If I have made a donation to the Leffell School Annual Fund, am I entitled to a journal ad? 
Absolutely. Remember, the deadline to submit the ad copy is Friday, May 5, 2023.  
If I put an ad in the journal, am I entitled to complimentary event tickets? 
No. The ticket price covers the cost of the event and is not tax-deductible. 
Will dinner be served? Is there assigned seating? 
Extensive hors d'oeuvres and desserts will be served. There is no assigned seating. Cocktail tables will be set up, allowing for all attendees to walk around.
What should I wear? 
Please feel free to dress in casual attire or in theme.   
Can we buy raffle tickets at the event? 
Yes, raffle tickets will be for sale that night.   
Will there be a silent auction? 
Yes. There will be a silent auction.  
Can we bring our children? 
This evening’s event is a celebration for the adults in our community. 
Why should I come to this event? 
This is our end-of-year celebration, bringing the entire kehilah together to recognize our honorees and commemorate the end of the school year in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.   
Thank you for joining us for a ROARING GOOD TIME and for supporting the Leffell Annual Fund!

Watch for more details about The 2024 Leffell School Annual Gala next school year.


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  • Barbara Shapiro

    Barbara Shapiro has been passionately involved and dedicated to the Jewish community in Westchester County, New York for more than two decades. Beginning her career as a nursery school teacher at Temple Israel Center in White Plains, she spent ten years there, nurturing children and developing programming that would teach them in a way that was positive and fun. From there, Barbara moved on to UJA-Federation of New York’s Westchester office to begin her fundraising career. Moving quickly through the ranks, she ultimately took on the responsibilities of Campaign Director.

    In 2008, after eight successful years at UJA-Federation, she brought her knowledge, experience, and talent to the Jewish day school world as the Director of Development for The Leffell School (then known as the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester), later becoming the Chief Advancement Officer. During her tenure, Barbara has successfully overseen countless events, fundraising campaigns, and the school’s transition from Schechter Westchester to The Leffell School.  Through her generous spirit and unique ability to build strong relationships, she also has cultivated a caring, inclusive kehilah (community) that will have a lasting impact on our school.  

    Barbara and her husband, Andy have been married for 43 years and have two adult children and three grandchildren.


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  • Rhona Aronstein

    Rhona Aronstein was born and raised in New York City.She was the youngest of three children, with two very attentive older brothers. Her father, a professor of art history and archaeology and an archaeologist specializing in Judeo-Christian iconography, was also a rabbi who was Modern Orthodox in practice and quite progressive in mindset, leading a Conservative and a Reform synagogue despite Orthodox personal observance. He was an advocate for women’s full participation as clergy considerably before it was common. Rhona’s mother was the executive assistant to the Bronx Borough President’s chief counsel and chief engineer, and to development officers at the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. While Orthodox in observance, she preferred the more egalitarian milieu and non-separation of men and women in a non-Orthodox synagogue.

    Rhona’s parents were “people of language,” highly articulate and expressive in the spoken and
    written word, and their house was filled with both deep, substantive conversation and witty, silly
    banter. Both had grandfathers who were rabbis, and one grandmother built and ran
    mikvot in the various towns where they settled in the United States after emigrating from Kiev. Rhona’s parents were intensely committed to Judaism, to secular learning, to charitable acts, and to the ideals of democracy.

    Rhona attended Jewish day school from grades K-12, graduating from The Ramaz School. She earned a BS and MA in psychology and pursued a career in human resources before feeling “the calling” to become a teacher and earning a second MA in elementary education at NYU.

    Prior to joining the Leffell School faculty twenty years ago, Rhona spent 14 years teaching elementary school at the Hackley School in Tarrytown. As a fourth-grade teacher for most of her career, Rhona reflects, “Being on a yearlong journey with nine- and ten-year-olds captivates my mind, fills my heart, and fuels my soul. This is where I want to be each day, diving into the breadth of academic material across the curriculum, developing skills that will ultimately apply to everything students will do in life, and being a participant and a witness in the unfolding of learning, including the careening between profound revelations in those “aha” moments, and the bumps and intermittent backslides and forward lurches that are part and parcel of the natural process of human learning.”

    Rhona prides herself on her intuitive sense of what her students need, and on her curiosity, flexibility, consistency, and a plentiful dose of humor. When asked what keeps her going, Rhona says, “My family, including my loving, hilarious husband of 36 years and best father on the planet to our charming, intellectually disabled 23-year-old son; my extended family; cherished close friends, many from high school, sleepaway camp, and college; Atlantic Ocean beaches; Lake George; Boston and Washington, DC; collecting sea shells and sea pebbles; the month of June; rock music and concerts; reading; writing poetry; how magical math is in its application to everything; the unified sphere of history and geography; the American Revolution; and riffing and laughing with nine- and ten-year-olds five days a week.”
  • Richard Gross

    Richard Gross was born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, New York, when that borough was considered the suburbs. He attended New York City public schools and graduated from Martin Van Buren High School. Mr. Gross left the city for college, receiving his training in English and education at SUNY Albany. He lived and worked in upstate New York for several years before getting married and returning to New York City, where he lived in Manhattan and Queens before finally settling in Chappaqua. Mr. Gross worked in the Tuckahoe UFSD district as an English teacher and department chair before joining Solomon Schechter/Leffell in 2003, where he now serves as chair of the High School’s English department.  
  • Dr. Renee Holtz

    Renee Holtz joined our school in 2003. She is currently the chair of student learning for both the Middle and High Schools, working with students and families, as well as guiding faculty to help all students reach their full potential. Dr. Holtz earned a PhD in education from Fordham University, a post-doc from Manhattanville College in educational administration, her MSEd in special education from Johns Hopkins University, and her MA in Judaic studies and Jewish education from Baltimore Hebrew University. Prior to coming to our school, she taught many ages and grades of students and was the director of education at various local synagogues.  Dr. Holtz continues to be an adjunct professor of education in graduate schools at several local universities. She enjoys her work — including teaching, collaborating closely with faculty, and being a C.cha (Middle School advisory) leader — and running, reading, skiing, cooking, and hiking. Dr. Holtz lives with her husband, Rabbi David Holtz, and her three children, all of whom are graduates of our school. 
  • Lisa Levine

    Lisa Levine is the chair of the Middle School English Department, coordinator of the mentoring program for new teachers, and a seventh and eighth grade English teacher. Within each of these roles, she is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate and think creatively with others, including students and faculty. Before joining The Leffell School, Lisa earned her BA with honors from the University of Pennsylvania and her MAT from New York University, where as part of her graduate work she taught English at Stuyvesant High School. Committed and passionate about her identity as an educator, Ms. Levine feels teaching enables her to integrate her shared love of psychology, literature, and language. In the classroom, Ms. Levine's primary goals are to provide students with the tools to think more critically, read more sensitively, and write more compellingly, hoping that through this process her students will gain greater self-knowledge and confidence. Off-campus, Ms. Levine, a new mom, enjoys spending time with her son Ari as he opens his heart to the world. When not sleep deprived, you can find Ms. Levine walking the streets of Manhattan with friends, experimenting with vegan recipes, and taking photos, a pandemic-born hobby turned passion. Two years ago, she founded a women’s photography collaborative focused on visual storytelling, and since then, her black and white images have been published in various fine art magazines. Ms. Levine hopes to continually grow as an educator, artist, and human.
  • Veronica Lezama

    Veronica Lezama was born in Mexico and arrived in New York in 1998.  She worked in a plastics factory and at a McDonald’s before joining the cafeteria staff at The Leffell School in 2002, and the students she once saw each day in kindergarten have already graduated from the High School.  She thanks her husband and children for pushing her to continue to grow professionally; she started at Leffell as a dishwasher and is now a chef.  Ms. Lezama loves working at Leffell because she feels appreciated by the students, faculty and staff.  She especially loves her coworkers in the cafeteria who have made every day exciting and make her look forward to coming to work each day.  
  • Denise McGinnity

    After completing her undergraduate work in psychology and her master’s in education, Denise McGinnity joined the Leffell School staff as a first-grade teacher in 1998, where she served for seven years. After a brief stay at home with her two boys, Ms. McGinnity returned to the Leffell School community as a third-grade teacher. She takes great pride and enjoyment in helping to cultivate confident children who are eager to grow and learn. Ms. McGinnity has found the Leffell community to be an extended family, and when not gallivanting and touring around with her now grown children, she is grateful for her time spent with her kehilah here. She looks forward to many years to come.
  • Joe Modica

    Joe Modica joined the Leffell School in August of 2004. Prior to making a career change to teaching in 2000, he spent 17 years in consumer/brand marketing. He taught social studies in the Middle School for three years, then joined the High School History Department in 2007. He became department chair in 2012 and has held that position for the last 11 years. In addition to his teaching role, he was the faculty advisor for The Lions Roar for four years, and has been the faculty advisor to the Mock Trial team for 14 years. He has been involved in coordinating senior class activities for several years, including helping to manage the WISE and internship programs.
    He has written over 220 college recommendation letters, and was twice honored as the faculty graduation speaker for the classes of 2011 and 2020. Joe lives in White Plains and will celebrate his 40th wedding anniversary this month. He has two children who both live in New York City.


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  • Brenda & Michael Benn

    Brenda and Mike feel deeply blessed to be part of the amazing kehilah that is The Leffell School.  They have felt welcomed since day one and continue to be in awe of how the school has grown and flourished in the seven years since their eldest child started kindergarten.

    A member of the Board of Trustees since 2019, Mike also serves on the Finance and Audit Committees.  In addition to his Leffell School involvement, Mike is a member of the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, where he currently serves as treasurer, and the Board of Trustees of Cornell Hillel, where he is a member of the Governance Committee.

    Professionally, Mike is a Partner in Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz’s Restructuring and Finance department.  He represents borrowers with respect to all types of financing for mergers and acquisitions, spin-offs and other significant transactions across a wide variety of industries.  In the restructuring space, Mike represents borrowers and creditors in connection with out-of-court workouts and liability management transactions and purchasers in distressed acquisitions in and out of bankruptcy.  Mike received his B.A. from Cornell University in 2002, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a Merrill Presidential Scholar, and completed a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2007, where he was a member of the Order of the Coif and an associate editor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. He also received an M.A. in theatre studies from Brown University in 2004 and remains a musical theatre enthusiast.

    Brenda received her B.S. from Cornell University in 2002, where she was a Presidential Research Scholar. She graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006 and then completed a rotating small animal medicine and surgery internship at The Animal Medical Center in Manhattan. Upon completion of her formal training, she worked at Carnegie Hill Veterinarians for 13 years before dabbling in telemedicine during the height of the pandemic.  Brenda is now a veterinarian at Meadow Veterinary Hospital in White Plains, where she has gotten to know many of her Leffell School friends’ best friends!

    Over the years, Brenda has volunteered in many capacities for The Leffell School community, including acting as a grade chair and class parent and helping at Purim carnivals, Sukkot and Purim festivities and with the Lower School musical. She is a regular serving lunch at the Lower School and will be hosting the fifth-grade pool party in just a couple of weeks. Brenda has also been honored to work on the Gala in the past, first on the Auction Committee in 2019 and then as a co-chair of the Bathrobe Ball back in 2020 (although she would have preferred chairing the event in person!)

    Together with Mike, Brenda also serves as co-president of the Westchester and Southern Connecticut Board of Directors of Jewish National Fund USA. Additionally, Brenda dedicates her time to delivering Shabbat meals to Holocaust Survivors through Westchester Jewish Council and supporting Hope Community Pantry. In her spare time, Brenda loves playing tennis, cooking, doing jigsaw puzzles, reading, and watching movies with her family.

    While they started their journey together in Ithaca, Brenda and Mike currently live in Scarsdale with their three amazing Leffell School kids, Avi (Grade 6), Eva (Grade 5) and Noah (Grade 2) (who are thrilled to finally be invited to the Gala), and their two adorable puppies, Gisele and Xander (whose invitation was lost in the mail).
  • About the Leffell School Gur Aryeh Award

    The Leffell School Gur Aryeh Award for Young Leadership is presented annually to a member of the parent community who has demonstrated support and commitment to the school. This award is appropriately named for the gur aryeh—the lion cub or young lion [our own Leffell School mascot has long been the aryeh (lion)—inspired by the symbol of the tribe of Judah]. Gur Aryeh is also another name for Rabbi Yehuda Loew ben Bezalel of Prague, who devoted his life to strengthening and protecting his Jewish community. Through the Gur Aryeh Award, we salute the young leaders of today who devote their energies to strengthening our community. 


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  • Gala Committee

    Yael Friedland
    Joanna Stein

    Amy Bakst
    Nicole Brujis
    Tami Earnest
    Lynette Goldberg
    Dani Herbst
    Naamah Imir
    Melanie Meer
    Sarah Rosenwasser
    Lisa Shapiro
    Jennifer Shiffman

    Diana Ben-Avi
    Carissa Weiss

    Elana Castle
    Becky Kuperman
    Courtney Weg
Lower School Campus (K-5)
30 Dellwood Road
White Plains, NY 10605
Upper School Campus (6-12)
555 West Hartsdale Avenue
Hartsdale, NY 10530