Subscribe to The Jewish Standard free weekly newsletter


entries tagged with: Sandra Gold


Community mourns passing of ‘pure soul’

On April 7, Jeffrey Ethan Silver — a much-loved husband, father, son, brother, uncle, and friend — died at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital at the age of 47.

The son of noted community activists Drs. Sandra and Arnold Gold and of Dr. Howard and Jayne Silver, Jeffrey was described by his sister, Maggie Gold Seelig, as the family’s historian and “go-to guy.” He was also, she said, a man whose life was devoted to doing good.

He was ‘everybody’s big brother,’ said sister Jennifer Arnold of her brother Jeffrey Silver, who died on April 7.

At his funeral — which filled the sanctuary at Temple Emanu-El of Closter last Thursday — Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner noted that Jeffrey “chose as his final act in this life to donate his working organs to people that were in need of them.”

“What a gift,” he said. “What a beautiful Jewish act.”

“To know Jeffrey was to know that he always did the right thing,” said his mother, Sandra Gold. She cited the rabbi’s statement that, with Passover then approaching, Jeffrey, “with a pure soul, as one who never got puffed up,” might symbolically be compared to matzoh.

“He didn’t aspire to travel to distant places, eat fancy dinners out, or extravagance of any kind,” said Seelig. “He lived responsibly within his means, satisfied to have a meaningful job, work hard, and enrich the lives of his children and family. He knew and practiced the essence of what Mom calls the Dayenu Principle.”

“He was everybody’s big brother,” said sister Jennifer Arnold, noting that his siblings were only vaguely aware of the illnesses Jeffrey suffered, and overcame, as a child. “Whether it was delivering baskets for Rosh HaShanah to all the family friends or going to ShopRite at 11p.m. for a forgotten ingredient, Jeff was the man,” she said.

“I realize now that there were so many hurdles for you, but you always took them in stride,” she said in her eulogy, “so I never understood what courage and strength you had. A hearing aid, OK. The burning infusions of potassium, survived. The diabetes and the loss of chocolate cake, not so easy.… Dear brother, with each challenge you just grew stronger.”

Jeffrey had undergone brain tumor surgery as a toddler and thereafter faced a serious learning disability, his sister said, “but it did not faze him.” The family was told when he was 4 l/2 that he would never learn to read, but “two months later Jeffrey was reading and went on to successfully graduate from Syracuse University.”

“He never played the victim card,” Seelig agreed, adding that as the family prayed for him in his final days, they remembered “countless stories of Jeff’s going out of his way to help one of us — particularly his parents. Jeff took his responsibility as the eldest son and the big brother to heart and never let us or anyone down.”

As an example, she cited his willingness to help his grandfather Max after a stroke, leaving work during lunch hour to eat with him, “even though Grandpa couldn’t speak a single word.”

Jeffrey, who lived in Rivervale, was an employee at Englewood Hospital.

In a eulogy written by his mother and delivered by Seelig, Sandra Gold acknowledged that “it does take a village” to raise a child and thanked “all of you who made opportunities for Jeffrey to use his strengths and who helped him achieve his goals.”

“Thank you for believing in him,” she said. “He absolutely never let us down.”

Jeffrey is survived by his parents; by his wife, Dara Klein Silver, and children David and Lilliana; and by his siblings, Stephen S. Silver and Michele, Jennifer Arnold and Coby Mor, Amelia Gold Benson and Dr. Brian, and Maggie Gold Seelig and Jonathan. He was also the beloved “Uncle Bear” of many nieces and nephews.

A memorial fund has been established in his name. Contributions may be made to the Jeffrey Silver Memorial Fund at the Arnold P. Gold Foundation.


Community mourns Sidney Schonfeld

Philanthropist called ‘a very caring individual’

Sidney Schonfeld, who died Sept. 15 at the age of 87, is being remembered by many in the same choice words: “mensch,” “friend,” “gentleman”; “kind,” “caring,” “principled.”

The Tenafly resident left Nazi Germany with his family at the age of 12, knowing no English. But as he told The Jewish Standard in 2006, on the occasion of his receiving the Shem Tov (good name) award of Temple Emanu-El of Closter, he quickly taught himself the language, eventually attended City College at night, and started a successful food-importing business. This gave him the means and the time to be generous to worthy causes.

In his eulogy at Schonfeld’s funeral at Temple Emanu-El last Friday, Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner said, “Sid was a giver. He always had his hands in his pockets and was helping out someone or some group in need. He would confide in me, ‘Rabbi this person came to me. They are in trouble. They need help. They are getting divorced, paying for day school. It is hard for them to make ends meet.’”

Kirshner said he would reply, “‘Sid, you are a tzaddik. You give to any and every organization that has the letter J in its initials. UJA, JNF, UJC, JTS JFS, USCJ, JCC, JCRC, and many more. Sometimes you can say no, Sid.’

“It was like I was speaking a language he had never heard,” Kirshner continued. “He said to me, ‘Rabbi, he needs help. I can. I will.’”

Ed Ruzinsky “knew Sidney through his caring affiliation with JFS” — Jewish Family Service, one of those J-initial organizations. Ruzinsky, a JFS board member for more than 30 years, said that “from the day he got involved he was committed to the mission of JFS and he lived it…. Until his health began to deteriorate he would be at board meetings. Sid was a trustee to the end of his life.”

He was also, Ruzinsky said, “as close to the perfect gentleman as you can find — a mensch, unequivocally devoted to our community, a very caring individual and a great human being.”

Sandra Gold, the president of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh, worked with Schonfeld on the boards of the JHR, the Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities, and the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, and in other ways.

“When he undertook to resolve a need in our community he was tenacious,” she recalled. “He took it upon himself to create a scholarship fund at the JCC for students who could not [afford to] go to college without some help. He was relentless in his pursuit of raising enough funds to make a difference.”

Also, she said, Schonfeld “knew how to be a good friend…. I do not know a kinder soul. He was an elegant, old-world, sensitive human being who resonated with the people around him…. You just have to look at the causes that he undertook. He just couldn’t look the other way. He felt compelled to reach out his hand and help.”

Gold and her husband, for whom the Arnold P. Gold Foundation is named, promote “humanism in medicine,” the tradition of compassionate care, and she was touched by the fact that Schonfeld “never failed to go out without a ‘Humanism in Medicine’ pin on his jacket.”

And like Ruzinsky, she was struck by the fact that Schonfeld did not let age and illness keep him from communal work.

“As Sid grew more frail,” she recalled, “he still managed to come to allocations meetings at UJA and board meetings at the Jewish Home. He put himself second. He continued to work on behalf of those in need.”

Gold called him “a terrific role model,” adding, “he could have put his feet up and watched television and leave [communal work] to others, but he continued to advocate for those in need….

“When I think about Sid,” Gold said, “I think about 1. what a good soul he was, and how kind, and 2. how much he loved his wife Hilde.”

That love was legendary. Hildegard Schonfeld died 10 years ago, and those who knew him say that he missed her every day.

Emanu-El’s Kirshner noted that Schonfeld had donated a Torah to the shul in her memory, and “each week, as we would march the Torah around, a smile would go from ear to ear, not only because it was a reminder of his tradition but also because it was a reminder of his wife.”

At Schonfeld’s funeral, which was attended by some 500 people, Kirshner said, “We can be consoled that, after 10 years, Sidney is in Hilde’s embrace.”

Schonfeld is survived by his son Gary and his wife Elisabeth; his daughter Victoria and her husband Victor Friedman; and five grandchildren, Jared, Remi, Zachary, Matthew, and Sam.

Contributions in his memory may be made to the Sidney Schonfeld Fund at Temple Emanu-El or the Schonfeld College Scholarship Fund at the JCC on the Palisades.

Arrangements were by Gutterman-Musicant Funeral Directors in Hackensack.


Making lives wonderful for the elderly

Charles Berkowitz marks 40 years, takes lead on Jewish Home at Home

Charles Berkowitz, the 69-year-old president and CEO of the Jewish Home Family who is marking 40 years with the Jewish Home this year, has no intention of slowing down.

“I feel good,” he said. “I like what I’m doing, and I like who I’m working for, and who I’m working with.”

The organization will honor Berkowitz for his four decades of service at its Oct. 24 95th-anniversary gala. Berkowitz is credited for leading the way for the opening of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh and the Jewish Home Assisted Living, major fund-raising for Jewish Home programs through the years, and launching the Jewish Home at Home program last year.

“There’s a very strong positive reinforcement when you’re dealing with the elderly,” Berkowitz told The Jewish Standard. “It’s a population that’s needy and appreciative of what you do for them.”

Only 4 percent of the elderly population ends up in nursing home facilities, Berkowitz said. To address the needs of the aged who want to remain in their homes, the Jewish Home unveiled its Jewish Home at Home program earlier this year, under Berkowitz’s guidance.

“We will take care of people who never get into nursing homes,” he said.

Charles Berkowitz

Demand to get into a Jewish Home facility is high and, according to Berkowitz, its facilities have an almost 99 percent occupancy rate — 180 people in Rockleigh and 124 in River Vale. The Jewish Home at Home program will ease demands on inpatient care and delay when people actually need to enter a nursing home. The program will also acclimate people to the idea of a nursing home if and when they need one later, Berkowitz said.

“We’ll be in a position to help those people,” he said. “When their time comes and they need the Home, they’ll be way up on the waiting list.”

Berkowitz’s work with the Jewish community began while he was a Yeshiva University graduate student in social work on a scholarship from the Englewood predecessor to the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades. The understanding was that he would work for the JCC after graduation. After a recommendation from then-JCC director George Hantgan, the Jewish Home offered Berkowitz a job in 1970 as an assistant administrator. He became CEO of the Jersey City site in 1982.

“He has been a godsend to the Jewish Home,” said Ary Freilich, chairman of the Jewish Home Family. “It’s hard to imagine that our organization would be where it is had Chuck not been its steward for the last 40 years.”

For about as long as Berkowitz has been involved with the Jewish Home, so has Sandra Gold, president of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh, who began her work with the organization shortly before his arrival.

“Chuck’s role … is so important because the Home has never stood still in its desire to meet the needs of aging people, particularly the Jewish aged,” said Gold. “He has the wonderful capacity to be both a passionate social worker and a skilled nursing home administrator, combined with the ability to visualize the big-picture needs of those who are aging.”

Berkowitz serves also on the boards of the Adler Aphasia Center and the Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities. He continues to inspire others, said Gold, also a member of those boards.

“He is capable of inspiring leadership in those around him,” she said.

As the Jewish Home moves closer to the 100-year mark, Berkowitz has his sights set on continued growth. He dismissed rumors of his retirement, circulating because a new administrator is being brought on board to run the Jewish Home at Rockleigh. Berkowitz will instead focus his efforts on growing the Jewish Home at Home and running the umbrella organization, Jewish Home Family. Berkowitz foresees physical expansion to meet the needs of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh and Jewish Home at Home. He also pointed to the need for fund-raising, particularly since 20 percent of the Jewish Home at Home care will be given to people unable to afford such care on their own.

Through the Jewish Home at Home program, a geriatric care manager will assess a candidate’s home and work on a care plan with the applicant and perhaps with a social worker or nurse. The Jewish Home then helps fulfill the patient’s needs, which, Berkowitz said, may be as simple as changing a light bulb and helping with chores, or helping with medications.

With many challenges ahead, Berkowitz is looking forward to continuing to aid a vulnerable elderly population.

“It’s fun,” he said. “It makes life worthwhile doing the things I do.”

Charles Berkowitz, a snapshot

Wife: Rachel

Children: 3

Grandchildren: 3

Resides in: Glen Rock

Past leadership roles:

Chair, New Jersey Association of Non-Profit Homes for the Aging

Chair, Association of Jewish Aging services

Delegate, 1995 White House Conference on Aging

Treasurer, board of directors, UJA Association for the Developmentally Disabled

Treasurer, Adler Aphasia Center

Past accolades:

Anti-Defamation League Distinguished Community Service Award

New Jersey Association of Non-Profit Homes for the Aging Distinguished Service Award

New Jersey Association of Jewish Communal Services Saul Schwartz Award

Solomon Schechter Day School Community Award


Making lives wonderful for the elderly

Jewish Home celebrates its 95th anniversary

The Jewish Home at Rockleigh

What began as a small orphanage in Jersey City in the early 20th century has turned into a major player in how the North Jersey Jewish community cares for its elderly.

The Jewish Home Family will celebrate its 95th anniversary on Oct. 24 with a gala celebration at The Rockleigh, and its supporters are reflecting on its long history.

“There are many interesting and innovative ways to make life wonderful for people who are older and whose children live far away and for whom life has changed dramatically,” said Sandra Gold, president of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh. “We are in the business of vibrant Jewish living. That is the motivation for everything we do. We want people to live their lives with that quote in mind, ‘Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.’”

‘It was the place to go’

Founded as the Hebrew Orphans Home of Hudson County in a Jersey City cottage, the organization grew until, in the 1930s, its leaders realized another Jewish population was in need. It became, in a larger building, the Hebrew Home for Orphans and Aged of Hudson County.

During the 1940s the organization added new facilities to expand nursing and custodial care. In the 1950s, the Hebrew Home and Hospital opened its doors to Bergen County residents, as well.

By the 1970s, the Jewish Home was delivering 80 meals a day through Kosher Meals on Wheels and more than 100 clients were getting served by the Jersey City site a day.

The Jewish Home at Rockleigh opened its doors in 2001 and with the opening of the Jewish Home Assisted Living in River Vale in 2007, community leaders decided that a central body was needed.

They created the Jewish Home Family in 2008, which today oversees the Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Russ Berrie Home for Jewish Living; the Jewish Home Assisted Living, Kaplen Family Senior Residence, in River Vale; the Jewish Home Foundation of North Jersey Inc. and the Jewish Home & Rehabilitation Center, in River Vale.

“It became apparent that we were sufficiently complex, that we could not have various entities operating totally autonomously,” said Ary Freilich, chairman of the Jewish Home Family. “Rather, we needed to have a common philosophy, common goals, and a common institutional vision.”

For Steven Morey Greenberg, president of the Jewish Home Foundation, supporting the Jewish Home is a family obligation. His grandparents, Mollie and Paul Weisenfeld, helped create the original Jewish Home in 1915.

By the late 1970s, Greenberg was attending Jewish Home functions and following his parents’ and grandparents’ tradition in his contributions to the Jewish Home. It wasn’t until the mid 1990s, however, when Greenberg’s mother, Rhoda, went to live at the Jewish Home in River Vale, that he fully understood the impact of the Jewish Home. During his first meeting to discuss his mother’s care, one of the staff members spoke up and said she could provide the care Greenberg’s mother needed.

“That was a reaffirming thing,” he said. “There she was saying, ‘I can take care of your mother.’ You really have personal contact.”

Personal contact has been a hallmark of the Jewish Home experience for Greenberg. Following the example of the Jewish Home Family’s president and CEO Charles Berkowitz, Greenberg walks the halls of the Jewish Home facilities, interacting with patients and staff. It’s important, he said, to let people know that the volunteer lay leaders are invested in the Jewish Home.

Shiri Redensky, a Jewish Home at Rockleigh board member, and resident Sylvia Contente. Photos courtesy Jewish Home Foundation

“It’s my pleasure to walk … get to know the staff and the residents and the volunteers,” Greenberg said.

While growing up in Livingston at a time when there weren’t that many Jewish communal organizations, Sandra Gold knew that the home in Jersey City was the place to go for Jewish families in need.

“It was the place to go if you needed a place for an aging parent or somebody who needed that kind of intensive care,” said Gold.

When her father and grandmother needed that kind of care, both spent time at Jewish Home facilities.

“I was so grateful to have the home there when I needed it,” she said. “But if you don’t lift a finger beforehand, you can’t expect it to be there. We need everybody to get involved before the need arises.”

Because of Gold’s close relationship with her grandparents, she said, she developed a “deep affection and respect for those who are getting older.”

“A Jewish community has a responsibility to sponsor and support a quality Jewish home for the aged,” she said.

The 1970s was a decade of expansion for the Jewish Home. Its first Bergen County facility opened in River Vale, New Jersey’s first adult day-care program launched at the JHRC in Jersey City; and the Kosher Meals on Wheels program was serving 100 meals a day.

In 1991, the Meals on Wheels program came to Bergen County, and plans were soon under way to build a new facility in Bergen County, a “big moment,” Gold said, that culminated with the opening of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh in 2001.

“When we made the decision to create a facility in Bergen County, even though it was a small one, I thought that was visionary,” she said. “We saw people were moving north and we wanted to be where the needs would be.”

Freilich noted that his own parents spent the last years of their lives in a nursing home, although not the Jewish Home.

“Their circumstances were not easy on them or the rest of us,” he said. “What I witnessed was how a high-quality, caring institution can make a meaningful contribution to dignity and health and freedom from pain, and at the same time make an enormous contribution to the life of children and other family members.”

In 1999, Freilich received a call from his stockbroker, who asked him to make a contribution to the Jewish Home, which led to years of volunteer service, a way, he said, to “indirectly pay back, not to the institution that had supported my parents, but rather to the notion of caring for the elderly.”

Looking toward the future

“There are not a lot of opportunities in life to do good in a setting in which you are encouraged to be creative and to make a difference,” Freilich said. “The Jewish Home is very special in that regard.”

The economy has been rough for many non-profit agencies, but the Jewish Home has weathered the storm, according to Freilich. Still, it is in need not only of donations, but of volunteers, he said.

So many people do not think about nursing homes until their own parents or grandparents need one, Gold said. About 45 percent of the patients in the nursing home are on Medicaid, which does not reimburse the full costs of care, she continued. She pointed to several new board members in recent years who are in their 30s and 40s, and a desire within the board to keep the Jewish Home evolving with new ideas and people.

“Being a volunteer at the Jewish Home is so rewarding,” Gold said. “It really makes a difference in how you feel when you know you can make a difference for people who really need to have that in your lives. You really know you’re doing something important.”


Much more than just learning an instrument

Present at the creation

Warren BorosonCover Story
Published: 28 January 2011

There were two terrific reasons why Sandra O. Gold got the idea of establishing a music school at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades lo these many years ago.

For one thing, she had to drive from Englewood to New York City once a week to schlep her kids to the Manhattan School of Music. First one kid, then another, then another. For 17 years. Why wasn’t there an excellent community music school right here in New Jersey?

The other reason was: The leading New York City music schools had classes for very young students only on Saturdays. So Gold had to drive in on Shabbat. And daughter Amelia expressed the wish at age 11 that she would become observant when she was an adult and would never drag her own future kids to Manhattan for music lessons on Saturdays. (Amelia went on to Juilliard and is now a violin teacher and music director of the Summer String Festival at the Elisabeth Morrow School in Englewood. Amelia Gold’s own children now attend the Thurnauer school.)

Sandra Gold is celebrated as the founder of the Thurnauer School of Music. File photo

Her daughter’s comment “really turned the tide,” says Gold, who proceeded to create what is now the Thurnauer School at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades — and every year, she is honored at a Founders Day concert. (She and her physician husband, Dr. Arnold Gold, also founded the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, which fosters humanitarian medicine.)

The school grew from 25 students in 1984 more than 400 today, and its founding director, Dorothy Kaplan Roffman, boasts that “Our students have performed with Whoopi Goldberg and Bob McGrath on ‘Sesame Street’ and have appeared at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, and the John Harms Theater (now BergenPAC).”

Was it hard to create a music school? Yes, Gold acknowledges, there were obstacles, but she quotes Pogo Possum, the onetime comic-strip character, as referring to “insurmountable opportunities.” She credits the success of the undertaking in large part to the “cast”: people like Roffman and the late Lowell Zimmer, who was the school’s director of cultural arts.

A notable event at the Thurnauer School is the regular Gift of Music concert, at which celebrated musicians have performed with the students — this year, with the New York Philharmonic’s conductor, Alan Gilbert.

Pinchas Zukerman, the violinist, was the honored guest in 1996. Gold heard an 8-year-old cellist performing at the same concert, with Amelia conducting, and later went over to praise him. “You were wonderful, so professional,” she told him.

The boy replied that Amelia had told all of the musicians, “Don’t be stinky for Pinky.”


Much more than just learning an instrument

Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic, will conduct the Thurnauer orchestra on Wednesday, Feb. 9, with concertmaster Glenn Dicterow performing the “Theme from ‘Schindler’s List.’” Chris Lee

When the Thurnauer Music School’s symphony orchestra tunes up on Feb. 9 for its annual benefit concert, its musicians will be guided by one of the greatest conductors in the world, says Dorothy Kaplan Roffman, founding director of the school.

But while delighted that Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic, will conduct the Thurnauer orchestra at the event, Roffman is not surprised.

“My understanding of Mr. Gilbert is that he has a great sense of promoting music and the love of music to the community at large,” said Roffman. “That’s also the mission of a community music school. By allowing anyone who wants to come to learn about music, we’re creating the audience of the future.”

Director of the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades Thurnauer School of Music since 1984, Roffman added that Gilbert — together with other musicians from the Philharmonic — is making “an extraordinarily generous gesture. They have taken an evening to give us a gift.”

Appropriately named “The Gift of Music,” the benefit, established in 1990 by Drs. Alan and Joan Handler and to be held this year at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, will feature performances by several Philharmonic members, including concertmaster Glenn Dicterow and principal associate concertmaster Sheryl Staples.

According to Roffman, Staples, a Thurnauer parent and Haworth resident, played a major role in bringing the concert about.

“With one exception, all of the [Philharmonic] musicians invited to the concert are Bergen County residents,” said Staples. “It’s a nice connection…. I thought that they would feel good about supporting our fine resident music school.”

Staples’ own connection to the Thurnauer began four years ago, when her then 6-year-old son Michael announced that he wanted to play the violin, like his mother.

“I was surprised because my husband is a percussionist,” said Staples, who has been with the Philharmonic for 13 seasons. “We assumed he would go for drums.”

After sitting in on Michael’s lessons with Roffman for a year, Staples’ daughter Laura, then 5, said she wanted to play the violin as well.

“Whoever I spoke to,” said Staples, “colleagues as well as people who know about music in the area, kept directing me to the JCC Thurnauer School of Music and specifically toward Dorothy. The school isn’t an ordinary place where kids just study music. It’s a commitment for families, much more than just taking private lessons.”

The reason her children are still playing their violins today, she said, is that they were studying at Thurnauer rather than simply taking one lesson a week with someone in the neighborhood. She described the school as a “musical community where you develop friendships with other students.”

Learning to play the violin is hard, she said, “and we’ve all had our dark moments.” But her children take a variety of other classes at Thurnauer that are both educational and fun.

“One of the things that has gotten us through tough times has been looking forward to the group class,” Staples said. “They make it so much fun for them.” She reeled off the classes her children attend, including music and movement as well as Dalcroze sessions emphasizing rhythm.

“They think they’re playing,” she said. “The teachers are very creative and wonderful. My kids have loved it.”

Calling Roffman “the driving force behind the school,” Staples said the director’s philosophy is that students should become part of a community of music. Students attend classes several times a week both to play music and to listen to it.

Another feature of the school is regular recitals, she said. Students can sign up to play for an audience on a regular basis “so there’s a constant opportunity for them to try out whatever piece they’re working on. Some play often, some don’t,” she said. “They work on their pieces, and when they’re ready to try them out, this is a way for them to get on stage in an auditorium, with lights dimmed and everybody clapping.”

“There’s a different feeling getting up on stage with and playing for an audience,” she said. “It’s an important part of the development of a musician, not just to practice but to be able to stand up and give the gift of music to other people. Music is meant to be shared.”

Staples said she and Roffman had been discussing the idea of approaching Philharmonic musicians for a while, since the benefit concert generally features musicians of some renown.

The event, held to raise funds for scholarships — nearly 20 percent of Thurnauer students are on on partial or full scholarships — includes not only the evening concert, for which artists donate their services. It also includes an afternoon workshop offering students what Roffman called “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for music students to interact with them and be inspired by their artistry.”

Former presenters have included noted classical and jazz musicians, including jazz bassist Rufus Reid, violinists Joshua Bell and Gil Shaham, and the Wynton Marsalis Septet.

This year’s concert will include several parts, said Staples. After brief performances by the school’s violin groups and chorus, she and some of her Philharmonic colleagues will perform a program of chamber music, including works by Beethoven, Andres, and Mendelssohn.

Gilbert, whom Staples described as “a fine violinist and violist,” will play in the Mendelssohn Octet. Dicterow will play solo violin in a special performance of the “Theme from ‘Schindler’s List.’”

Staples said that with the exception of Dicterow and Gilbert, her fellow musicians — Sharon Yamada, violin; Yulia Ziskel, violin; Rebbeca Young, associate principal viola; Eric Bartlett, cello; Maria Kitsopoulos, cello; Judith LeClair, principal bassoon; Nancy Allen, principal harp; and Jonathan Feldman, piano — all live in Bergen County, and some have children who study at the Thurnauer school.

“Musicians are very charitable at heart and realize how important it is to support young people in their endeavors into music while supporting an institution like Thurnauer,” she said, adding that most of the Philharmonic members become involved “in various different benefits and charitable ways to offer their talent and time.”

Following the chamber music, “The Thurnauer symphony orchestra will come out and Alan [Gilbert] will conduct them in three works,” said Staples. “Some of us will sit side by side with the students” during this part of the performance.

For their part, the students have been preparing their pieces since the beginning of the school year, she said, noting that during a rehearsal before the performance, the Philharmonic music director will “put his finishing touches” on the music.

The Thurnauer orchestra, she said, includes the most advanced students in the school, both adults and children.

Her own children will participate in the opening presentation by the school’s violin groups, where “every violinist in the school who can participate will do so. There’s a lot of excitement in the air,” she said. “To bring in a conductor of [Gilbert’s] stature is the experience of a lifetime for young musicians.”

Staples said that as a musician herself, she’s learned a great deal from every conductor she’s ever worked with, whether in Cleveland or New York, and whether Alan Gilbert, Riccardo Muti, or Christoph von Dohnányi.

“As musicians, we gain from all of them,” she said. “For young people to have the opportunity to work with someone like Alan Gilbert, so experienced and such a mature musician, that will rub off on them…. He’ll talk to them and explain things in a way they haven’t heard before.”

“I think it will be incredibly inspiring,” said Roffman. “They’ll be making music with the best musicians in the country and one of the greatest conductors in the world. I cannot imagine that it will not be a high moment in their lives — whether they become musicians in the future or not is irrelevant. It’s something they will remember.”

While Gift of Music concerts are generally held at the JCC’s Taub auditorium, which seats about 600 people, BergenPAC holds twice that number.

“We usually get an audience of about 600,”said Roffman, “depending on how well-known the artist is. By the time it happens, there’s a ‘buzz’ about it.” She hopes to fill most of the seats in this year’s larger venue.

A full rehearsal will take place from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. the day of the performance, “and there will be an opportunity for the kids to ask [Gilbert] questions and interact with him in a personal way,” Rothman said. “They’re rehearsing all the time. We often say about music that once it’s polished, that’s when you can begin to learn the piece. When you no longer have real difficulties, you can begin to think about interpretation and what you want to do with the piece to make it more beautiful for the audience.”

The event will begin with a performance of the school chorus, now in its second year.

“We’ve just become an affiliate of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City,” said Roffman. “It’s an amazing group.”

Led by founder and artistic director Francisco J. Núñez, the performance-based YPC has provided the Thurnauer with a choral director to lead its four sections, two in Englewood public schools and two at the music school itself.

The chorus, organized by age groups, is “open to anybody,” said Roffman, “and children can come to the school just for the chorus.” While there is a fee to participate, “there are always scholarships,” she said.

“It is our dream to expand the success of the YPC model to young people in other cities to demonstrate the often untapped capabilities of children of all backgrounds,” wrote Núñez when the arrangement was announced.

“What’s most important is to bring the love of music to as many people as possible,” said Roffman. “We started in 1984 with 30 students, now we’re in the mid-400s.”

Her program, she said, strives to bring music to children at a variety of levels, “theory and ear training, group situations, instruments, and then other optional things. It’s modeled after a pre-college conservatory program. The difference is that it’s open to everyone. It’s an extremely important part of the mission of a community music school to provide opportunities for all children who want to learn.”

“We don’t have auditions,” she added. “Our main interest is to inspire, encourage, and support children who want to learn about music.”

Chairing the school’s concert committee are parents Karen and Michael Neus and Amy and Richard Machado.

“We are thrilled and honored to be part of this benefit concert,” said Karen Neus. “Through the vision of Dorothy Roffman and Sandra Gold,” the community activist who prompted the formation of the school, “children can receive a world-class music education on this side of the Hudson River.” (See related story.)

Neus praised the environment of the school as “one where playing music is a way of being with and communicating with people, where children see their peers and their elders engaged daily in learning and developing as musicians. There’s no better feeling than walking the halls and hearing music pouring out of five different practice rooms at once.”

Thurnauer School of Music flute group Courtesy Thurnauer Music School
Page 1 of 1 pages
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30