology courses, he plans exciting field trips and invites dynamic speakers to present. Rabbi Kirsch also oversees the Student Educational Enrichment and Development (SEED) Speaker Program, which exposes all RKYHS students to diverse speakers on a wide-range of perspectives so that they can challenge assumptions and debate issues.
Rabbi Kirsch also leads and creates countless extracurricular programs and initiatives that have a tremendous and lifelong impact on his students. He is the faculty advisor for the RKYHS AIPAC club, which has the largest delegation out of any high school in the United States at the annual AIPAC Policy Conference. He has won the prestigious AIPAC faculty Early Engagement Exemplar Award twice for his impressive work in turning high school students into strong advocates for Israel.
Rabbi Kirsch also oversees the Muslim-Jewish Exchange Program, RKYHS Homeless Awareness Club, Habitat for Humanity, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), RKYHS Blood Drive Committee and Sports Management Club. These extra-curricular programs provide students with tangible leadership experience and transformational experiential “real life” learning opportunities outside of the classroom. For example, members of Rabbi Kirsch’s Homeless Awareness Club distribute vital supplies to homeless people outside of Newark Penn Station and learn what it’s like to be exposed to the elements during an annual “Solidarity Sleepout”. Rabbi Kirsch brings the Habitat for Humanity club to areas stricken by disaster to rebuild homes.
As a Guidance Counselor, Rabbi Kirsch has made a great difference in career and portfolio development, assisting scores of students and alumni with securing valuable internships and mentorship and leadership opportunities that have propelled them towards their career goals. He also facilitates seminars for the senior grade to prepare them for the next phase of their lives as they plan for gap year or college.
In addition to his many pertinent roles at JKHA/RKYHS, Rabbi Kirsch is the Rabbi at Camp Deeny Riback of JCC MetroWest, Rabbi at Lester Senior Housing and the Winter Rabbi at Lake Hopatcong Jewish Center. Previously, he served as Rabbi at Gesher Summer Camp, Jewish Educator at the Riverdale Y and as spiritual leader of Congregation Beth El in Rutherford, NJ.
Rabbi Kirsch was born in Passaic and raised in Bloomfield, NJ. Rabbi Kirsch graduated Yeshiva University with a BA in Psychology, obtained a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Wurzweiler School of Social Work, and was ordained by the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) of Yeshiva University. Rabbi Kirsch is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America, New York Board of Rabbis, and American Sociological Association.
Rabbi Kirsch and his wife Jill live in West Orange and have five children, Joey ( RKYHS ‘15), Sara ( RKYHS ‘17), Jonathan (12th Grade), Hannah (10th Grade), and Joshua (6th Grade).