On Wednesday, May 11, the Wagner College Chai Society marked its 12th anniversary at its annual Community Mitzvah Awards dinner, held in Foundation Hall’s Manzulli Boardroom.
In 2004, Wagner College established the Chai Society, an organization dedicated to promoting Jewish culture and identity on the Wagner campus and within the surrounding communities with programming such as the Chai Jewish Culture Lecture Series, Lunch n Learns with the campus rabbi, and Hillel student-organized events. Four years later, Wagner College established the Chai Society Community Mitzvah Awards to recognize individuals who have enhanced and promoted Jewish life and culture at Wagner College and beyond.
The Chai Society is proud to continue in its support of Wagner College’s Holocaust Education & Programming Center and its mission to educate future generations about prejudice, anti-Semitism and racism as well as create a space for exhibits, learning and reflection.
This year’s Wagner College Chai Society Community Mitzvah Awards dinner, emceed by Larry Arann, honored the following community members:
- Brenda and Moritz Perelman, Special Recognition Award
- Orit Lender, Outstanding Community Member Award
- Rabbi Michael Howald, Outstanding Community Member Award
- Manny Saks, Outstanding Community Member Award
- Jennifer Weile ’16, Outstanding Student Award
Larry Arann is a licensed and certified clinical psychologist, certified hypnotist and certified critical incident stress management practitioner. He earned his bachelor’s degree from C.W. Post College, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Yeshiva University. He has taught at Columbia University, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Wagner College and Richmond College.
After earning his doctorate, Arann became chief of service at South Beach Psychiatric Hospital on Staten Island. He began a private practice in 1975 that he continues to maintain while periodically pursuing additional interests, including various responsibilities in substance abuse treatment and operations for Staten Island University Hospital from 1991 to 2004. He is currently at work on a book about the dynamics and treatment of panic disorder.
As a civic professional, Arann facilitated a roundtable of high school students discussing the ramifications of the 1999 Columbine High School mass shootings. Two years later, following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, he facilitated a four-session interaction sponsored by the Staten Island Advance and Staten Island University Hospital for families and friends who lost loved ones on 9/11.
Arann was actively engaged in Staten Island Democratic Party politics for more than two decades. He was a member of the County Committee, the Executive Committee and, for a period of time, the State Committee.
Arann has served on the St. George Theatre board of directors since 2007, chairing the board from 2007 to 2011. He belonged to the Staten Island Rotary Club for 36 years, serving as president from 1979 to 1980, and was honored as a Paul Harris Fellow and a Rotary Giant. In 1998, Arann earned the Staten Island YMCA Community Award. A 1996 American Cancer Society Sword of Hope Ball honoree, Arann has given many years of service to the ACS including 15 years on its board of advisers, 17 years as its Cocktail Party chairman and 9 years as M.C. of its Breast Cancer Breakfast. He also served for 10 years as chairman of the St. John’s University Scholarship Committee, earning the President’s Medal in 1998 and honors at St. John’s annual Staten Island Golf Outing in 2006.
In his spare time, he is outlining a screenplay for a comedy/drama.
Larry Arann lives in Westerleigh, Staten Island, with his wife, the former Susan Huckvale, principal owner and president of American and International Designs Inc., an award-winning interior design firm. A son, Joshua, lives in California, where he is a practicing psychotherapist, advanced yoga instructor and New Age music performer and producer.
Brenda and Moritz Perelman — Special Recognition Award
Both Brenda and Moritz Perelman are Holocaust survivors.
Brenda Perelman was born in the small Polish town of Holoby, now part of Ukraine. She and her family fled into the forest to hide from the Nazis when they occupied Holoby. Her 2-year old brother, Pinchus, was shot during this period, as were her grandparents. Brenda and her parents survived by staying in the forest and hiding with local farmers. Immediately after the war, they settled in Bologna, Italy, where Brenda learned to speak Italian. In 1949, her family immigrated to the U.S.
Brenda attended yeshiva high school and graduated from Brooklyn College, after which she worked as a social worker for the Bureau of Child Welfare. Following the birth of her children, she and her husband moved to Staten Island. Brenda actively volunteered at the Jewish Foundation School on Staten Island, which her children, Seth and Gloria, attended. Brenda earned a master’s degree from St. John’s University and worked as a special education teacher in Brooklyn for 20 years. Following her official retirement, she worked as a special education teacher on Staten Island for several more years.
Moritz Perelman was born in Breslau, Germany (now known as Wrocław, Poland). Before the Nazi occupation, he and his parents were sent out of Germany to Poland; later, he was detained in a ghetto and various labor camps. Among his family, only he and his mother survived the Holocaust. After his father was killed, they hid for 21 months. When the war ended, he and his mother stayed in a Displaced Persons camp until their immigration to the U.S. in 1948.
Moritz attended night school at Thomas Jefferson High School and worked during the day. Following graduation, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College and his J.D. at Brooklyn Law School. He practiced law for a short while before starting a building and real estate business on Staten Island. He continued in the building trade at several sites on Staten Island for 30 years.
Brenda and Moritz Perelman have been married for 58 years, living since 1967 on Grymes Hill, Staten Island, across the street from Wagner College. They have generously opened their home to Wagner College students, interns and faculty, including for Shabbat dinners, and have offered meaningful encouragement to the growth of Wagner College’s Holocaust Education & Programming Center.
Orit Lender has worked at the Staten Island Jewish Community Center for more than 15 years. Throughout that time, she has been instrumental in expanding and developing key programs serving the Staten Island community. She has also created enduring partnerships with other community organizations, the borough president’s office and numerous faith-based organizations. In her current role, Lender serves as JCC assistant executive director. She was the founding director of the Center for Life-Long Development program, which serves seniors 60+ and currently supervises all three of the JCC Senior Centers across Staten Island. Additionally, she supervises several grant-related programs and has been deeply involved in the management and growth of a teen-led tobacco advocacy program that promotes policies in support of social norm changes. She spearheads the annual Staten Island Jewish Music Festival. This month-long festival partners with faith-based organizations and synagogues to bring Jewish music and culture into the lives of Staten Islanders, young and old, both religious and secular. She has implemented numerous programs, including Israel advocacy, with both the JCC and the Coalition of Jewish Organizations. She serves on numerous committees and organizations that work to build a healthier, safer and cleaner Staten Island. She is a member of COJO, the Tackling Youth Substance Abuse and Borough Hall Health and Wellness steering committees, and she takes a lead in both the child obesity and healthy beverage initiatives of the New York City Department of Health. Lender and her husband, Ed Lender, have been married for 16 years. They have two children: David, 12, and Ethan, 6.
Rabbi Michael Howald describes his own life:
Although I am no stranger to New York City, I spent most of my life west of the Mississippi. My mother was a registered nurse and my father was a petroleum engineer. My father spent his early career working in remote oil fields in Wyoming and Colorado. In my youth, I lived in such places as the reservation of the Shoshone Nation in northwestern Wyoming and on the outskirts of the greater Denver metropolitan among fields of wheat and sugar beets. In 1968, my family moved to southern California, and I went to middle school and high school in Orange County, the home of Disneyland, surfing and Richard Nixon. I am a lifelong Angels fan, despite all their name changes, and I believe you stick with the baseball team of your youth no matter where you live after you graduate from high school.
I am a second-career rabbi, after a first career in law. I graduated from Stanford University in 1979 and Stanford Law School in 1982 and was a member of the Law Review there. Before entering Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion in 2001, I practiced law for 19 years in Los Angeles, rising from associate to partner at the firm I started right out of law school. When my small law firm merged into a much larger law firm in 2000, I reassessed my life and decided that I wanted to pursue more spiritual goals. Although I loved many aspects of practicing law, I felt I could contribute more to my community as a rabbi than as an attorney.
I have been married for more than 30 wonderful and eventful years to Robin Bronzaft Howald. I met Robin on the Law Review at law school, and Robin still pursues a career in the legal field, being admitted to the bar in both California and New York. Robin is an avid runner, with many marathons and half-marathons under her belt. We have two grown sons, Brian and Kevin, who have, to the wonderment of their parents, decided to pursue careers in computer science. We have no idea what they are talking about when they talk about computers!
Before coming to Temple Israel in Randall Manor, Staten Island, I was the rabbi of Temple Beth El in Salinas, California. Salinas is the county seat of Monterey County, the home of Carmel, Big Sur and Monterey, and it is the only town in the United States ever sacked by pirates! The Monterey area is one of the most beautiful in the country, and I loved both the area and the congregation. When it comes to the Jewish world, however, nothing can compare to New York City — and when it comes to involvement in congregational and community life, nothing quite compares to the members of the Jewish community here on Staten Island, who continue to inspire me every day.
Born in 1948, Manny Saks was raised as a second-generation Holocaust survivor in Brooklyn, New York. He was educated at Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin and Wingate High School. A veteran of the United States Army, Saks served a tour of duty in Vietnam, where he and his unit earned numerous citations. The Jewish Welfare Board awarded him the Lay Leadership Award for developing and leading services for Shabbat, Passover and the High Holidays in Saigon. He was the catalyst for conferences to assess the needs of Jewish soldiers in Vietnam. In 1970, he was honorably discharged. He earned a bachelor of science degree in finance and an M.B.A. from Long Island University.
Since moving to Staten Island in 1979 with his wife, Karen, Saks has continued to be active in the Jewish community. He held several key executive positions at the Arden Heights Boulevard Jewish Center before being elected president. He was active in the Council of Jewish Organizations for several years and was elected president in 1983. At Congregation B’nai Israel, he served two terms as president and was chairman of the board for 4 years. For more than 20 years, Saks has worked on developing the annual Staten Island Yom Hashoah/Holocaust Commemoration program, serving as its chairman.
In 1996, Saks was elected to the board of trustees of the Staten Island Jewish Community Center, where he developed the Holocaust Commemoration Observance Program. His involvement in the JCC runs the gamut from assisting with membership, marketing, accounting, finance, Jewish life and learning.
In 2013, Saks was appointed executive director of the Office of Jewish Community Affairs for Staten Island, a collaboration between the UJA-Federation of New York and the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. The OJCA’s mission is to enhance Jewish life and values on Staten Island. With this in mind, Saks also became involved in performing burials for indigent Jews at Mount Richmond Cemetery on Staten Island for the Hebrew Free Burial Association.
In 2011, Saks and his daughter, Shannon, traveled to Poland to explore their familial roots and Jewish heritage. The trip brought them to the hometowns of both of his parents in Sosnowiec and Będzin, the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, the Schindler factory in Krakow as well as the concentration/extermination camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek and Treblinka, “to be a witness to the Holocaust,” as Elie Wiesel puts it.
Besides all of his community involvement, Saks was a full-time credit and financial manager for over 35 years until his retirement in 2009. Since then, Manny has been able to focus on his various hobbies, including sailing, photography, traveling, dog sitting and spoiling his daughter’s dog, Roxy — and of course, continuing his commitment to and involvement with the Jewish community.
Jennifer Weile of Bulls Head is a native Staten Islander who attended the College of Staten Island High School for International Studies before coming to Wagner College, where she majors in childhood/special education and history. She has also been involved with the Jewish Community Center of Staten Island since 2002 attending day camp, working in day camp for the past 8 years, and volunteering with the Teen Social Action Committee program, Youthboard and Café Europa. She also served as an intern in JCC’s communications department and has volunteered with Camp Good Grief of Staten Island for the past 2 years.
At Wagner College, Weile has been involved with the Kappa Delta Pi education honor society, the Commuter Student Association and Hillel. She served as the founding president of Exceeding the Expectation, a club promoting disability awareness, inclusivity and accessibility at Wagner College and in the larger community. A third-generation Holocaust survivor, Weile served as an intern with the Wagner College Holocaust Education & Programming Center and participated in a faculty-led class trip to Holocaust-related sites in Germany and Poland last year.
Weile is currently a student teacher at P.S. 19 on the North Shore of Staten Island, and she hopes to become a teacher for preschool students with disabilities. She will graduate from Wagner College at the end of next week.