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10th Annual Nancy Avis L’Dor V’Dor Award Lunch

May 5 @ 11:30 am - 2:00 pm

Born and raised in a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn back in the days of Ebbets Field and the Brooklyn Dodgers, Ruth graduated from Wingate HS (the banjo school) and received a BA from LIU in downtown Brooklyn and an MA in English from Hunter College.

There were no JCCs in Ruth’s part of Brooklyn and she never even heard of one until she was in college. The only volunteerism she knew about as a kid were adults involved with boy scouts (her father was a troop leader while her brother was a scout) or some women who were members of Hadassah or ORT.

Once Ruth and Mike (aka Myron) moved to Staten Island in 1972 (having lived in Greenwich Village and Brooklyn Heights) she needed to occupy her time. Fortunately, Staten Island Children’s Theater was starting up and that, along with being an assistant Cub Scout Master for son Stephen’s troop, helping with daughter Suzanne’s Daisy troop, playing tennis, and being a stay-at-home Mom kept her occupied. And she belonged to the PS 48 PTA which moved to the top of the list when the Board of Education was trying to close small schools as an economy measure. That Board of Education effort failed and the school remained open.

One thing often leads to another and in Ruth’s case, writing press releases for the SI Chamber Music Players led to freelance writing for SI University Hospital’s magazine, which led to the JCC. On a different but simultaneous path, Ruth and her neighbor Barbara Viders started As You Like It, a discount gift and craft business, that led to selling items at holiday bazaars and people’s homes. Both paths eventually intersected and led to her working at the JCC as the Public Relations coordinator starting in May 1984.

Ruth served on the board of Project Hospitality for 5 years. She credits it with showing her a side of Staten Island that she knew very little about and the dedicated community that works to help those in need.

She and Mike, who continues his private practice as an attorney, feel blessed to share vacations to Hilton Head, SC and all their family celebrations with Andrew & Suzanne, and Danielle & Stephen along with grandchildren Esther, Aaron, Abraham, Gabe, and Nate.

Ruth retired on December 31st as JCC Director of Communications after nearly 35 years has worked with, in her opinion, the most dedicated and talented staff and board you can find in Staten Island.

Judy was born in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan- attended Bronx High School of Science, and the City College of New York receiving both a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in school psychology from this institution. In 1992, she completed her doctoral studies at the Rutgers University prestigious Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology.

In 1972 Judy married Steve Scher and they moved to Staten Island where Judy found a job as a psychologist at the United Cerebral Palsy center here, and Steve began his career in mental health administration at the newly opened South Beach Psychiatric Center. Judy continued working at UCP for fifteen years during which time sons Josh and Gabe were born. Subsequently, she was employed at Staten Island Mental Health Society where she continued sharpening her skills working with children and families. Eventually, Judy took the leap and went into private practice and continues to maintain her practice in the Staten Island community presently.

Judy’s involvement with the JCC began when Josh and Gabe both attended preschool here and for many years thereafter as her sons were participants in a variety of the J’s sport s activities. In 1988, she was nominated to the J’s Board of Directors and participated on the Board for many years. For a number of years, Judy was the chairperson of the Junior Committee helping to plan numerous activities for our younger members; and later was a member of the First Foot Forward committee.

Judy and Steve joined Temple Israel in 1988 and have been active members since that time. She has been a member of either the Executive Board or the Board of Trustees for over twenty years. Her impact at Temple Israel and the overall community has been most obvious during her tenure as chairperson of the Social Action committee. During that time, Judy instituted many programs that have become institutions at Temple Israel and continue to this day- Mitzvah Day ( which at some point in conjunction with past Rabbi David Katz morphed into a greater Community Day); cook-ins for our community partner Project Hospitality; spearheading clothing and school supplies drives for the underprivileged students at neighboring Silver Lake Head Start; the Shabbat Supper club for congregants to share festive meals together at Temple; and most recently developing with Rabbi Michael Howald an ongoing “No Shush Shabbat “ service for special needs children and their families.

In our greater Staten Island community, for over twenty years, Judy has facilitated an ongoing Mother’s Support group for mothers of atypical children at Parent to Parent, continuing her mission to address the psychological needs of the developmentally disabled by strengthening their families.

Additionally, as an active member of the Richmond County Psychological Association, Judy was privileged to serve as this organization’s president from 2000-2002.

During the last five years, Judy has been blessed to experience a most rewarding role as grandmother to her three beautiful grandchildren Juliet, Liam, and Margot.


Julie Gottesman is the Program Director of The GRACE Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the quality of life for children, teens, and young adults living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. GRACE provides innovative programs and services including Social Skills, Performing Arts, Creative Arts, Recreational, and Life Skills Programs. Joining the GRACE family over ten years ago, Julie was named Program Director in June of 2017.

Julie’s journey begins in Brooklyn with her mother, Martha, her father, Jack Wild (Weinstein), and sister, Debbie. Jack, an incredible performer, and creative thinker immersed Julie into the Performing Arts Industry from a young age and by the time she was nineteen, Julie owned and operated her own dance company. At 15 years old, Julie worked as a camp counselor and dance instructor at Flatbush Park Jewish Center and began a lifelong journey of working with and mentoring children, teens, and young adults, one of whom was Guila Franklin-Siegel. Julie was introduced, by Guila, to her parents Sherwood and Dorothy Franklin, who were both defying the odds of living with Cerebral Palsy, and taught Julie that disability does not define limitations.

Over the next decade, Julie held successful positions in the Fashion & Interior Design industries.  Julie married Steve Gottesman in 1992 and moved to Staten Island shortly thereafter. In 1995, Steve suffered a rare spinal condition, and Julie fought alongside him to overcome the odds of his paralysis by learning every therapeutic method that would prove it possible for him to walk again.  On October 7, 1997, Julie and Steve joyfully welcomed their son, Eli, into the world.  In March 2000, Eli was diagnosed with Autism.  Julie threw herself into becoming a true force in her son’s progress and dedicated herself to opening every door and opportunity for him.  In 2007, Julie opened Let’s Create Drama Inc., a performing arts company centered on teaching performing and writing to children and teens. The program was initially created to build a supportive, inclusive, and socially enriching environment for Eli, in order to build upon his profound memory abilities, burgeoning performing arts talents, and cognitive skills. At the same time, the company served to foster social awareness regarding ASD as a positive learning environment for young people on Staten Island. In addition, Julie also taught performing arts and mentored at both Staten Island Academy Day Camp and the Police Athletic League for the next six years, while building her career at the GRACE Foundation.

Throughout her life, Julie has dedicated herself to the community, particularly to those groups that are underserved and in need of advocacy. From the time of Eli’s diagnosis, Julie has continued to be an unwavering, passionate, and fearless advocate both for her son and the Autism community as a whole. With compassion and empathy, Julie has helped hundreds of children, teens, young adults, families, and fellow staff members to enrich their lives with meaningful experiences, life skills, and unforgettable lessons. As all of Julie’s students know, anything is possible…Together With Teamwork!

Shira Stoll is a 26-year-old Emmy-nominated visual journalist from Long Island. She joined the Staten Island Advance/SILive.com’s visuals team in May 2017 as a Multimedia Specialist. She attended the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University for both her master’s and bachelor’s degrees, where she studied in the “Multimedia, Photography and Design” program.

Stoll has been working on “Where Life Leads You: Stories of Staten Island’s Holocaust survivors,” since June 2017, when she attended and documented Café Europa, a celebration of Holocaust survivors and their families at the Bernikow Jewish Community Center. This assignment allowed her to meet and connect with the Staten Island Holocaust survivors, many of whom were eager to tell their stories. Dr. Lori Weintrob, the Director of the Wagner College Holocaust Center, connected Stoll to more survivors and guided her throughout the project. After months of interviews, Stoll released a 24-minute documentary on Yom Hashoah in 2018, in which ten Holocaust survivors simultaneously tell their stories and how they rebuilt their lives on Staten Island. In addition to the documentary, each Staten Island Holocaust survivors has their own video testimony.

The project is dedicated to Stoll’s “third grandmother,” Helen Freibrun, who took care of Stoll and her two brothers while their parents were away. The two met when Stoll was a child and they grew to be very close throughout the years. When Stoll was eight years old, Freibrun told her that she was an Auschwitz survivor, who lost four of her brothers, her little sister and her parents during the war. She was sent to the crematorium line twice by the infamous Nazi, Dr. Mengele, and miraculously ran to the life line and survived. She also watched her best friend die on the death march. But after she survived, she lived a life full of love and happiness. Freibrun sadly passed away in 2011, but Stoll honors her memory and important message to continue to talk about the Holocaust so that no one will ever forget.

You can view Stoll’s work at www.silive.com/holocaust.

Dr. Carin Guarasci received her B.A. from Fordham University in Early Childhood and Elementary Education, and two Master’s Degrees, one from St. Lawrence University in Guidance & Counseling and the other from Indiana University in Educational Foundation.  She received her Doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2017.  Emotional intelligence, grit, resilience and new teacher retention are areas of her research and publication.

With more than 35 years of experience as a teacher and administrator, Dr. Guarasci dedicates herself to inspiring, educating and supporting children at risk and to mentoring new teachers.  She has served as a NYS Principal, a Region-wide Special Education Administrator in Westchester and Northern NY, a facilitator in Columbia’s Teachers College, New Teacher Academy and tenured reading specialist.  She also assists in Wagner College’s advancement programming.  Her efforts, along with those of her husband, Richard Guarasci, Wagner College President, have helped to raise Wagner College’s endowment by 600%.  Her expertise and professional interests are teaching literacy, supporting new teachers, fostering leadership and providing professional development for various education organizations.

Dr. Guarasci is a Wagner College professor and the founder and director of the New Educators at Wagner program.  Inspired by data revealing that nearly half of all new teachers leave the field within the first five years – primarily due to a lack of support – she singlehandedly put together the NEW program to nurture the community’s teachers who may have otherwise become a part of that grim statistic.

In addition to her commitment to NEW, Dr. Guarasci has shared her time and talents with various community organizations, including Notre Dame Academy and the New World Prep Charter School as a board member, Lavelle Charter School, the Seamen’s Society for Children, Project Hospitality, the American Cancer Society, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the United States Holocaust Museum and many others.

Carin, along with her husband, Dr. Richard Guarasci, President of Wagner College, were honored in 2014 by Wagner’s Chai Society with their Chai Mitzvah Special Recognition Award.  Also in 2014, the New York State Senate at a ceremony in Albany named Carin a “Woman of Distinction”.  The Greater New York Region of the National Organization of Italian American Women also honored her as a “Wise Woman”.

The Guarascis have two children, Bridget and Patrick.  Bridget is a Professor of Cultural Anthropology is married to Mani Potnuru, a lawyer and technology expert.  Their daughter, Zoe Amala is the Guarasci’s first grandchild.  Patrick has his own political fundraising business and is married to Hannah Gabriella, a singer/songwriter working with Capital Records to record their own songs in the studio where Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole recorded theirs.


May 5
11:30 am - 2:00 pm
Event Category:


Bernikow JCC
1466 Manor Road
Staten Island, 10314


Sylvia Cohen

Shop for everyone on your gift list this holiday and Amazon donates to JCC Of Staten Island.

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Membership Services 718.475.5223 

Select JCC facilities are available to all organizations, groups and individuals for life cycle events, meetings and celebrations. Call 718.475.5261 for information.

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