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.