- Mr. Morris I. Franco A”H 1973 - 1984
- Mr. Jack D. Franco 1984 - 1994
- Mr. Joel Rishty, A”H 1994 - 1999
- Dr. Charles Abady 1999 - 2003
- Mr. Sammy Saka 2003 - 2016
- Mr. Joseph I. Mizrahi 2016 - Present
Mr. Morris I. Franco A”H, whose name is synonymous with Hillel Yeshiva, has had a significant impact on every aspect of the school. He began summering in Deal in 1968 and by 1970 he and his family moved here permanently. He sent his children to the Hillel Yeshiva, which had been founded by Rabbi Morris Schmidman, and was located on Logan Road. At that time, Hillel was the only yeshiva in the Shore area and had a student body of 90 students.
Morris saw the need for the Yeshiva to grow and expand due to the rapid influx of young families in the early 1970’s. His chief motivation was to provide an excellent education for the children of the community. With his tireless energy, he immediately began a major fundraising effort and with the help of the community, $100,000 was raised for the purchase of trailers to accommodate the flood of new students.
By 1973, Mr. Franco had become the president of our school. Through his exemplary leadership, he recruited a group of dedicated community members to the Board of Directors and initiated the Annual Journal, a fundraiser which allowed for continued expansion of our facilities. As he would tell it, “Before we knew it we were educating over three hundred students in the elementary school,” and fundraising became an ongoing pursuit of the Board.
By 1981, a state of-the-art building, the site of our present campus, was constructed on the 56 acres generously donated by Saul and Ely Ashkenazi. Saul Ashkenazi worked with the architect to design a modern facility; he worked on the financial plan and consulted with educators in planning the building. Mr. Ashkenazi had a long term vision for an educational complex that, due to his foresight, has since become a reality.
Mr. Franco’s dedication to our mission has been the inspiration for countless others to share their expertise, knowledge and good fortune for the benefit of our students. It was his impact that allowed every student who wanted a Hillel education to receive it. Always an active participant in the affairs of Hillel Yeshiva and a dynamic fundraiser, Mr. Franco ultimately served Hillel as Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
Hillel was blessed to have had Mr. Franco’s unique ability to reach many members of the community, and through his influence, attracted a talented group of Board members who selflessly contributed their time to expertise. He was so proud of the young men and women of the community whose devotion, service and ethics helped the school flourish. Mr. Franco felt that one of the greatest accomplishments of his work was to see graduates of Hillel serving on its Boards.
Looking back to where Hillel started, he realized that the future success of Hillel Yeshiva depended upon the help of all the people who have worked and will continue to work for the school. He believed strongly that Hillel Yeshiva would continue to strive for excellence in educating young minds for the future.
Mr. Morris I. Franco, A”H
Jack D. Franco has been a devoted member of the Hillel family for many years. Starting out as a member of the Board of Directors in 1976 when Hillel was located on Logan Road, he assumed the Presidency of Hillel Yeshiva in 1984 and continued leading the school until 1994.
Always active in the community, Mr. Franco had the best reason of all to see that Hillel would grow and succeed: his children. “My son David was in the first full graduating class of the high school. As a matter of fact, everyone who worked for the school during this time was inspired by the same reason to ensure the growth and success of Hillel; their children.”
When Mr. Franco became President, he made some immediate changes. One of his first decisions as President was to set up committees to enlarge the role of dedicated members of the community in the future of the school. His second initiative was to concentrate on fundraising, so as to ensure that Hillel would be able to hire the best educators and administrators.
As Mr. Franco recalls fondly, “The key to the whole process was to work with a lot of great, committed and hard-working people on both the Executive and Educational Boards to help develop the school.”
Mr. Franco is a current member of the Board of Trustees and is still very active in fundraising for Hillel. He is proud to see that the vision of our presidents and boards has developed over the years, with the unique efforts of each allowing Hillel Yeshiva to grow and flourish into the outstanding school that serves our children today.
Mr. Jack D. Franco
Joel Rishty A”H served as President of Hillel Yeshiva from 1994 until June 29, 1999 when our community suffered a tragic loss with his untimely passing. Education has always been a priority in the Rishty family and Joel felt obligated to become involved in our Hillel because he thought he had something to offer. From 1984-1999, Joel devoted his time to benefit our school and children by serving on the Board of Education, the Executive Committee and then the presidency.
Joel took upon himself multiple responsibilities including visiting the school every Friday with Mr. Saul Ashkenazi A”H, reviewing its financial status, and ensuring the efficiency of internal operations. He was an active fundraiser, inspiring others to donate to the Scholarship Drive, the Journal, the Chinese Auctions, concerts and raffles. No job was beneath him; from putting on a chef’s hat and grilling burgers and hotdogs at Springfest to representing Hillel at the Jewish Federation.
He believed in a well-rounded education for our children. He took pride in our athletic programs and especially enjoyed coaching the High School Varsity and JV teams from 1994-1999. He taught his players to succeed, to represent our community proudly and most importantly good sportsmanship. He took winning teams to both Madison Square Garden and the Meadowlands Championship Games.
To quote our former Elementary School Principal, Gloria Gribin, “Joel had a vision for the school. He wanted excellence and was willing to work for it. Joel’s insights, determination, ability to see everyone’s point of view, and make a decision and see it through are attributes that contributed to his success as a leader.”
Joel will always be remembered as a personable, caring individual with great integrity and dignity. As Hillel grew, he often spoke about the responsibility of our alumni; “they should return and contribute their time to work for the school.”
Joel served our community for over twenty years. There was no challenge that he would not take on to extol the virtues of Hillel Yeshiva. We were lucky to have such a wonderful leader, teacher and friend. Joel dedicated himself to the future of Hillel and our success is his legacy.
Mr. Joel Rishty, A”H
Dr. Charles Abady served as president of Hillel from 1999 -2003. Before his presidency, Dr. Abady worked for the school in other capacities. He served as a member and then chairman of the tuition committee, which consisted of a group of sensitive, dedicated and qualified people. He then served as co-chair of the Board of Education for seven years.
As Dr. Abady recalls, “Working for the school was one of the greatest experiences that I’ve had. I learned by the example set by my father and his generation who were leaders and worked tirelessly for their communities.”
As President, he fulfilled the mission statement of the school in the areas of education and tradition. Dr. Abady felt that the ability for the school to grow was enhanced by the close working relationship between the President, the boards and the Executive Committee. His presidency brought many educational changes to the school including the tenure of Rabbi Ralph Tawil as Principal of the High School and Mrs. Ruchie Czermak as Director of the Early Learning Center. Dr. Abady and the boards always tried to find the most qualified educators and administrators to ensure Hillel’s success.
Dr. Abady encouraged Hillel’s parent body and the community to continue its support of Hillel’s efforts, so as to ensure that Hillel Yeshiva would always be able to institute new programs that keep pace with our changing world. After serving as President, Dr. Abady continued to serve on the Board of Directors until moving from Deal.
Dr. Abady reflects, “Since 1980 the school and community has grown tremendously. Reflecting upon my 25 years of service to Hillel, I see now that my support of the school provided me with more benefits in relationship to the amount of time I spent working for Hillel. It was a special time in my life that allowed me to work with special people for the advantage of our children.”
Dr. Charles Abady
Mr. Sammy Saka is currently the Chairman of Hillel Yeshiva’s Board of Directors. Previously, he served as the first alumni President of our school. Recruited in 1992 to sell car raffles for the Chinese Auction, what was then our major fundraiser, by 1994, he became chairman of the car raffle. Subsequently, in 1996, he was chairman of the Annual Journal which led to his next position in 1998 as Vice President of Fundraising.
Mr. Saka became Hillel Yeshiva’s President in 2003. When he became president, Mr. Morris I. Franco A”H, Chairman of Hillel Yeshiva, told him, “In the past decade you have tenaciously sold raffle tickets and journal ads. You have been persistent in fundraising efforts for our school. I have been impressed with your interest in all facets of Hillel and your increased dedication to our mission and traditions. It is this dedication and commitment that will make you a successful President and will inspire others to work with you on behalf of our children.”
As President, Mr. Saka embarked upon a new era. He endeavored to raise the level of education and undertook some administrative changes that had a positive impact upon the school. Mr. Saka strongly believed in encouraging our children in all ways possible to grow academically and to strive for excellence. He guided others in their efforts to enhance Hillel’s facilities with the creation of a new indoor playground for the Early Learning Center, a new Ashkenazi Midrash in the High School, a state-of the-art music room, the refurbishment of school bathrooms, a new outdoor playground for the Early Learning Center, a new student lounge in the High School and a new extraordinary baseball field.
Indicative of his respect for those who came before him, Mr. Saka conceived of building a hall in the school dedicated to the founding fathers of Hillel Yeshiva. After much hard work, in 2014, the dream became a reality. With amazing speed, in just one year, the building rose on its foundations and the opening was celebrated with a community-wide evening that celebrated the dedication and leadership of our founding fathers.
As Chairman, Mr. Saka has overseen other major efforts to bring Hillel into the twenty-first century. Most recently he has been instrumental in the major undertaking of a school-wide restoration of all Hillel’s buildings and the entire fifty-six acre campus. Recently, he has headed a recruitment campaign to enroll new students as part of our Hillel family.
Another one of his main objectives has been to continue the vision of his mentors, Joel Rishty, A”H and Morris I. Franco A”H, to increase alumni participation and support for Hillel. Mr. Saka expounds on this point: It is only with the support of our alumni and our community that Hillel Yeshiva will grow and flourish for the next generation.”
Mr. Sammy Saka
Mr. Joseph Mizrahi graduated from Hillel Elementary School in 1986 and Hillel High School in 1990. In 2002, Joe attended a Hillel alumni meeting by the home of Isaac Massry. After witnessing Joe’s capabilities, then-President Sammy Saka invited him to join Hillel’s Board of Education, and one year later, the Board of Directors. Joe fondly remembers his initial task as a member of the Board of Education, which was reviewing and reforming the School’s Keriah program. Through his experience as a hazzan and ba’al koreh, his work has made Hillel’s Keriah program the robust success that it is today.
Congregation Ohel Simcha on Park Avenue for 20 years, and as president of the synagogue for 4 years. His wife Sophia is a 1995 alumna of Hillel, and his five children are continuing in their footsteps as fellow students. No doubt, with Joe’s teachings, both his own children and the children in his Hillel family will continue to pay it forward in the years to come.