By R.M. Grossblatt
A sellout crowd of 350 people celebrated three decades of Torah Day School of Atlanta’s growth as Jewish Atlanta’s tree of life Sunday night, April 3, in Heritage Hall at Congregation Beth Jacob.
The school’s annual main event, called “30 Years of Inspiring Generations,” carried through the theme of the tree of life from the moment guests walked into Beth Jacob’s foyer to the tables where they sat, applauded the honorees and enjoyed videos by Blue Orchid Productions.
Joseph and Phyllis Tate received the 2015 honorees award. Guests were served Indian food catered by Bijan’s because Joseph Tate’s mother was born in India.
Beth Jacob Rabbi Ilan Feldman, the rabbinic adviser to TDSA, introduced the Tates as being among the founders and dedicated supporters of the school. He spoke of their commitment to the community and acceptance of others.
“Everyone feels comfortable in their home,” he said.
Featured on a PBS documentary as a religious OB/GYN, Tate is the recipient of the REAL Award for newborn and mother care. He has delivered over 7,000 children, including 71 who currently attend TDSA.
A grandfather, Tate also established and continues to monitor the eruv in Toco Hills, often climbing trees to check that the eruv is in place before Shabbat.
After a d’var Torah by fifth-grader Elchonon Hiller, grandson of another one of the honorees, master of ceremonies Shimon Kaminetzky introduced Joel Marks, representing the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, which supports Jewish day schools in Atlanta.
“I have been blessed with knowing many TDSA students. I’ve witnessed the TDSA mission statement come to life through these incredible young men and women,” Marks said.
Kaminetzky talked about the Southern Association of Independent Schools accreditation team that visited Torah Day this year. He attributed the team’s positive report to the atmosphere of love and kindness created by Rabbi Joshua Einzig, the head of school.
When two members of the SAIS team observed Morah Dena Friedman’s kindergarten, Kaminetsky said, they told the others, “You’ve got to go in there.”
Guest speaker Rabbi Shmuel Fields, the head of Torah Day School in Phoenix and an alumnus and former teacher at TDSA, thanked the teachers and principals who planted in him the seeds of faith and love of learning.
He gave a special thank-you to Rabbi Moshe Hiller, who along with his wife, Leah, received the Distinguished Educator Award for their 22 years of teaching. “You were an unbelievable mentor,” Rabbi Fields told Rabbi Hiller, “and that mentoring I gave over.”
The Sadell Soan Volunteer Award was presented to Yacov and Rachelle Freedman for their creative efforts in producing an annual musical with the middle school girls. Yacov, a film producer who works for Turner Classic Movies, writes the scripts with Rachelle, a former student at Torah Day School. “Madame Director,” as she’s affectionately known, directs the musical and volunteers to help other classes with their dramatic presentations.
One of the student actresses, seventh-grader Avigayil Landman, shared a d’var Torah in honor of her director.
General Studies Principal Linda Rabinowitz made a surprise presentation to retiring teacher Susan Krohn, who has taught at the school since its beginning in 1985. “She made a difference” was Rabinowitz’s refrain in a speech that highlighted Krohn’s time at the school.
Rabinowitz added, “I’m so proud to be her colleague.”