Guests of Honor
Bat Sheva and Murray Halpern are second generation Holocaust Survivors and unapologetic Zionists who genuinely value the importance of Jewish education. They recognize the integral role Jewish education has for the future of the Jewish community. Bat Sheva and Murray have served as Chairs of the JKHA/RKYHS ATID SOCIETY for the past 11 years, raising more than $4,000,000 for the present and future of Jewish education at JKHA/RKYHS.
Bat Sheva was born and raised in the Hasidic "Ashlag" community in Bnei-Brak, Israel. Her father, Efraim Fishel Rosen z”L was a young Holocaust Survivor from Belgium when he met Yona Hajbi, who fled Yemen with her family during Operation Eagle's Wings. Bat Sheva has seven siblings and attended Bet Yaakov in Bnei Brak, Jerusalem, and London. She later developed her 'BatSheva' line of clothing for Ultra-Orthodox women. Bat Sheva believes that raising her family has been the most rewarding accomplishment in her life.
Murray was born at Saint Barnabas Hospital in Livingston, NJ and raised in Elizabeth and Hillside. His parents, Sam and Gladys Halpern, survived the Holocaust and built a Jewish life and family in NJ. Murray was raised advocating for the State of Israel and Jewish education. He is the youngest of four brothers and is a managing partner at their family's real estate business for over 25 years.
Bat Sheva and Murray met in New York and married in Jerusalem. They have lived in Livingston since 1995. Together, they are raising their children, Audrey (RKYHS Class of 2017), Nathaniel, and Gabriel, who have all attended Kushner Academy.
Bat Sheva and Murray are deeply involved in many charitable organizations. Bat Sheva served as Co-President of the Women's International Zionist Organization, NJ Chapter, which has helped improve the lives of many women and children in Israel. She received an award for her work. Murray is a Past Co-President of Congregation Etz Chaim in Livingston, NJ, founded 'Pioneers for a Cure - Songs To Fight Cancer' in honor of his late Uncle, Arie Halpern ZL, and is the incoming President of USA Friends of the College of Management in Rishon LeZion, Israel. The Halperns actively support many other organizations, including Yad Vashem for Holocaust remembrance, Israel Bonds, OR Movement, Birthright, Saint Barnabas, and Jewish Federation/UJA. Bat Sheva and Murray remain dedicated to creating a safe community for all genders and promoting a world where all children can walk together.
Netzach Yisrael Honorees
Having settled in East Brunswick over twenty-five years ago, Francine and Carey Tajfel are grateful that their children have a home away from home at JKHA/RKYHS. The Tajfels have been part of the JKHA/RKYHS family since 2008, with Scott, Rachel and Eliana bearing a commute of several hours each day for the privilege of enjoying all that JKHA/RKYHS has to offer.
Carey was raised in Lakewood, New Jersey, by parents who departed Europe after World War II to make a new life for themselves despite great adversity. With such models of perseverance and commitment to guide him, Carey attended Bezalel Hebrew Day School in Lakewood and Hillel High School in Deal, and then went on to earn his Bachelor’s Degree from Yeshiva University in 1991.
Carey has been instrumental to the operation of his family’s hotel and real estate business, Hotels Unlimited, Inc./TFE Properties, since 1990 and continues to focus his efforts on its success. Carey has also been deeply committed to the local Jewish community. In particular, he has assisted the Young Israel of East Brunswick for many years, spearheading potential expansion efforts and providing guidance on financing and other matters. Carey has also shared his time and expertise with other community organizations, including Chabad of the Shore in Long Branch (currently serving as co-chair of its new building project), Chabad of the Windsors, Torah Links of Middlesex County (having served on its Building Committee), Chai Lifeline (for which Francine and Carey were honored with the Chai Heritage Award at the Chai Lifeline Annual Tribute Dinner on June 12, 2007), Sharsheret, Batya and many other worthy Jewish organizations. Carey has also supported RKYHS students in their efforts to serve the greater community, including by regularly donating personal care packages and other supplies to be distributed to those in need by members of the RKYHS Homelessness Awareness club.
Francine grew up in Marlboro, New Jersey in a traditional family with great commitment to Jewish values. After graduating from Marlboro High School, Francine earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Cornell University, College of Arts and Sciences, in 1991 and her J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1994. Francine has served as Counsel on the Commercial Real Estate team at Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, P.A. in Woodbridge, New Jersey, and as an associate at Sills Cummis and Gross, P.A. in Newark, New Jersey. Francine presently serves as General Counsel to Hotels Unlimited, Inc./TFE Properties and shares Carey’s commitment to JKHA/RKYHS and the wider Jewish community.
Francine had the privilege of joining Rachel’s class on the Senior Trip to Poland in 2016, learning and growing from their meaningful exchanges throughout. Francine has also been active at the Young Israel of East Brunswick for many years, serving on both the Board of Directors and the Sisterhood Board, spearheading a number of pro bono land use, environmental and tax abatement efforts, and serving on a rabbinic search committee. Francine has assisted other local Jewish organizations in various capacities, as well.
Of all their efforts, Francine and Carey are most proud of their children and share that pride with Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School. Alisa recently earned her Master’s Degree at the Columbia School of Social Work and has devoted herself to a new career in hotel management. Scott (RKYHS ’15) is scheduled to graduate from Binghamton University in May, and his June wedding (BH) to Arielle Zadok (RKYHS ’16) is just around the corner! Rachel (RKYHS ’16) expects to graduate a year early from Rutgers University and will attend Cardozo Law School in the fall. Eliana (RKYHS ’19) rounds out the Tajfel graduation season and plans to attend Midreshet Moriah during her upcoming gap year in Israel.
While Francine and Carey are excited to watch their children pursue new opportunities in the future, this new phase of their lives will be bittersweet. They will miss spending time at the school’s beautiful facilities and will especially miss the special people who have taught their children so much and shown them so much love. However, they take comfort in knowing that, with the ongoing support of the entire community, JKHA/RKYHS will continue to enrich the lives of new students right behind them, G-d-willing, for many years to come.
Distinguished Leadership Award
As Principal of the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy, Debbie Finkelstein has created a warm environment with a commitment to academic excellence.
Debbie has more than 25 years of experience working with students from early childhood through Grade 8, in both General and Judaic Studies. Prior to serving as Principal, Debbie was Head of the Middle School Learning Center, and worked closely with teachers and students in modifying assessments and assignments.
As Principal, Debbie oversees and manages all aspects of JKHA, defines objectives and goals for the Lower and Middle School General and Judaic Studies faculty, and supervises the Guidance Department and Student Activities. She is widely known for creating a supportive learning environment, inspiring student engagement, and setting and maintaining the highest educational expectations and goals for her students and faculty members. She is also recognized for building meaningful and collaborative relationships with students, faculty, staff and parents, while nurturing a sense of family and community. In particular, she is recognized for motivating teachers to embrace and identify educational initiatives, creating a strong positive culture among her faculty and helping to develop strong cohesion between the Lower School and Middle School divisions as well as between Judaic and General Studies teachers. She has played an integral role in building a school culture and long-term vision for JKHA.
In her leadership capacity, Debbie has become well-known amongst her peers. Through the Consortium of Jewish Education, Debbie serves as a mentor for other principals and teachers in the New York tristate area, and is a frequent presenter at workshops and professional development conferences. She has received numbers accolades for her work, including the 2018 Excellence in Jewish Education Award from the Consortium of Jewish Day Schools.
Debbie graduated from New York University with a Bachelor of Arts in the humanities and with a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She earned an additional Master’s Degree in Educational Administration and Supervision from Kean University, and is a certified literacy specialist.
Debbie and her husband Rich are members of Congregation AABJ&D and reside in West Orange. They have three children: Pessie and Jason (JKHA '01) live in Bergenfield with their four children Yehuda, Shoshana, Tani and Uri; Daniel (JKHA'03/RKYHS '07) lives in Philadelphia; and Miriam and Alex (JKHA '07) live in Teaneck with their two children Tzvi and Shayna.
Young Leadership Award
Sarah and Michael Diamond have known each other for quite some time. They met on Mike’s first day at Binghamton University, started dating shortly thereafter, and have never looked back. After living in New York City for a few years post-college, in 2005, they decided to start their family in West Orange, NJ, aka The WO, where they quickly found friends who are family.
Identical twins, Abigail and Lea, arrived nine months after Sarah and Mike closed on their first home. Two years and too many diapers later, Sophie joined the crew. After graduating among the top of their classes from the Lauren Elise Bier Nursery School at AABJ&D in West Orange, the family began their experience at the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy as Abigail and Lea entered Kindergarten in 2010. They were immediately grateful to the school for taking the girls off their hands for nine hours a day. The Diamonds quickly became enamored with the school, loving the dedication of the outstanding faculty, who care about the educational and personal growth of each and every student. Nine very quick years later, Abigail and Lea will be graduating from JKHA and moving up to RKYHS as Sophie advances to sixth grade.
As Sarah attended public school, she has enjoyed experiencing a Yeshiva education alongside her daughters. The joys of studying for a ‘Mi Amar LeMi?’ test are just as thrilling as an adult. Sarah is currently the Director of Adult Programming and Director of the New Jersey Jewish Film Festival at JCC Metrowest, as well the Director of Kid Programming for the Diamond family. Sarah has served on numerous committees at their shul, Congregation Ohr Torah of West Orange. At JKHA, she has volunteered in various ways, ranging from being Class Parent to teaching kindergarteners mah jongg and dressing as a president for the third grade reports. Additionally, she has spent many years on both the Lower School and Middle School Liaison Committees and is currently completing her third year as a co-chair.
Mike grew up attending Jewish day schools, including Solomon Schechter in The WO. He is a product manager at Fidelity Investments and enjoys spending his time with his teen and pre-teen daughters learning about his shortcomings. Mike has volunteered on a variety of JKHA/RKYHS committees, including the Budget Committee and the West Orange Bus Committee (the committee for people who enjoy puzzles and getting yelled at by parents). Mike has been on the Board of Trustees at Congregation Ohr Torah almost since his arrival in The WO. He has served on numerous committees at Ohr Torah and is currently serving his 6th year as Vice President (he’s the Selina Meyers of Ohr Torah – Google it). Mike also co-chairs the Discover West Orange Shabbaton whose mission is to encourage families to move to The WO and, in turn, to join the JKHA/RKYHS family.
Mike and Sarah learned the value of volunteering in their communities from their parents, Linda and Barry Diamond and Bella (z”l) and Ed Studnitzer, who led by example. They have spent the past 14 years looking for an organization to honor them and are grateful that JKHA/RKYHS finally acquiesced.