PHDS honors pillars of Jewish education


On June 11, dinner tables were set in elegant teal and white, accented by beautiful flower arrangements, for the Providence Hebrew Day School’s 70th annual awards dinner.


Almost 200 friends and supporters of the school gathered in the newly renovated Victor and Gussie Baxt Social Hall at the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center for the event, which began with the PHDS band playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hatikvah.”

Sen. Jack Reed and Rep. David Cicilline were on hand to show support for PHDS and to deliver citations and congratulations to the award recipients. 

Bruce Gladstone addressed the crowd after he and his brothers, Jeffrey and Scott, were presented with the Amudim Award, honoring their parents and the Gladstone family tradition. He described how their father, Bernard, had taught them by example. One cold winter day, for instance, they all bundled up and headed to Congregation Beth Sholom, in Providence, where their father shoveled snow off the roof. It was actions like this, Gladstone said, that instilled a sense of responsibility for their Jewish community in the three brothers.

Paul Fradin, who received the Generation to Generation Award, is contributing to the rebuilding and rededication of the front entrance to PHDS. The renovations will take place this summer and are part of a larger building campaign to update the building.

In his remarks, Fradin spoke of the importance of “knowing what is right and wrong, and what’s important not only to your family and friends but to the future of the community.”

Pesach Shafner, the alumnus awardee, credited the Providence Hebrew Day School for his many accomplishments.

“You may wonder,” he said, “how life’s achievements can be attributed to education received at the elementary school level.”

His explanation took the form of a parable: When a visitor to a fabulous arboretum asked the arborist why he focused all his attention on tiny, seemingly unimportant saplings, the arborist responded: “My ability to influence the mature trees is extremely limited, whether they are mighty or sickly. However, I can have great impact on the saplings, promoting the health and strength of their roots and supporting the saplings’ growth in a steady and upright direction.”

Entertainment for the evening was provided by an ensemble of three musicians: Michael Mechanic, a Gladstone son-in-law and Juilliard-trained bassoonist; Dr. Moshe Kalifa, a cardiologist and violinist; and Fishel Bresler, a versatile musician and music teacher.

In addition, the Barbershop Quartet performed – a tradition at PHDS’s annual dinner. Although not truly a barbershop quartet, and sometime  s not even a quartet, the group’s performance is always a hit. Songwriters Russell Raskin and Shmuel Shafner (Pesach’s father) cleverly adapted song lyrics in honor of each of the award recipients. 

RUCHAMA SZENDRO lives in Providence and is a member of the Providence Hebrew Day School’s Amudim Awards Committee.