Teach NJ dinner is set for May 24
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Teach NJ dinner is set for May 24

Clockwise from top left, Sam and Jenna Goldstein, Ayala Kramer, Yoni and Bellene Gontownik, and Keshet and Steven Starr
Clockwise from top left, Sam and Jenna Goldstein, Ayala Kramer, Yoni and Bellene Gontownik, and Keshet and Steven Starr

The New Jersey Jewish community will gather to thank elected officials who support state funding of nonpublic schools for the Teach NJ Legislative dinner, planned for Tuesday, May 24, at 7:30 p.m., at Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood. The program also will honor seven of Teach NJ’s leaders, who advocate for state funding for those schools. The annual Legislative Dinner is more than a celebration; it sets the stage for expanding its advocacy for greater investments in schools for programs such as busing, security, special education, STEM, and nursing. Ben and Tamar Blumenthal, Lisa and Jonathan Schechter, Shari and Nathan Lindenbaum, and Rebekah and Avi Mally are the dinner’s co-chairs.

Since 2016, Teach NJ’s advocacy has helped lead the fight for the state to invest more in nonpublic-school students and schools. This year, Jewish day schools and yeshivas across the state are benefitting from the increased funding of nonpublic schools valued at more than $135 million. More than 150,000 children in New Jersey attend nonpublic schools, but those schools receive less than one percent of the state’s education dollars.

“When it comes to state and local advocacy, elected officials listen to the communities who advocate, who turn out to vote on election day, and who are genuinely involved,” Sam Moed, Teach NJ’s chair, said. “The legislative dinner honors our relationships with the legislators who support nonpublic school education. A big turnout sends a clear message that our community appreciates their support and that our advocacy is here to stay.”

In appreciation of their dedication as volunteers and generosity as donors, Teach NJ is honoring Jenna and Sam Goldstein of Teaneck, Yoni and Bellene Gontownik of Englewood, and Steven and Keshet Starr of Elizabeth. Ayala Kramer is the Student of the Year.

The Goldsteins send their three oldest children to Yavneh Academy. Sam Goldstein, an attorney at Sidley Austin LLP, is a board member at Yavneh and Yavneh’s liaison to Teach NJ.

Jenna Goldstein, a financial advisor at BLS Wealth Management, talked about her family’s dedication to the Teach NJ mission. “We believe in the tremendous importance of advocating for our community to voice our needs and fight for the safety of our yeshiva day schools,” she said.

The Starrs’ three oldest children attend the Lower School of the Jewish Educational Center. Keshet Starr is the CEO of the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot and is a thought leader in the areas of get (Jewish divorce) refusal and domestic abuse. Steven Starr is an attorney at Seward & Kissel LLP and a Teach NJ ambassador network member.

“There is no alternative to the financial support from the state of New Jersey,” Steven Starr said. “The funds provide immeasurable benefit for nonpublic school students. We are passionate about spreading the word about Teach NJ’s impact and are proud to recruit new activists to help strengthen our mission.”

Yoni and Bellene Gontownik’s children go to the Moriah School in Englewood. Bellene Gontownik is a dentist who practices at Riverfront Pediatric Dentistry. Yoni Gontownik is an investment professional at GIC, the sovereign wealth fund of Singapore, and is a board member of Boston University’s Hillel. Yoni and Bellene and their families have demonstrated a passion and commitment toward Jewish day school affordability.

Ayala Kramer, the Student of the Year honoree, is a 10th grader at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck. As a student activist, she participates in Teach NJ initiatives, including the Teach NJ Virtual Mission to Trenton and the crowdfunding campaign.

“I love how Teach NJ helps students speak directly to state lawmakers and explain that providing funding for Jewish schools is not only a good thing to do, it’s a great way to improve New Jersey as a whole,” Ms. Kramer said. “The graduates of our nonpublic schools have so much to contribute. Our voices are important, and when we come together, the state leaders really do listen to us.”

Teach NJ relies on philanthropic support to help sustain its advocacy work. Proceeds from the dinner will fund its mission to fight for nonpublic education that is secure, strong, and affordable.

For information, call (201) 613-2447, go to teachcoalition.org/njdinner, or email joyandehm@teachcoalition.org.

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