It’s the middle of winter, but mark your calendars for May 6th–the night of this year’s WJC Spring Gala. We are busy planning and will be paying tribute to Abby and Gabriel Tolchinsky and Caren and Rich Gerszberg. Not only is the Gala a huge fun party, but also, an important fundraiser for so many of the temple’s fantastic programs.
The Tolchinskys joined WJC when they moved to Larchmont, over twenty years ago. Since then it has served as their spiritual home—an anchor in their family life. Abby jumped in immediately. After dropping their young daughters at pre-school, she spent her free time attending Rabbi Segelman’s weekly Torah classes. She took great joy on Shabbat mornings bringing the children to participate in Tot Shabbat. Abby became involved in the Sisterhood, delivering a Sisterhood Shabbat d’var Torah, chairing Sisterhood Shabbat and volunteering with many other efforts, eventually serving as Co-President of the Sisterhood along with Caren Gerszberg. Additionally, as annual participants in the High Holiday Study Service, Abby served on the planning committee.
While raised in Argentina and Israel in a secular Jewish home, Gaby’s deep knowledge and love of Torah, developed and flourished at WJC. He’s a constant presence at morning minyan, often leading the service. Over the years, he has delivered many moving and thought-provoking talks at the High Holiday Study Service. Along with Robin Nichinsky, Gaby spearheaded the Strategic Planning Committee, a major undertaking from 2012- 2013 Together, the twosome created a model for steering the synagogue forward in these challenging times. Gaby served as an Officer from 2010 to 2015, and as the Treasurer from 2013 to 2015.
Abby is a founding partner of Family Mediation LLP providing legal and mediation services. She is an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School teaching Mediation Theory and Skills and a mediation columnist for the New York Law Journal. She graduated from Barnard College and NYU School of Law.
Gaby is CEO of Bladex, a multi-national Latin American trade finance bank. He attended college at Tel Aviv University then went on to Columbia University where he earned Masters’ Degrees in Applied Mathematics and Statistics.
Today, their three grown children are active in their own Jewish communities. Daniela, a graduate of the University of Chicago, is Director of J Street U and lives in Tel Aviv. Sara, a senior at NYU, studies theater and often sings at various services and programs at WJC. Jonathan, a high school senior at Solomon Schechter, will attend Washington University in St. Louis in the fall and plans to study engineering and design.
Abby and Gaby are delighted to share this honor with the Gerszbergs, the first friends they made when joining WJC. Their combined six children have grown up here together, the boys enjoying play dates since they could crawl. Their bar and bat mitzvahs were celebrated on the WJC bimah and in Jerusalem. Abby and Gaby hope the community, friends, and family will all come together to celebrate our remarkable synagogue.
When the Gerszbergs moved from NYC to Larchmont in 1996, they were seeking to replicate the warmth of the neighborhood synagogue they’d found in Manhattan. As luck would have it, they found it at the WJC. For over two decades, Caren, Rich and their three children, Nicole (24), Emily (22), and Simon (17) have reaped the wonderful benefits of being part of the WJC community.
After an inspiring, eye-opening WJC mission to Cuba in 2007, Caren’s involvement at the synagogue grew and she became Sisterhood co-president with her close friend Abby Tolchinsky. Since then, she’s spent time on the B’nei Mitzvah and Holocaust Learning Center committees, and has shared her thoughts and insights with the WJC community on several occasions in the High Holidays Study Service and in a Renewal service kavannah. Rich, an active member of the Brotherhood, also served as a member of the Study Service planning committee. Their children have clocked many educational hours in the building, from preschool through Hebrew High school, classroom aide jobs and the ELI program.
Rich is the president of Jonard Tools, an international manufacturer of specialized hand tools for the telecommunications industry. Born and raised in Lakewood, NJ, Rich’s connection to Judaism was greatly influenced by his large extended family and his parents, who are both survivors of the Shoah. Rich attended Lakewood Hebrew Day school, continued his learning at Yeshiva University high school (MTA), and graduated from Columbia University’s School of Engineering with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering, where he now serves as a mentor to students. In addition to time with his family, one of Rich’s greatest joys has been coaching his kids’ sports teams for the past 20 years. Rich also serves as treasurer on the board of the Stockbridge Bowl Association.
A writer and positive psychology life coach, Caren earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and two masters degrees in Journalism and French from NYU, where she later taught magazine writing as an adjunct professor in the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. In addition to coaching private clients and leading workshops, Caren writes articles about health, wellbeing, travel and education for publications such as The New York Times and Psychology Today. She is also a contributor to and co-editor of an anthology of essays called Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up.
Also a daughter of survivors, Caren engages in a variety of volunteer work—sharing her mother’s childhood Holocaust story in classrooms through Facing History & Ourselves, advocating as a lay leader for UJA Larchmont-Mamaroneck, and teaching mindfulness and life skills to teenage girls from underserved communities at Camp BroaderWay.
While the Gerszberg’s three children are now grown, the family often convenes at home in Larchmont for Shabbat dinners. Nicole lives on New York City’s Lower East Side and works for WeWork on the performance marketing team; Emily is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, studying consumer behavior and psychology; and this fall, Simon will be heading off to study at Colgate University.
For Caren and Rich, sharing this honor with Abby and Gaby will make the Spring Gala even more memorable. Together, they have enjoyed years of deep friendship, celebrating mitzvahs, spending many Shabbat dinners and travels, and sharing common elements of their families’ history. The Gerszbergs are so grateful to all those in the community who are able to attend this year’s gala, and especially to those who are giving their time to organize it: Meira Fleisch, Sherry Thaler, Monica Barach, David Goldstein, Jeff Lavine and a dedicated committee of friends and synagogue members. Now, let’s dance!