Akiba-Schechter to honor its own at gala event

By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
Staff Writer

The Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School is hosting its annual benefit to raise money for the school.

The benefit will take place at 5 p.m., Sunday, March 23, at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park, 200 N. Columbus Drive.

A special toast will be given in honor of Rebecca Berenson Kirstein, Lee Bloom Robin Lisak and Ron Lisak.

“The four ‘toastees’ represent different pillars of the community who helped hold us up and build for our future,” said Carla Goldberg, co-chair of the benefit and pre-school director at Akiba, 5235 S. Cornell Ave.

Berenson Kirstein has had a place at Akiba for many years. She’s been a student (class of 1985), mother of two students (Matthew in 4th grade, and Jacob in 2nd grade), board member, benefit silent auction co-chair and preschool teacher.

“It’s really important to be involved in the school — your kids’ school,” said Berenson Kirstein, whose mother once served on the board and served hot lunch at the school. “It shows them that school is important to you, and thus is important for them.”

Berenson Kirstein’s family is moving to Cleveland; she said leaving Akiba will be bittersweet.

“While I’m excited for new opportunities for my family, I know it will be different,” Berenson Kirstein said. “I’m glad that as a teacher I had the chance to help create for other parents the wonderful experience I had as a parent.”

Bloom has been Akiba-Schechter’s treasurer for six years.

“The amazing thing is that Lee has contributed so much to Akiba without having any other ties to the school except as a board member,” Goldberg said.

Bloom was recruited by past board member Holly Raider Burt in 2006 and has faithfully taken care of the school’s finances ever since, according to Goldberg.

“Once you’re involved, you become part of the community,” Bloom said. “I am energized by the other board members and by what we are trying to achieve. Plus I believe everybody should give back, and this is my way of contributing.”

In 2000, Robin Lisak left a job in the corporate sector to become the comptroller at Akiba.

“I was bored at my former job,” Robin Lisak said. “[I’m] proud to be part of an organization that teaches children where they come from, that gives them a sense of tradition.”

A few years later, Robin Lisak’s husband Ron Lisak became the school’s building engineer.

“My brother and I had a family business in heating, air conditioning and major appliance repair, working to make something out of nothing,” Ron Lisak said. “We were in the same boat as Akiba and so I really respect what this community has achieved.”

Goldberg said Ron Lisak has been a tremendous resource by “making sure the building is running well every day.”

Other highlights of the benefit include a silent auction, food stations and a magician, mime, juggler, caricature artist and an a capella group that will stroll around the banquet entertaining guests throughout the night.

For tickets, visit akibaschechter. schoolauction.net/benefit2014 or e-mail Debbie Schneider at dschneider@ akibaschechter.org.

d.phillips@hpherald.com