Administration

Ruth Gafni, Head of School

Ruth Gafni, Head of School

Ruth Gafni is the Head of School at Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County. Previously she served as the school’s Lower School Principal. Ms. Gafni served in the Ridgewood, N.J. public school system as Director of Special Needs, ESL & Gifted & Talented. During her tenure, she received the Ridgewood Township’s Educator of the Year Award and was chosen as an Open Circle Trainer in 2001-2002. Ms. Gafni has been instrumental in identifying the need for, and implementing, successful social competency programs in Ridgewood and at SSDS. She graduated from Bar Ilan University in Israel and received her Masters of Science from Adelphi University. She has written several articles for newspapers and educational magazines. She is also a contributing author to the book, “Fine Tuning a Listening Heart,” ed. Jeffrey Kress, published in late 2013. Ms. Gafni lives in New York City and enjoys spending time with her two daughters.

Rabbi Fred Elias, School Rabbi & Middle School Principal

Rabbi Fred Elias, School Rabbi & Middle School Principal

Rabbi Fred Elias is serving his sixth year as School Rabbi. Rabbi Elias has been a Jewish educator for the the past two decades, including administrative positions in Alexandria, Virginia and Andover, Massachusetts and pulpit positions in New York, Maryland, and New Jersey. Rabbi Elias also spent 14 summers on staff at Camp Ramah, including eight years as the Program Director for Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. A graduate of Brandeis University, the Boston Hebrew College of Education, and the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Elias can be seen throughout the school inspiring students of all ages to think inquisitively about Judaism and our role in helping to shape and be active participants in our own Jewish communities throughout our lives. He especially enjoys teaching Jewish History to our eighth graders in our student-centered Beit Midrash. Rabbi Elias, his wife Michelle, and their two children (who also attend SSDS) are all avid Boston Red Sox fans.

Andrew Katz, Director of Academic Affairs

Andrew Katz, Director of Academic Affairs

Throughout his career, Andrew has been dedicated to teaching students to be innovative, creative thinkers, preparing them to tackle challenges they will face in a rapidly changing world.

He has served in a variety of administrative and teaching roles at several leading independent schools, including as Director of Technology and Academic Operations at New York’s Poly Prep Country Day School, the Director of Information Services at The Roxbury Latin School in Massachusetts, and Associate Head of School for Academics at The Swain School in Pennsylvania. In addition, Andrew helped design and run i2 Camp, a STEM-focused, project-based summer camp, during its inaugural summer. Andrew graduated from Georgetown University with a bachelor of arts in physics, and holds a master of arts in education leadership from the Klingenstein Program at Columbia University’s Teachers College. He is currently pursuing his master of business administration (MBA) at Lehigh University, with a concentration in finance. Andrew and his wife Katherine, a physician, have two active little boys (Julian, 6, and Lucas, 4). He is charged with leading the school-wide integration of our STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) program, and supervision of our Middle School general studies faculty and curriculum. Andrew also will help support our International Baccalaureate (IB) efforts with IB Coordinator Ingrid Goldfein, and supervise our technology department.

Lauren Goldman-Brown, Early Childhood & Lower School Principal, Director of General Studies

Lauren Goldman-Brown, Early Childhood & Lower School Principal, Director of General Studies

Lauren Goldman-Brown has more than 20 years of experience as a teacher and principal in both public school and Jewish day schools.  Before coming to Schechter, Lauren served as the Principal of Reuben Gittelman Hebrew Day School in Rockland County. Prior to her tenure at Gittelman, Lauren spent 14 years in Hong Kong working at the Carmel School where she was an elementary school classroom teacher, middle school coordinator, and then principal for eight years. Lauren led the school through its second accreditation visit resulting in a second maximum six-year term of accreditation. Prior to working in Hong Kong, Lauren taught Grades 3, 4, and 5 in New York City public schools. She received her master’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bank Street College of Education in New York and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Government from Oberlin College in Ohio. Lauren lives in Piermont, N.Y., with her husband and three sons.

Ricky Stamler-Goldberg, Early Childhood & Lower School Principal, Director of Judaic Studies

Ricky Stamler-Goldberg, Early Childhood & Lower School Principal, Director of Judaic Studies

Ricky Stamler-Goldberg has more than 25 years of experience in Jewish education, almost all of them proudly in the Schechter system. Having begun her career working in the field of general studies, Ricky followed her passion of teaching Judaic Studies and Hebrew Language and, as such, served as a Judaic Studies classroom teacher in grades 1-5 for over a decade and was the recipient of the Gruss Award for Excellence in Teaching. “Morah Ricky” as she is known around school, has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education and near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University. She has taught across the “ages” including the Florence Melton Adult Mini School and supervising graduate students at the Jewish Theological Seminary’s (JTS) Davidson School of Education. Under her guidance, her teachers have received training in numerous Hebrew Language curricula, and the Standards and Benchmarks Project in the Teaching of Tanakh, developed at JTS. Morah Ricky and her husband have three grown children and currently live in Englewood, N.J.

Dr. Ilana Kustanowitz, School Psychologist

Dr. Ilana Kustanowitz, School Psychologist

Ilana Kustanowitz, PhD, received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania with a double major in Psychology and Jewish Studies. After conducting research at the NYU Child Study Center, she returned to academia to complete her doctorate in School Psychology at Fordham University. Dr. Kustanowitz has worked at Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County since 2007, initially in the middle school, and now extending throughout the entire school from the “3’s (Gan Keshet)” through eighth grade. Her research interests include positive well-being, happiness, and the impact of community service participation on an individual’s overall life satisfaction. Dr. Kustanowitz is married to Simmy, a television executive producer, whom she met during their many years as staff members at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. Together, they are raising three happy girls in Englewood, N.J.

Leslie Teicher, Director of Special Services

Leslie Teicher, Director of Special Services

Leslie Teicher coordinates academic support in our classrooms and the school’s resource room, and serves as student liaison to county and state support services. Leslie began her career at SSDS as a learning specialist in the Middle School before taking on the role of Director of Special Services. She is a graduate of Barnard College and did her teacher training in Special Education at Hunter College. Leslie is currently a master’s degree candidate in educational leadership and supervision at Montclair State University. She and her husband Jeremy have three children: Abe, a high school freshman, Zoe a sixth grader, and Jack, a third grader (Zoe and Jack are current students at SSDS).

Ronni Brenner, Director of Operations & Finance

Ronni Brenner, Director of Operations & Finance

Ronni Brenner has served on the SSDS Board of Trustees for seven years as the Vice President of Finance. In addition to being a Schechter parent, Ronni served as the Vice President of Finance for Morse Diesel since 1987 and is on the Sisterhood board at Temple Emanu-El. Ronni has a Bachelors of Science degree from the University of Maryland. She lives in Closter, N.J. with her children, Samantha and Asher, and husband, Michael who is also very active at Temple Emanu-el.

Charlotte Carter, Director of Admissions

Charlotte Carter, Director of Admissions

Charlotte brings with her 15+ years of professional experience in Jewish and Israel education. Most recently, she served as deputy director and coordinator for the United Kingdom’s flagship Israel Experience program, where she spearheaded recruitment and admissions initiatives. She also has designed, implemented, and managed Jewish educational fundraising and training programs. A graduate of Manchester Metropolitan University with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Charlotte is a proud Schechter parent. She lives in Englewood with her husband, Joel, and three children, Maya (rising 4th grader) Sophia (rising 2nd grader) , and Rafi (rising pre-k).

Michelle Weinraub, Director of Institutional Advancement

Michelle Weinraub, Director of Institutional Advancement

Over the past 15 years, Ms. Weinraub has served as a strategic leader in development and special-event planning for such organizations as the NYU Medical Center, American Red Cross, Westchester Medical Center, Table to Table, and most recently, Yavneh Academy. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, she is a proud Schechter parent.

Leah K. Silberstein, Director of Marketing & Communications

Leah K. Silberstein, Director of Marketing & Communications

After a 25-year career as a newspaper reporter, radio producer, and magazine editor working for such media outlets as Dow Jones, the Voice of America, and Knight-Ridder in the U.S. and Southeast Asia, Leah K. Silberstein chose to apply her skills in promoting Jewish education. She has a bachelor of arts in communications and economics from the State University of New York at Albany, and a master of arts in Journalism from the University of Maryland. She also has maintained a longstanding commitment to the Jewish community, having served in leadership roles on multiple boards and organizations, including Yeshivat Maharat, the first institution to ordain Orthodox women as clergy. Leah lives in Tenafly, N.J. with her husband and two sons.