Guests of Honor
When Kenny was growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, the city offered well-coordinated but few resources for the Modern Orthodox Jewish community. The only Jewish day school ran through ninth grade, and after graduation, the options were to attend a local all-boys yeshiva that was very small and religiously right wing, leave home and board at a yeshiva in Skokie or Cleveland, or do what Kenny and many of his peers did: attend public high school.
“The educational opportunities compared to the East Coast were almost nonexistent, and from a social perspective there were few options,” recounted Kenny. “The big social night out in public school was Friday night, which was of course Shabbat, and there were only a handful of Shomrei Shabbat people in a school of 2,000 students. So if you observed Shabbat, your social life was limited.”
These early experiences, Kenny says, are what would eventually influence his commitment, along with the wholehearted support and admiration of his wife, Dr. Janet Andron Hoffman, to the Jewish community in general and to The Frisch School in particular.
Fast forward to the present, and Kenny, who has been living in either the New York metropolitan area or Israel since high school, is a long-time board member of The Frisch School and serves as chair of the school’s Finance Committee. Professionally, he works as a managing director and partner in the private wealth management firm HSW Advisors / HighTower, while Janet, originally from Queens, is an early childhood social worker at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in Manhattan. In addition, they are involved with their local shul, Congregation Rinat Yisrael in Teaneck, AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, NORPAC, and other organizations.
“Kenny’s sense of community comes naturally, and he excels at it,” said Janet, noting that dedication to community causes was also modeled by Kenny’s parents, particularly his father.
Janet and Kenny are parents of Yardena (married to David Brickman), Ilan ‘02 (married to Rachel) and Ariel ‘07, and grandparents to Lilah, Eitan, and Noa (Yardena and David’s children), and to “grand-dogs” Theo and Moose. Yardena serves as the middle school social worker at The Moriah School, Dave works in real estate development for Onex Real Estate Partners, Ilan is manager of strategic partnerships for the New York-based technology company Movable Ink, Rachel is a special education teacher at the Parkside School and Ariel is a senior analyst in sales data analytics for ESPN. Theo and Moose are currently unemployed.
Kenny’s substantial involvement with Frisch began after his own children graduated. “What made me want to get involved is that the school is an outstanding institution, and it’s my way of helping the community and other students get a wonderful education,” he said.
“Frisch is the combination of a fabulous educational product and a great social and cultural experience, all with a focus on developing our students’ religious awareness and identity,” Kenny explained. “It also has the benefits of being a relatively large school and offering all of the resources that come along with that – numerous clubs, athletics, and a choice of social circles. It’s Orthodox, it’s modern, it’s co-ed; it hits the cover off the ball on all points. If I can do my part to help our professionals keep its extensive offerings and improve upon them, for the benefit of the community and for the benefit of my grandchildren, I am happy to do that.”
Janet agrees. She sees Frisch as a school that not only encourages every child to discover where they can excel, but also helps them excel at it. Shiriyah stands out as one of the highlights of her sons’ Frisch years, inspiring students and parents alike. “It was such an incredible experience, as parents, to witness our children’s joy,” she recalled, noting that Shiriyah also serves as an “antidote” for the academic pressures of high school. “Shiriyah appeals to the range of students and to their individual strengths – in drama, art, sports, and music. Everyone gets a chance to shine.”
“If I were currently a high school student, I would love to go to Frisch,” she stated. “I would like every student to experience a learning environment that is fresh, dynamic, and inspiring, and at the same time, challenging, intellectual, and provocative in terms of making students think and figure out who they are. This is enhanced by the individualized attention from the faculty and administration.”
Janet and Kenny also appreciate the strong sense of community that Frisch fosters among students, alumni, and other members of the Frisch Family. “Frisch helped our children grow their Jewish identity, develop a commitment to their larger world, and forge strong and long-lasting connections with their peers,” said Janet.
For Kenny, the difference between his own high school experience and that of his sons’ high school education was like night and day. “When Ilan and Ariel were at Frisch, our house was always the “hangout house,” and there would be more kids in our home on a given Shabbat than we had in my entire grade,” he said. “It is a completely different world. It doesn’t get much better than this.”
The Nedivat Lev Award
Mrs. Amy Eagle is one Frisch parent who can say she has truly seen the school from the inside.
Her family’s association with The Frisch School began when her eldest child, Andy ‘08, entered the school as a freshman. Amy and her husband Myron, who live in Westchester, NY, diligently researched all the different school options. Then, they visited Frisch. “We came, we saw it, we loved it and we stayed,” said Amy. And it was as simple as that for Andy and his younger siblings, Sarah ‘10, Alex ‘12 and Josh ‘15.
“My kids had the choice of where they wanted to go, but each of them wanted to be at Frisch,” she explained. “The vibe, the enthusiasm, everything about Frisch was exciting for them before they even got there.”
Eventually, Amy joined Frisch’s Education Committee, and then became a board member (she also served on the Executive Board for two years). She ultimately became chair of the Education Committee, a position she still holds.
When Josh was in high school, Amy decided to go back to school for a master’s degree in educational technology. “With permission from the school, I appended myself to Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky [Frisch’s Director of Educational Technology],” she recounted. “I wanted to see how ed tech was happening in a real school, and ended up with a window into the school that no other chairperson really had, because I was there two days a week.”
For her, the experience confirmed all the good things she had already heard. “We all talk about how warm and comfortable Frisch is, but to see it in action is very special. I’ve sat in during Shiriyah, I’ve seen the students and teachers interacting. All the things that we give lip service to – they are true. That was pretty exciting.”
Her time in the school also gave her a chance to see the quality of the faculty first-hand. “I got a chance to really know the teachers,” she continued. “I had the opportunity to talk with them, because everybody is friendly.”
Today, Amy, who also holds an MBA in Economics with a Concentration in Information Systems from New York University, works as the Technology Integrator for the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester’s Lower School. Her husband Myron works as a managing director of AlixPartners in New York. Andy (married to Tamar) works in real estate at RCR Management LLC; Sarah (married to Hillel Kramer, an accountant at Sirius XM Radio) works as an outreach program coordinator at Sharsheret; Alex (married to Shachar Avraham ‘12, a marketing campaign manager at Refuel Agency) works in special education at The Aaron School; and Josh (half of a Frisch couple with Jessica Adler ‘15) is an undergraduate student at Binghamton University, along with Jessica.
Amy and Myron are also proud grandparents to Ella, daughter of Andy and Tamar.
Amy says her outlook on educational technology was influenced by her time at Frisch. “The reality is that, philosophically, technology is a tool for education,” explained Amy, who says her happiest days in school are when she is teaching kids an app or a skill that dovetails with what’s happening in the classroom. “You’re using technology to build and create some kind of project, or to give students a voice. There’s nowhere in Frisch where it’s the end-all-be-all. Rather, it can support a struggling student, or a gifted student. That’s something I learned from Rabbi Pittinsky; that it’s not about the tools, but about what you do with them.”
As Frisch has continued to evolve, the Eagles have watched with appreciative eyes. “We were really happy Frisch parents, and I’ve watched the school continue to grow, change, and have more options,” said Amy. “I’m sad that I don’t have any more kids to send there; it was amazing then, but it’s become more amazing.”
Alumni Recognition Award
For Yeshivat Frisch alumnus and award-winning internist Dr. Doron Katz ‘93, caring for the Frisch Family goes beyond sentiment: it is also a professional duty. A doctor in the community with offices in Englewood, Manhattan (Access Medical Associates), and New Square (Refuah Health Center), he proudly counts many Frisch parents and faculty members among his patients, not to mention good friends. “I enjoy caring and connecting to people from Frisch,” said Katz, who for the past four years has been voted by patients as a top internist in Bergen County by The Jewish Standard Newspaper.
Recalling his high school years, Doron says that the ruach and camaraderie of Freshman Retreat stands out as a highlight amongst many. He also enjoyed being on four sports teams; he served as Captain of the soccer team, Assistant Captain of the hockey team, played tennis, and, in his words, “sat on the bench” in basketball. Today he loves to run, having completed the New York City Marathon twice.
After high school, Doron attended the University of Pennsylvania and Yeshiva University, and completed his medical training and residency at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein School of Medicine. Along the way, he cofounded the website OnlySimchas.com with his sister Shira (Frisch ’97) and her husband Dov. He describes it as a means “to spread joy and a sense of goodness and forge connections between Jews in the Diaspora and in Israel.” It is an ethos that Doron says also informs his holistic approach to medicine.
“Life should be full of happiness, optimism and positivity,” he stated.
Doron, who serves on the boards of Project Ezrah and Teaneck’s Congregation Bnai Yeshurun, is especially thankful for his family, with whom he shares an amazing, close relationship. He is married to Dr. Micol Katz, a well-known endocrinologist whom he describes as “the world’s best mom and wife.” Their eldest son, Aryeh, followed in his father’s footsteps and is currently a sophomore at Frisch. The younger Katz children, Netanel (10), Gavriel (7) and Liat (5) attend Yeshivat Noam. Micol and Doron have hosted The Frisch speakers program in their house and Doron is most proud of a speech he gave at his 20th Frisch reunion.
As a Frisch parent, Doron says he has been thrilled not only with the educational standards at Frisch, but with the way the school inculcates its students with a love of learning. “Aryeh is getting an exceptional education, his friends are great, and he is growing every day he spends at Frisch” said Doron, crediting the Frisch administration, particularly Frisch Principal Rabbi Eli Ciner, for their visionary leadership. “The educational level is unbelievable, from gemara to engineering to math. It is wild, the level of stuff they’re learning. Aryeh is truly excited to learn and comes home with a smile every single day. Back to School night was also very impressive; I wanted to hug the teachers, they are all incredible!”
The one area with room for improvement? “I just wish the school were in Israel,” he quipped. “But other than that, there’s everything you could possibly want in a school. I’m proud to be part of a school that has incredible values of Torah, chessed, and a relationship to Israel.”
The Rav Shlomo Kahn a”h Memorial Award
When she first came to Yeshivat Frisch, there was one question Frisch Hebrew Department Chair Mrs. Dafna Zilberschmid made sure to ask first: “Do you commemorate Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzma’ut?” Born and raised in Haifa, from a family who had served and sacrificed for the security of the Jewish homeland, Morah Dafna felt that a proper appreciation for the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces was paramount. But she knew it was not necessarily a given in American schools.
At Frisch, however, she found what she was seeking. “As an Israeli, to find a place where Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Hazikaron are commemorated and respected properly is a blessing,” she said. “At Frisch, there is true ahavat ha-moledet (love of homeland) and a feeling of family at the core of the institution. Also, it is so nice to be in a place where you can speak Hebrew with all the rabbis and many of the faculty.”
Morah Dafna’s teaching career has spanned 45 years, and 2017-18 marks her “chai” anniversary – 18 years – at The Frisch School. Her husband Rami works as General Manager of DataBit, a computer company which is strongly involved in the Israeli High Tech industry, and her son Michael works as an immigration judge in Israel.
According to Morah Dafna, her teaching philosophy has been informed by her background in special education. “Having all the principles of special education, I found it a smooth transition to regular education,” she explained, noting that the educational system has only recently – at long last – begun to expand its understanding of intelligence beyond simple IQ tests, and into the realm of emotional intelligence and other skill sets. “The main principle of special education is that the child is the center, and I have never taken it upon myself to judge a child for where she is at that moment. I believe in each child, and it is this faith that drives me, as an educator, to help each student actualize his or her potential.”
At Frisch, she says, she found a supportive, like-minded administration and faculty. “When I came to Frisch I found it to be the Gan Eden for my vision and my thought,” she recounts. “Each person around me similarly espouses a philosophy that makes each child an equal partner in his or her education.”
Morah Dafna, who is also the author of a mournful yet optimistic volume of Hebrew poetry titled “Ohevet Ad Kelot” (“Love Without End), emphasizes that the Frisch administration’s kindness and understanding extend not just to students but to faculty as well. “The environment among colleagues in our school, regardless of who I approach, is one of total support, where everybody is for everybody,” she said. “In the toughest moments, it has meant so much to sense the tremendous empathy and compassion from Dr. Stein, Rabbi Ciner, Rabbi Wald – just to see it in their eyes. I am so appreciative of the way they have approached me and supported me, just to say, ‘We are here for you.’”
When it comes to her relationship with her students, Morah Dafna tries to give them the space they need to learn and to grow, while getting to know them as individuals. “I am very proud to be a teacher and to be part of their life,” she stated. “It is a privilege when they feel able to approach you and tell you what is on their mind. They are truly incredible young people, and my interactions with them make me a better educator.”
When asked about her successes in the classroom, Morah Dafna highlights the dedication of her colleagues, and the fact that the members of Frisch’s Hebrew Department continuously work in sync to strengthen the school’s Hebrew program. During her tenure, the Department has created its own in-house Hebrew curriculum, and divided the students into classes based on differentiated levels of Hebrew. Frisch seniors who take the Bagrut – the standard Hebrew language exam taken by Israeli students at the end of high school – have earned consistently excellent scores.
In the classroom, Morah Dafna particularly loves exposing the students to classic Hebrew poetry and songs, such as Uzi Hitman’s “Todah,” and “Hachnisini Tachat Kenafech” by Chaim Nachman Bialik. “Every day is a chagigah (celebration),” said Morah Dafna about being in the classroom. “We make the language come alive.”
“Always, a school tries to find a way to actualize the vision that it believes in,” concluded Morah Dafna. “It is something that is easy to say and much harder to do, but Frisch is actually doing it. Frisch is my home. There is no other way to describe it.”