Alumni of the Year
Parents of the Year
Distinguished Faculty Award
Alumni of the Year
Eric Benaim
CEO / President / Co-Founder
A sought after voice in the borough of Queens and the real estate market, Eric Benaim’s entry into real estate began in 2001 after a successful career as owner of a live event production and marketing firm. Initially concentrating on Manhattan luxury sales, Eric later recognized the untapped opportunity in his own beloved borough, and turned his focus exclusively to Long Island City. The result was the sale of 50 residences in 2006 alone. In the midst of 2008’s severe economic crisis, Eric instinctively decided the time was right to launch Modern Spaces, permanently changing the perception and value of real estate in LIC. In just 10 years, Eric’s insightful and personal approach resulted in the swift expansion of Modern Spaces, including opening additional offices in Manhattan and Astoria where 100 agents work, capturing a 70% market share in Long Island City. Most recently, in 2019, Modern Spaces crossed the river to capture 10% of the burgeoning market share over the next three years, in Jersey City. He is responsible for successfully completing over $5.5B in sales and is currently responsible for overseeing over $4B in real estate, which translates to over 8000 units. Eric was the first person to be recognized as a 40 Under 40 Rising Star in both Queens and Brooklyn by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz, respectively. Eric received the 2018 Community Impact Award by the LIC Partnership, as well as the Community Hero award by the Long Island City YMCA. Eric is a member of REBNY, and serves on the Advisory Board of Mount Sinai Hospital, as well as the Board of Directors for the Long Island City Partnership. In 2016 the City and State Award honored him for Corporate Social Responsibility. Eric is consistently called upon to speak at a diverse array of events and is frequently featured, quoted, interviewed and profiled in prominent outlets including CNN, Fox Business, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CRAIN’S, The Real Deal, CNBC, and NY1. Eric is an art collector and avid supporter of the arts. As the informal ‘Mayor of LIC,’ it is his passion for building a prosperous community that informs Modern Spaces ‘unparalleled perspective. He currently resides in Long Island City with his wife Stephanie and son Greyson.
“Solomon Schechter played a major role in my life; not only for the education I received, but because of the values I was taught including my Jewish identity which was instilled in me from a young age. Solomon Schechter is where I learned about Jewish traditions and history, reading and writing Hebrew, which I still use today, and look forward to passing onto my son. I was exposed not just to warm, funny and smart teachers, but to other Jewish students from whom I also learned a great deal and who helped shape my character and personality. Solomon Schechter was the single most important educational experience I have had in my entire life.” – Eric Benaim
Parents of the Year
Elinor and Shahar Azani
Elinor and Shahar Azani have been serving Israel together for over 16 years, arriving in New York and at SSSQ in 2011. Elinor is Head of Israel's Economic Mission in NY and Shahar is the owner and principle at Fourth Dimension Strategies, consulting on media and public affairs. He is also an author and public speaker on Israel and public diplomacy, as well as a former diplomat for Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Both are Attorneys at Law, graduating from Bar Ilan University, where they also met and got married 18 years ago. Elinor practiced law at Israel's Prime Minister Office and Bank Igud Ltd. in Israel and Shahar with Haim Zadok and Company Law Firm in Tel Aviv. Being part of the SSSQ school and family has been a meaningful experience for them and for their children. Both have been active and involved members of our community for years and are the proud parents of Danielle (2017 alumni), Yaheli (7th Grade) and Itay (3rd Grade). 
Stella Ilyayeva & Alexander Katz
Drs. Alexander A. Katz and Stella Ilyayeva have been married for almost 15 years. They came to the US in the early 1990's from the former USSR- Alexander from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and Stella from Kzyl-Orda, Kazakhstan. Alexander, a holder of PhD in Mathematics, is a Professor and Assistant Department Chair of Mathematics and Computer Science at St. John's University, serving that university for the past 19 years. He is a National Grandmaster in Checkers and the National Champion of the US in 2002. In addition, he is a US Silver Medal winner in 2016 and 2017, and a Bronze Medal winner in 2018. Dr. Katz was also the Champion of Pan America in 2018. Stella, a holder of a MD degree, is a Fellow of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the Director of Diabetes Clinic at the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. She is also the owner and the Director of Medicine of Atlantic Endocrinology and Diabetes Center in Rego Park.

They have been active at SSSQ for six years now since their twin sons Abraham (5th Grade) and Levy (5th Grade) began their study here. Dr. Katz serves as a member of our Board of Trustees. One initiative introduced by Dr. Katz is our Math Team, where he develops our student’s ability to think, understand, as well as analyze difficult mathematical concepts, and we now compete against other schools. We and our students have benefited tremendously from all of the Katz’s efforts over the past six years. 
Raina and Jamey Kohn
Raina and Jamey Kohn met at the University of Albany during Freshman orientation. Raina graduated with a degree in Social Work and Jamey with a double major in Finance and Japanese Culture. He also spent a year studying abroad in Japan.

After graduation Raina and Jamey moved to Queens and have been married for 20 years. Raina went back to school for a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Molloy College. She has been a registered nurse at North Shore Manhasset since 2007. Despite the hectic shifts she loves her job and is proud of her hospital. Jamey began his Jewish communal career in 1998 at a fundraising consulting firm conducting capital & endowment campaigns for synagogues, day schools and JCC’s throughout the country. When an executive director opportunity arose at the Merrick Jewish Centre in 2010, Jamey jumped at the chance to finally be able to stay at just one shul.
Raina and Jamey are blessed with two wonderful children Reuven (Class of 2016) and Samara (Class of 2019). Both children were accepted into Francis Lewis High School’s University Scholars Program. The Kohn’s are proud of their SSSQ affiliation which began when Reuven entered kindergarten in 2007. Jamey has assisted throughout the years with various fundraising efforts and has been with the PTA for 6 years –ultimately serving as its president.  Despite the many hours they work each week, Raina and Jamey are also active at their synagogue, Hillcrest Jewish Center. Jamey is a Vice President, participating in multiple committees and Raina is Co-President of Youth & Family Programming. They greatly appreciate the honor SSSQ has bestowed upon them. The SSSQ families, faculty, board, staff – everyone – are dedicated passionate individuals and are what makes the School so special.
Distinguished Faculty Awards
Rita DeVita
Rita DeVita was born and raised in Floral Park, Queens. From a very early age, she always knew she wanted to be a teacher. After receiving her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in education from St. John’s University, she realized that dream. Rita loves working with children, and being
a teacher all these years has been a rewarding experience. She came to Solomon Schechter School 20 years ago as a substitute replacement for a maternity leave. It was supposed to be for 10 weeks and ended up for 20 years. Rita has always felt at home here at Solomon Schechter, first as a reading specialist and later as a third grade teacher. Watching children
learn to read as that first spark develops into a flame of reading success is an experience beyond words. It is with a heavy heart that Rita leaves something she so loved being part of. She will miss the children, her fellow teachers, the Solomon Schechter community, and her home away from home for all these years. She thanks everyone including the parents, colleagues, the administration, and the staff for being so warm and supportive. She will miss them all but will always remain a part of the SSSQ family.
Robin Gossett
Robin Gossett’s mother Celia Gossett was a founding member and a teacher at SSSQ. She encouraged Robin to join her at SSSQ, where she taught Physical Education at the school for the next 42 years! Robin introduced the “After-school Club Program” offering a chance to dance, where students performed at many Israeli Folk Dance Festivals in NYC. Later, she introduced theater to the students as they found their voices in play productions. Many students from grades 2-8 performed in school, nursing homes, and hospitals. With love of Jewish study Robin helped to create our monthly celebration of the Rosh Chodesh Group, which still exists today. She and her husband Mark Liebowitz raised two sons (Sean, Andrew) who graduated from SSSQ and are now helping to raise three grandchildren. Robin recently received a wonderful opportunity as the new Director of Jewish Engagement and Innovation at the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center but SSSQ will always have a special place in her heart.
Marsha Rosner
Marsha Rosner was born in Pittsburgh, PA. Her family moved to NY where she grew up on Long Island. She received her BS and MA degrees from Adelphi University. Mrs. Rosner’s philosophy of education is that children should learn early the importance of being a contributing member of society by helping others. She also believes that children will learn best when they are having fun.
Before arriving at SSSQ, Marsha was making a difference teaching at Merrick Woods Day School. Her kindergarten classes would raise money to help children around the country affected by wars, hurricanes, and economic hardship. She also volunteered much of her time to organizations helping children. She was a Girl Scout Leader, President of the Merrick Chapter of ORT, and President of the PTA’s at her children’s elementary and middle schools. For her services Mrs. Rosner received the Recognition of Distinguished Service award from the Merrick School District in 1986 and in 1990 the Lifetime Service Award from the PTA.  
Mrs. Rosner combines her passion for teaching with her passion for writing. She has had several essays and articles published in her local newspaper, Merrick Life, as well as in Newsday. She encourages her students to be creative writers, as well. While teaching 4th grade at SSSQ, she initiated a Pen Pal program with another 4th grade class in Philadelphia. When she began teaching 1st grade here, she and her class wrote and videotaped a short play about fire prevention. At a special ceremony they received a trophy and award certificate from the NYFD for their submission.
In 2001, four of Mrs. Rosner’s students won honorable mention in HP’s Young Writer’s Contest. Mrs. Rosner, herself, won 2nd place for her own essay submitted to the teacher component of the contest. That same year, Mrs. Rosner was nominated by SSSQ for the Gruss Excellent Teacher Award for General Studies. Then in 2014 she was selected as Teacher of the Year and honored at SSSQ’s Journal Dinner.
After school, Mrs. Rosner enjoys having fun with the children, as well. She coached the middle school cheerleaders and then volunteered on Sundays as they cheered for the school basketball team. She has also led cheerleading, gymnastics, exercise, and dance clubs for the younger children.
Mrs. Rosner is a member of Temple Beth Am in Merrick where her family has belonged for more than 50 years. Her parents were past presidents and her husband was on the board of Trustees. She is proud that four generations of life cycle events have taken place there, including marriages, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and the naming of her grandchildren.   
In her spare time, Mrs. Rosner enjoys reading, gourmet cooking, and sculpting extreme cakes. A new chapter of her life will begin after retirement when she moves down to S. Carolina, where she hopes to spend much of her time with her grandchildren.
Rhonda Weissman
Growing up as a native New Yorker, Rhonda Weissman was educated in Jewish Day schools. During college, she spent her sophomore year at Bar Ilan University where she enhanced her Hebrew. Following her B.A. in History at Queens College, Mrs. Weissman obtained her Master of Library Science degree. One third of her graduate work was done in Judaica Librarianship at The Jewish Theological Seminary. She was honored with a nomination to the Library of Congress. 
To further promote reading and love of books, Mrs. Weissman has strived to make the SSSQ Library a welcome and non-judgmental place. Through the years, students have sought it as a haven while growing up.
Mrs. Weissman’s husband and two children share her love of tradition and academic achievement. She believes a strong Jewish education is necessary for our future generations. During her, nearly, three decades at SSSQ, Mrs. Weissman has always tried to imbue this in the students.
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