Annual Gala/Honorees

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  • Dream Maker Award Honorees - Sheri and David Jaffa

    Sheri and David Jaffa

    Dream Maker Award honorees Sheri and David Jaffa have been stalwart supporters of Hillel Day School for decades, beginning with their decision to enroll their daughters, Eden (class of 1988), and Sabrina (class of 1991) in the 1980s. 
    “We wanted a good education for them - after the first year, we were hooked!” Sheri recalls. “It was a godsend to give them a strong secular and Jewish education that would teach them about their heritage, how to be mensches, and to prepare them for the next stage of their education. That’s the way it was then, and that’s the way it is now.”
    The couple are now proud Hillel grandparents to Skylar Elbinger (class of 2018), Jadyn Kaufman (class of 2019), Zachary Elbinger (seventh grade) Kendall Kaufman (seventh grade), and Reese Kaufman (fifth grade), and their devotion to Hillel continues unabated. In addition to making Hillel central to their philanthropic efforts, on numerous occasions Sheri answers the call to volunteer, and both Sheri and David frequently attend events, from specific grade programs to the Annual Gala, often accompanied by their children and sons-in-law, Brian Kaufman, and Kevin Elbinger. 
    The couple’s profound impact on the Jewish community extends beyond Hillel. They have been named JCC Pillars of Light for their generous support of a multitude of programs for seniors, children with special needs, the arts, and world-class cultural events. At Michigan State University Hillel, the Sheri and David Jaffa Sunday Brunch Endowment Fund sponsors a monthly brunch that feeds 3,500 students each year. 
    Together, the couple also substantially support the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and the Jewish National Fund, and individually, they volunteer as well. David, a certified financial planner, serves as a board member of the American Friends of the Technion and is a former lodge president of B’nai Brith. For his volunteerism, David was the 2019 recipient of the Quality of Life Award from Cetera Advisor Networks, recognizing leadership in community service.
    Sheri, a former teacher in Oak Park Schools, is a lifetime member of Hadassah, as well as active in American ORT, and American Friends of the IDF. 
    The couple, who make their spiritual home at Temple Israel, say their greatest joy is found in their close-knit family, and they are exemplary role models for their enthusiastic and steadfast support of our school, and our larger Jewish community. We are thrilled to bestow upon them the 2020 Dream Maker Award. May they continue to go from strength to strength. 

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  • Rabbi Jacob E. Segal (z"l) Award Honorees - The Yolanda and David Tisdale Family

    The Yolanda and David Tisdale Family

    Our tradition teaches that the descendants of the righteous will be blessed. In that spirit, all of us at Hillel Day School are blessed by the deeds of the Yolanda and David Tisdale Family, this year’s Rabbi Jacob E. Segal z”l Award honorees.

    For 40 years, the family has been affiliated with Hillel, and has contributed to the long-term stability and longevity of the institution. Yolanda and David began as parents: they sent daughters Risa Kirschner (class of 1988) and Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny (class of 1991) to Hillel, and they in turn, enrolled their children. Risa’s daughter Allison VanDerAue graduated in 2015; Jennifer’s children Asher (second grade) and Bayla (fourth grade) Kaluzny are current students.

    While Risa and Jennifer were students, David, the founder of a commercial real estate firm, served on the Board of Trustees, and as PTO president, improving the operation of the school on several fronts. Yolanda, a former elementary school teacher, was a near constant presence as a volunteer.

    In addition to his successful career in real estate, David is the CEO of Temple Israel; he and Yolanda, who were both born and raised in Detroit, and who are graduates of Mumford High School, have been affiliated with the temple for 45 years. David has served as the chair of the Temple Israel religious school, and has served on the Board of Overseers of Hebrew Union College, and on the Board of Trustees for the Union of Reform Judaism. Yolanda taught Sunday school and nursery school at Temple Israel for many years, and actively volunteers for the temple today, as well as for the Friendship Circle, and, in the words of her children, “is an exceptional mother and grandmother.”

    The couple says that while Hillel looks much different than it did 30 years ago, the loving environment remains. “Hillel is small enough to be intimate, yet large enough for the curriculum to be advanced,” David said. “The teachers have always cared about the students, helping them get to high school, and giving them lots of room for personal growth and exploration.”

    Yolanda and David are proud that Risa, Jennifer, and Allison, are graduates who are confident in and connected to their faith. Risa, who resides in Farmington Hills, with her husband, neurologist Dr. Brian Kirschner, is the author of Feel Better, Mommy, a children’s book she wrote after recovering from heart failure at age 29, about her ordeal as a patient and young mother at the same time, and her daughter’s experience of that period in her life. Risa’s tribulation led her to become an advocate for patient and family-centered care, and she has served on the executive committee of the Frankel Cardiovascular Center at the University of Michigan.

    Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny, who was named a Hillel Day School Distinguished Alumna in 2017, lives in West Bloomfield with her husband Ryan Kaluzny, an assistant city attorney for the City of Royal Oak, and their children Asher, and Bayla. They are also the proud parents of Sage Ray z”l. Jennifer received rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College in 2004, and has since served as a rabbi at Temple Israel. She is also a rabbi at Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network, and in 2019 edited Temple Israel’s new prayerbook for those sitting shiva, titled Nachamu, Nachamu Ami, Be Comforted, Be Comforted My People. She also recently returned from a trip to the U.S. – Mexico border as part of a human right delegation to observe U.S. immigration policies.

    The Tisdales are proud of their daughters’ achievements, and of their decisions to send their own children to Hillel. “We’re grateful and proud that school was such a positive experience for them that they wanted to give a Hillel education to their children,” Yolanda said.

    For their unshakable faith in Hillel, and the continuity of the Jewish people, we are thrilled to bestow upon the Yolanda and David Tisdale Family this year’s Rabbi Jacob E. Segal z”l Award.

Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

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  • State Senator Jeremy Moss (Class of 2000)

    State Senator Jeremy Moss (Class of 2000)

    Michigan State Senator Jeremy Moss (class of 2000) is serving his first term representing the 11th district in southern Oakland County. His political career started in 2011 as a Southfield City Council member, when, at age 25, he became the youngest-ever elected official in the city’s history.

    He was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2014 and began his work across the aisle to make the inner dealings of government transparent, “so our constituents know what we’re doing with their time and their dollars,” he said. He also introduced legislation to end the practice of gerrymandering, which became a ballot proposal that passed in 2018.

    Elected to the Senate in 2018, several of Jeremy’s bills have become law, including legislation to give tax relief to Michigan homeowners, and to help high school dropouts find a path toward returning to school to earn their diploma. He is working on proposals to expand employment opportunities for citizens with past criminal convictions, and to make auto insurance affordable. He is also the sponsor of a bill that protects LGBTQ individuals from housing and employment discrimination.

    After graduation from Hillel, Jeremy attended Groves High School, and Michigan State University, where he studied journalism and political science, and participated in humanitarian missions around the globe.

    A member of Congregation Beth Ahm, and an advisory board member of the Martin Luther King Task Force in Southfield, Jeremy’s commitment to social justice and kindness, cultivated at Hillel, is ever-lasting.

    He remains close with many Hillel classmates, and visits the school each year to mentor eighth grade students during their “Campaign for A Cause” project, wherein they campaign on behalf of local non-profit organizations, and to speak with fifth graders during their learning about the three branches of government. He also personally tours our fourth graders during their visit to the Michigan State Capitol each year, a highlight of their trip to see government in action in Lansing!

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  • Jessica Alter (Class of 1993)

    Jessica Alter (Class of 1993)

    As a sixth grader, Jessica Alter (class of 1993), has a clear memory of selling bedikat chametz kits to Hillel families, and she remembers brisk sales. “Maybe that was my first taste of entrepreneurialism,” she laughs.
    While that early exposure may not have directly led her to Silicon Valley, a hunch that she wanted to be involved in start-up company culture did lead her to San Francisco, where she has helmed business development for several companies, including her own, and where she has earned the moniker of one of the 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company.
    As cofounder and chairman of Tech for Campaigns, the digital arm of Democratic electoral campaigns, Jessica ensures that lesser-known candidates have a voice, and that the playing field is “level,” she says. “People tend to focus on the 2020 presidential election, but there are 6,000 campaigns this year, and the real power of technology is in democratizing access to it.”
    Previously, Jessica was Entrepreneur in Residence at Social Capital, and was also CEO of FounderDating, a platform that connects entrepreneurs with advisors to help grow their careers and businesses, which she sold in 2016. She also led business development at social networking site Bebo, which was acquired by AOL.
    She headed West after graduating from Andover High School, and the University of Michigan, and receiving her MBA from Harvard Business School.
    Today Jessica also acts as an advisor to and angel investor in several companies. “I have always gravitated towards small companies where you can make a big impact, and where small teams form a tight-knit community in the service of something bigger than themselves. When people understand there’s something beyond their immediate tasks, it’s powerful and motivating.”
    Jessica credits Hillel with instilling in her the importance of community. “Everything I’ve done involves building a community, and Hillel was my first one,” she said. The choices and friendships she made at Hillel continue to inform and shape her life, she said. “I’m close with classmates and teachers to this day, especially Adina Levin and Cindy Leff,” she recalls.
    “And to think, it may have all started with selling chametz!"

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Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit
32200 Middlebelt Road | Farmington Hills, MI 48334