Parents’ involvement with the school their children attend is critical to Reuben Maron, and over the past 45 years — initially with Hillel, which, along with the Hebrew Institute of Long Island, became the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway in 1978 — he has lived that belief.
“I think it’s important when you send your children here, you should get involved,” Maron said. “It is very rewarding to work with the school. It’s helping to make it a better place for your children.”
Maron, 75, a Woodmere resident and HAFTR’s executive director for seven and a half years, stepped down on Dec. 31, and his impact on the institution — which includes a lower school and middle school on its Lawrence campus and a high school in Cedarhurst — has been immeasurable, according to Yaron Kornblum, HAFTR’s board president.
“Mr. Maron has been a very dedicated advocate for our yeshiva over the last 45 years in his many roles at HAFTR,” Kornblum said. “It was a privilege to work with him and be able to accomplish so many things for the school together.”
Ari Solomon, a HAFTR parent for more than 20 years who became part of the school’s administrative team in September, will serve as interim executive director. Solomon also directs the Hillel Day Camp on the Lawrence campus. Two of his children are HAFTR graduates, and his youngest is a sophomore at the high school. Another HAFTR parent, Aileen Gellman, a graduate and a board trustee, will be the director of finance. She also lives in Woodmere.
A retired businessman who owned a Lynbrook sportswear company that had 100 employees, Maron became the school’s treasurer in 1982 and took on other roles as well, including board president from 1992 to 1995. He remained on the finance and past presidents’ committees, and was named executive director in 2009.
He led an effort to increase the enrollment from under 1,000 to its current 1,400, including 270 children in the nursery program. HAFTR has built not one, but two sports complexes in the past five years, and has gone all in on STEAM education — science, technology, engineering, arts and math — including converting the high school’s old gym to a science laboratory.
Maron’s connection to the schools that became HAFTR can be traced back decades. His wife of 50 years, Sandra, attended HILI, and her father and uncles were involved in that school. The Marons’ oldest son, Evan, entered Hillel’s nursery school in 1972, two of their grandchildren graduated from HAFTR, and five more grandkids, ranging from high school to nursery school age, still attend.
At the yeshiva’s 38th annual dinner, at the HAFTR Sports Complex on the Lawrence campus two yeas ago, the school honored its three-generation families. More than 325 people attended the event. The families represented former students of Hillel, HILI and HAFTR, who continued the legacy and have children and grandchildren enrolled in HAFTR.
“It’s vert gratifying to see this thing that I was involved in become something special,” Maron said. “We cherish our history. We work very diligently on it, and it’s important to us. It’s enjoyable to see generations come back, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. That’s very exciting.”
He also helped connect the yeshiva with the public-school district, according to former Lawrence Superintendent Gary Schall. “Under Mr. Maron’s leadership, HAFTR has achieved increasing levels of academic excellence as it also continued to grow in size,” Schall said. “He made every effort to connect to the greater Five Towns community, and initiated the Names Not Numbers program that included Lawrence Middle School students.” The program enlists eighth-graders from both schools to research the Holocaust, and interview survivors on video.
When Maron became executive director, HAFTR was also involved with Rambam Mesivta, but the joint high school was floundering, he said, in part due to differing philosophies. In September 2009, they ended their relationship. Maron hired Naomi Lippman as general studies principal — she is now the HAFTR High School principal — and Rabbi Gedaliah Oppen as Judaic studies principal. “We decided who we are: a Modern Orthodox day school,” Maron said.
Leslie Gang is a legacy student and an involved parent. A 2003 HAFTR graduate, she has worked there since 2007, initially as a first-grade teacher’s assistant, then as a lower school office assistant, and for the past six years as the director of admissions and communications. Gang’s children, Alexandra and Simon, are in kindergarten and nursery school, respectively.
“Mr. Maron’s commitment to HAFTR has been evident from the very beginning,” she said. “He really has worked to ensure that the parents, faculty members and staff members of our school feel the support of the HAFTR administration. I have always felt honored to represent the school, not only because I graduated from HAFTR, but because of the sheer dedication of my supervisor, which I felt daily. It was inspiring.”