Mr. and Mrs. dovy
and devory freund
Guests of Honor
Mr. and Mrs. Dovy and Devory Freund truly exemplify the ideals of Yeshiva Darchei Torah. They personify a rare blend of commitment to solid values and concern for others. They are pillars of the community who have opened their hearts to others in a myriad of ways.
Dovy was raised in Boro Park by his parents, Mr. Leiby z”l and Esther Freund, both Holocaust survivors. Despite her life’s challenges, Mrs. Esther Freund’s upbeat and positive outlook inspire all who know her.
Devory is a daughter of Mr. Berish Fuchs, a talmid chacham of note, who, together with his wife Hannah, are well known in the Lawrence community as generous and caring ba’alei tzedakah and longtime supporters of Yeshiva Darchei Torah. They are also the founders and hosts of Lawrence’s newest shul, Bais Berish.
Dovy attended Yeshivas Yagdil Torah, Mekor Chaim (Rav Paler’s yeshiva), and the Yeshiva of Philadelphia, where he formed a close bond with Harav Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlita. In recent years this connection has extended to Rav Shmuel’s son, Rav Sholom, shlita, as well. Today, Dovy serves as the CFO of Kennedy Health Care, a family-operated network of nursing homes. Following the example of parents and his father-in-law, he excels in the midah of chesed and tzedakah, giving graciously and generously to a myriad of causes. He is an involved member and supporter of his shul, Khal Avi Ezri, led by Rav Mordechai Glick, where he is also a dedicated participant in the daf yomi shiur.
Devory also grew up in Boro Park, where she attended Machon Bais Yaakov High School and Bais Yaakov seminary. Her stepfather and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Cheskel and Miriam Shimon, are outstanding ba’alei chesed in Boro Park, where they host and care for families who travel from abroad for medical treatment. Devory carries on this legacy of chesed, hosting tzedakah benefits in her home and regularly stocking food in the bikur cholim apartments that are in close proximity to major medical centers in Manhattan. She also hosts a Peninim group on a biweekly basis, where women gain and grow from the words of Rebbetzin Dina Fink and other inspirational speakers.
Dovy and Devory are particularly devoted to the needs of their parents, demonstrating to their children how to fulfill the mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim in the best way possible. Together, they have built a home based on the ideals of chesed, care and respect for the older generation, ehrlichkeit, and hakaras hatov.
Indeed, it is their sense of appreciation to Rav Yaakov Bender and Yeshiva Darchei Torah—where their son Lippy is currently a tenth grader—that compelled the Freunds to accept this honor. They have seen firsthand how the Yeshiva’s trademark warm atmosphere and belief in the value and innate goodness of every child are the keys to the success of the talmidim. As the Freunds attest, “Although the Yeshiva is large, each boy is lavished with personal attention and concern. And the welcoming, warm attitude of the staff spills over to the students, so that the boys treat each other with kindness and midos tovos.”
Unquestionably, what Dovy and Devory Freund appreciate about Yeshiva Darchei Torah can be said about their home as well. We are honored to recognize this exceptional couple as this year’s Guests of Honor.
Mr. and Mrs. steven
and shira stein
Parents of the Year
Steven and Shira Stein stand out as exceptional and dedicated parents who truly exemplify the ideals of Yeshiva Darchei Torah. Their passion for Yiddishkeit and concern for their fellow Jews are paramount, and this is clearly reflected in the chinuch they are imparting to their children.
Steven, originally from Riverdale, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Avi and Lillian Stein. An experienced real-estate attorney, Steven currently works at Heller Realty. Shira is the daughter of Beth and Ben Heller, longtime members of the Lawrence community. Shira is a nurse by profession but currently dedicates her time to caring for their beautiful family. The Steins are very involved in the Yeshiva Gedolah of the Five Towns and enjoy a warm relationship with its Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Moshe Zev Katzenstein, and they have invested considerable effort and resources in securing its new building. They are also respected members of Kehilas Yagdil Torah and are very close with its rav, Rav Ariel Edelstein.
Steven and Shira credit their parents with instilling in them the importance of giving back to Klal Yisrael, both locally and in Eretz Yisrael; Yad Eliezer, which benefits many needy families in Israel, is particularly close to their hearts. Much of their chesed activities are performed in the best way possible, as they personally assist others in the community in a quiet, modest manner. They also carry on their parents’ legacy of commitment to and closeness with family, which extends to their children as well as to their siblings and extended family.
It is not by default that the Steins chose to enroll their sons in Yeshiva Darchei Torah, but rather an extension of their determination to give their children the very best chinuch in a uniquely warm and positive environment. Their son Simcha is a graduate of the Yeshiva, and their sons Eitan and Eli are current talmidim in the fifth and eighth grades. Their daughters Tamara, Talia, and Rayna attend Bnos Bais Yaakov. Ever dedicated to the success of their children’s schools, Steven serves as an active board member at both Yeshiva Darchei Torah and Bnos Bais Yaakov.
Steven and Shira are proud to partner with the Yeshiva in the chinuch of their children. They are particularly grateful for the theme of simchas hachaim that pervades the Yeshiva, and they appreciate that as the rebbeim guide their talmidim toward growth in Torah, they simultaneously instill within them a love and passion for Yiddishkeit. Rav Yaakov Bender, in particular, exemplifies these midos, and the Steins feel privileged that their sons have the opportunity to build a kesher with him. They remember fondly how when their son joined the Yeshiva in first grade, Rav Bender asked all the other boys in the auditorium to welcome him.
As they watch their sons blossom in the unique atmosphere of this very special makom Torah, they express their overwhelming hakaras hatov for the incredible efforts invested in the boys, and specifically, for the manner in which the Yeshiva enabled them to thrive during these recent, very challenging months.
Undoubtedly, Steven and Shira are a couple whose focus is upon the importance of Torah learning, coupled with a zest for and love of Yiddishkeit and fellow Jews. We are proud to acknowledge their sterling example with this year’s Parents of the Year Award.
Mr. and Mrs. shlomo
and deborah katz
Avodas Hakodesh Award
Shlomo and Deborah Katz are exceptional ba’alei chesed whose decades-long relationship with the Yeshiva Darchei Torah family mark them as fitting recipients of this year’s Avodas Hakodesh Award.
Shlomo is a proud member of the fifth graduating class of Yeshiva Darchei Torah and is privileged to be a close talmid of the Rosh HaYeshiva, Rav Yaakov Bender; their relationship began in Rav Bender’s seventh-grade class. Shlomo’s parents, Rabbi and Mrs. Joseph and Nechama Katz, are founders of the Yeshiva who served as its president and PTA president, respectively.
Shlomo and Deborah’s sons are outstanding members of the Darchei Torah family. Shimon is currently a talmid in Beis Medrash Heichal Dovid and Ezra is a twelfth grader in Mesivta Chaim Shlomo. Im Yirtzeh Hashem their son Avraham will be joining Mesivta Chaim Shlomo as a ninth grader next year. Shlomo and Deborah take great pride in listening as their sons deliver high-level chaburos to their peers. Deborah is even known to have been seen standing in the cold, listening by the door of the Beis Medrash. Shlomo is grateful for the opportunity to sit with his sons in the Yeshiva’s pre-Shacharis Binyomin Klein Morning Kollel.
Shlomo and Deborah follow in the footsteps of their parents as they dedicate an extraordinary amount of time and resources to the community. Shlomo has served as a Hatzolah paramedic for 24 years. In addition, Shlomo and Deborah are active volunteers for Chai Lifeline and have volunteered in Camp Simcha Special for 15 years. Deborah also serves on Chai Lifeline’s board of Tour de Simcha. In addition, the Katz family plays a pivotal role in the Pesach distribution for Tomchei Shabbos of Far Rockaway. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the family’s involvement expanded further, as restrictions no longer allow the Shabbos packages to be prepared as a chesed project at Torah Academy for Girls (TAG). All packing is now done out of the commissary at Elite Caterers, the Katz family business.
The Katzes well understand the meaning of caring for Klal Yisrael, and they are particularly appreciative of the unique level of care and support their children receive at Yeshiva Darchei Torah. As parents of the Yeshiva, Shlomo and Deborah have witnessed how the rebbeim are clearly dedicated to Rav Bender’s goal of enabling every talmid to become his very best. Through his involvement with the Yeshiva over the last 30-plus years, Shlomo has seen how Darchei takes incredible boys and turns them into leaders of Klal Yisrael. Shlomo has seen how the Yeshiva takes boys who might have been left behind by other institutions and turns them into superstars as well. It is a reality Shlomo and Deborah see daily, as their sons continue to thrive and grow in the Yeshiva’s supportive and warm atmosphere.
Like the Yeshiva they love so much, Shlomo and Deborah Katz are unique exemplars of dedication to the welfare of so many in Klal Yisrael and to the growth and success of their children. It is our privilege to bestow upon them this year’s Avodas Hakodesh Award.
Mr. and Mrs. andrew
and stephani serotta
National Leadership Award
Dedicated to building Torah and their kehillah, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew and Stephani Serotta have a hand in establishing and growing an entire community through their involvement in an impressive array of institutions and initiatives in the Houston area and beyond.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Andrew is a graduate of Harvard University. He and his wife Stephani met and settled in Los Angeles and then made their mark on Jewish communities across the country, including Boston, Stamford, and Clifton, New Jersey. When an opportunity arose for the family to relocate to Houston, their rav in Passaic, Rav Menachem Zupnik, encouraged them to make the move. Viewing his directive as a mission, the Serottas have since dedicated themselves to building Torah in the Texas metropolis.
Perhaps their biggest accomplishment is the founding of the Houston Kollel, where Andrew still serves as president. He is also a founding member of the Torah Girls Academy, where he was president and still serves on the board, and the Hecht-Serotta Free-Loan Gemach, of which he is president. In addition, he serves on the board of the Houston Mesivta and Yeshiva Torat Emet.
As founder of the commodity fund Logista, which focuses primarily on oil trading, Andrew has brought new jobs to the community, further contributing to the overall growth of the Jewish population and infrastructure.
The Serottas take pride in the beautiful family they have raised. They are joined in Houston by their oldest daughter and son-in-law, Sydney and Shimon Puderbeutel—Shimon is a Darchei alumnus—and grandson Ezra. The Far Rockaway community is pleased to count their other children as locals: Carly and her husband Moshe Berger – also a Darchei alumnus – have recently settled here, and Zachary is a twelfth grader at Mesivta Chaim Shlomo.
The Serottas’ connection with the Bender family extends back many years to their sojourn in Stamford, when they established a close connection with Stamford’s Yeshiva Beis Binyomin and its venerated mashgiach ruchani, Rav Michoel Bender, brother of Rav Yaakov Bender. The Serottas’ daughter Sydney was a beloved staff member in Darchei’s Harriet Keilson Early Childhood Center while living in the New York area. By the time their son Zachary joined Mesivta Chaim Shlomo, the Serottas felt like part of the Darchei family. It was no wonder, then, that Rav Yaakov Bender joined the Serottas for the dedication of a Torah in conjunction with the chanukas habayis of the Houston Kollel in the fall of 2019.
Andrew and Stephani portray a stellar example of translating passion for Torah-true ideals into positive action that has brought about the blossoming of a now-vibrant Jewish community. It is an honor and a privilege for Yeshiva Darchei Torah to bestow upon them this year’s National Leadership Award, a tribute that is so very well deserved.
to mrs. shoshana
So many members of the Yeshiva Darchei Torah family have been touched by the recent loss of Mrs. Shoshana Strickman, wife of Rabbi Shmuel Strickman, menahel of its lower elementary school division.
To know Mrs. Shani Strickman was to love her and to feel beloved by her. Her warmth and caring enveloped her family, her extended family, and her “adopted” family.
Shani’s siblings remember her as a happy, caring and selfless child, gifting the world around her with laughter and joy. From her earliest years, she modeled what it means to be a true bas Yisrael. Her mother, Esther a”h, who attended a one-room schoolhouse with non-Jews, instilled in her daughters a deep appreciation for the opportunity to attend Bais Yaakov. Her father, Rabbi Elchonon Scheinerman zt”l, was an American-born talmid chacham of note at a time when such a designation was not common. In 1934, at the age of 15, Rabbi Scheinerman traveled to Europe to learn, first under Rav Elchonon Wasserman, hy”d, in Baranovitch, and then in the Mirrer Yeshiva until the outbreak of World War II. Shani took seriously her responsibility to pass her parents’ precious legacy on to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Shani was a teacher at various points in her life but her greatest lessons were surely delivered by example. Upon her passing, a local mechaneches cried, “I lost my morah! I observed how she recited Unesaneh Tokef, and [I] tried to emulate her heartfelt tefillos.” When others shared their pain with her, she expressed her sincere sympathy and took upon herself small kabbalos in their zechus. When she accepted to do something, she stuck with it, always growing in a consistent but quiet way. She did not preach the proper way to live – she lived it.
She lived the role of devoted wife to Reb Shmuel, a devoted menahel in Yeshiva Darchei Torah, moving several times throughout her married life for the benefit of her husband and family. Although it was not easy for her to leave dearly beloved family members and friends, once they were guided by da’as Torah to make the move, she went along b’lev shalem, completely on board, her positive attitude an engine powering her husband’s success. She took full responsibility for running their busy household, and she took the greatest pride in everything Reb Shmuel accomplished.
She modeled the mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim, visiting her parents daily and concerning herself with their care – and it was her greatest pleasure to do so. She never viewed herself as doing more than her share; instead, she looked at herself as a representative of her siblings in all that she did.
Her children were her pride and joy. She understood them as no one else could and ensured that each received just what he or she needed. She forged deep and real relationships with her grandchildren, knowing just how to connect with them in ways they could appreciate.
Her bein adam l’chaveiro was exemplary. Anyone she met was enveloped by her warmth and her genuine concern. This extended from supposed casual acquaintances to local bachurim who resided on the block, to the many strangers who became part of her household. On Motzaei Yom Kippur, she would quietly make a series of calls to share with mothers who could not be in shul how beautifully their daughters davened, how nicely their daughters were dressed. Her compliments were clearly genuine; her goal was to spread nachas and joy.
Mrs. Strickman a”h is sorely missed by her wonderful family, the extended Darchei Torah family, and the countless people who considered her their best friend.