The grand ballroom at the Dunwoody Country Club on April 8 hosted “horah circles” as the Atlanta Jewish Academy honored Shirley and Perry Brickman, along with special teachers and a volunteer. The A Kosher Touch van was in a prominent spot as it rolled out a bounteous family-style menu with dinner buffet stations to feed the crowd of 300.
The golf tournament preceding the dinner was captained by Scott Steinberg, who miraculously dodged raindrops with 73 other players.
Emcee and AJA Headmaster Rabbi Ari Leubitz recognized two outstanding teachers, Catherine Brand and Beth Intro, and Erica Katz, “Volunteer Extraordinaire.” Brand, a science teacher, was praised for her work ethic, knowledge and ability to serve as a role model for students.
“I would like to play poker with you because you wear your emotions on your sleeve,” Rabbi Leubitz said.
Brand took the stage to express her appreciation and relate a low point in her career when her public school principal told her, after a master’s degree and two years into her career, that she should seek another profession.
“It was very painful. I wondered whether to quit,” she said. What a blessing that she didn’t.
Intro, a 20-plus-year first-grade educator, said she loves being surrounded by pigtails and slimy, sticky hands. She challenged the audience to “Be more like a first grader. Be brave. Feel like you can save the world. Get excited about newness. Notice when people need help. Give random hugs.”
The 2019 Volunteer of the Year award went to Katz, who serves the school behind the scenes quietly through PTA duties, running the challah distribution and making the teachers feel special with kosher sushi, Sublime donuts and mini massages for Teacher Appreciation Week. “It’s not about the fanciest gym. A school is only as good as its teachers and staff,” she said.
Son of the honorees, Jeff Brickman, spoke on behalf of himself and his two sisters, Lori Freeman and Teresa Finer. Earlier in the evening, he related that growing up in the Brickman household was “idyllic and the place to be.” He introduced dad Dr. Perry Brickman as somewhat akin to being head of the Masters Golf Tournament (concurrently being held in Augusta). When Perry took the podium he said, “I want kichel [sweet cookie/cracker] and chopped herring served here next year. That’s my 30 seconds because everyone really wants to hear Shirley.”
Shirley, a Jewish version of Lucille Ball, did not disappoint.
She joked, “I never played golf. I had things to do. I became a Navy Seal. I’d do my dives during the day, then go to Publix and make Pesach, … but what really matters is the man (Perry) who is walking right here beside me.”
Leubitz said that Shirley “walks the walk and serves as my life coach. She always has advice on how to give diplomatic answers to my wife.”
The Brickmans received a sculpture of a dove and olive branch representing peace, love, hope and victory, concepts they epitomize so well.