Mazal Tov!

There are all kinds of celebrations. Some are formal events, marking a milestone, significant accomplishment or achievement. Some are galas, fun-filled festivities where the spirit of happiness and joy is palpable in the room. Other celebrations are quieter, more personal events that might take place between just two or a handful of people. These are no less as important as the others, because all celebrations have at least one thing in common: a connection between two or more people who come together for a joyful reason.

At the BCHSJS Annual Gala Dinner, people came together to celebrate BCHSJS, its honorees, students, parents, educators and staff. The Gala itself was a celebration, with a feeling of happiness and pride evident in the beautiful room. Tables were set with yellow and white centerpieces and Israeli music played in the background. At the front of the room stood an American and an Israeli flag, marking the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem and 43 years of BCHSJS. Two BCHSJS students sang each country’s national anthem. And what’s a party without food? 125 guests selected dishes from sumptuous buffet tables that had something for everyone.

Built into the Gala itself were a myriad of celebrations, starting with recognition of the BCHSJS seniors and alumni who were at the event. Two recently graduated BCHSJS seniors stepped forward to share their thoughts, making the audience laugh and moving them with their insights about what they gained from attending BCHSJS. They talked about how hard it was for their parents to get them to go to BCHSJS, but once they did, it changed their lives through fun activities with other Jewish teens and by helping them form a strong Jewish identity.

Another highlight of the evening were the awards presented to distinguished community, parent and educator honorees. Recipients of the L’Dor V’Dor  Award, David Goodman and Dr. Hope Schlossberg, spoke about the importance of Jewish education and of supporting the school. Parent Honorees Alex and Doug Sobelman stressed that what mattered most were the 120 students who came together from diverse backgrounds throughout Bergen County every Sunday morning to learn and experience what it means to be Jewish. Educator of the Year Rabbi Shelley Kniaz spoke to the fact that there is much work to be done in building a strong Jewish identity in young people, but that BCHSJS was going far to fill that need.

At the heart of BCHSJS are its teachers, and one of them, Barnett Goldman, received the Exemplary Service Award, not just for his passion for teaching at BCHSJS but for all that he does in the broader community. He sat, surrounded by other BCHSJS educators and staff members, each of whom also continuously contribute to BCHSJS.

As the evening came to a close, one could look around the room and see a vibrant Jewish community with a single-minded focus: to build and nurture within our young people great pride, enjoyment and dedication to being Jewish. Mazal Tov, BCHSJS!