(Courtesy of JKHA/RKYHS) JKHA/RKYHS administration, board of trustees and faculty recently dedicated the main atrium of the school to honor and pay tribute to the early founders of the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy and Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School. The yeshiva, originally named the Yeshiva of Newark, followed by the Hebrew Youth Institute, Hebrew Academy of Essex County and eventually Hebrew Youth Academy, was founded more than 70 years ago in Newark before moving to Hillside, South Orange, West Caldwell and then to its current campus in Livingston.
JKHA/RKYHS dedicated the atrium in recognition of the visionary leadership and unprecedented financial support for academic excellence and affordability initiatives that Paula and Jerry, z”l, Gottesman have so generously given to the school. A few years ago, the Gottesmans accepted the naming and, with their signature, quiet modesty and extraordinary thoughtfulness, asked the school to consider finding a way to recognize and honor its historical roots and shine a spotlight on past leaders.
“Jerry wanted to make sure that the school remembered with gratitude the people who came before us, the lay leaders in Newark and Greater MetroWest who established a yeshiva in Newark all those decades ago,” commented Lauren Shapiro, JKHA/RKYHS director of development.
The Gottesman family has multi-generational ties to the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy and Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School. Jerry’s parents, Sadie and Joe Gottesman, were deeply involved volunteers and supporters in the early years. Jerry’s brother, Edward, attended HYA, as did two of the Gottesman’s daughters. Gottesman was especially proud of the role of his parents and their friends in ensuring that Jewish children in Newark, from modest backgrounds, could receive a Jewish education. Sadie was an early president of the PTA and ran the hot lunch program, which fed many hungry children in Newark. Joe was a board member and the treasurer of the school for decades until the year before he died.
The Gottesmans selected the main atrium as the area for dedication, an area that lies at the very heart of JKHA/RKYHS. “It is the appropriate place to bear the name of the people whose contributions made possible the school we have today,” commented Shapiro. “By naming this central artery for our busy school the ‘Founders Atrium,’ Jerry wanted to ensure a connection to our past, as he partnered with us to envision our future.”
It was fitting that the school chose to hold the atrium dedication on a day devoted to professional development for all JKHA and RKYHS faculty. Paula and Jerry, z”l, Gottesman have been leaders and funders of professional development at JKHA/RKYHS as well as in all the Jewish schools in Greater MetroWest. Years before anyone else, the Gottesmans understood that investing in faculty professional development builds academic excellence, which is fundamental to sustaining Jewish schools in the long term.
The dedication presented an opportunity for the school community, including the faculty guiding the present students, along with school leaders and partners who are building for the future, to pay tribute to those who laid the foundation for the exceptional school that exists today. In this way, it is a fitting and meaningful expression of gratitude to the Gottesmans and to all those who believed—and still believe—that the key to the Jewish future is Jewish education.