Our Honorees

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David Merel, recipient of WTA's Educational Technology Award, is the founder, CEO, and chief architect of Thinkbright LLC, a national Voice-Over IP telephone company and cutting-edge VOIP carrier started in 2005. Prior to Thinkbright, David was a technology development project manager at Sitaro Group LLC, where he leveraged open source technologies for IT projects. David worked with the Ad Council on media delivery solutions, and before that served as a global project manager at Young & Rubicam, where he was the architect behind the company's first intranet platform.

 

David has a passion for the intersection of education and technology. Over the past year, he has generously volunteered his time and resources to several Jewish educational institutions in the New York area, including our own WTA/Yeshivat Netzach. After being introduced to WTA through co-honorees Karen Chubak and Aaron Herman, David "fell in love with the school," considering us "a kindred spirit" in our commitment to excellence and affordability in Jewish education, and to bringing technological advances to the classroom. 

 

Leading by example, David has dedicated his time, expertise and enthusiasm to sourcing cost-effective IT solutions for WTA and other Jewish day schools, without sacrificing quality. Among other initiatives, he updated WTA's tech networks, and enhanced remote learning solutions for students unable to be physically present at school due to the pandemic. He envisions exciting possibilities for our new building, including the development of a state-of-the-art STEAM curriculum and lab. With "innovation" and "sustainability" as the new watchwords of Jewish education, David sees WTA poised to become a pioneering and translatable model for Jewish day schools across the country, and around the world. 

 

David was born and raised in Riverdale, New York, and currently lives in Westchester with his wife, Samantha, and two children, William and Isabella. 

Karen Chubak, WTA's Capital Campaign Co-Chair and co-recipient with Aaron Herman of this year's Volunteer Award, has been an architect and project manager for numerous residential, commercial and institutional properties, both nationally and internationally. Projects have included the Brooklyn Law School, Wetherby-Pembridge School, Turtle Bay Music School, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Battery Playscape, the Minnewaska Visitor Center, and the Lambaye Learning Center, a community library and educational center located in a remote village in Senegal, Africa.

 

Born in the United States, and raised in Paris, France, Karen later returned to the U.S. to attend Barnard College, where she received her B.A. degree, followed by a Masters in Architecture at Parsons School of Design - The New School. Drawn to architecture while living in Paris, Karen recognized how buildings are not merely beautiful structures, but have the power to change and shape society. By working as an architect on a variety of public projects, Karen was able to realize her cherished professional dream of placing architecture in the service of the public. 

 

Karen and her husband, Jeffrey, are both proud WTA parents, with son Ezra (2B) and daughter Kayla (Kindergarten) currently attending, and youngest son, Zachary, looking forward to joining them! In her role as WTA's Capital Campaign Co-Chair, Karen has been instrumental in helping to raise funds for the new building. From the beginning, Karen says WTA's mission has spoken to her personal values and beliefs, as affordability of Jewish education is an issue close to her heart. Karen tirelessly champions the cause of WTA's future home, whose design, technology, and materials, she says, will reflect and enhance our school's educational model and core values. 

 

Karen enjoys hiking, biking and spending time with her children. She feels blessed to have the love and support of her husband, Jeffrey, whom she credits with making it all possible. 

Aaron Herman,  Capital Campaign Co-Chair at WTA, and co-recipient with Karen Chubak of this year's Volunteer Award, is Director of AIPAC's Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island Division, and is Chief Storyteller at his own eponymous company, ABH Productions, where he is a freelance producer and video correspondent. Before joining AIPAC, Aaron held senior managerial positions at Jewish Federations of North America, the New Teacher Center, and Birthright Israel Foundation. A graduate of SUNY Binghamton, with a Masters in Public Administration from NYU, Aaron also spent a year studying in Israel at Bar Ilan University. 

 

Applying his professional skills as a fundraiser, connector, and marketing and media specialist, Aaron is deeply committed to promoting WTA's mission of putting an excellent Jewish education within the financial reach of every family. With the encouragement of his wife, Tani, he became an early WTA adopter, joining the founding team even before his own children were born. A self-described "disrupter" who saw "unlimited possibilities" in WTA's pedagogical vision, Aaron recognized the need for a new type of Jewish day school model in the community, and wanted to help make it a reality. He created WTA's very first Open House for prospective parents, and then joined the Capital Campaign. Today, Tani and Aaron's son, Michael is a 2nd Grade student at WTA, while their 1½-year-old son, Ari, awaits his turn! 

 

Aaron marvels at WTA's growth over the past eight years, and at where the school is headed for the future. "It's exciting," he says, "because we've expanded both our physical space, and our goals. We're no longer a startup; we're in the 'scale up' mode, growing a movement to transform Jewish education in a meaningful way." Aaron gratefully invokes his "guiding lights" for inspiring him in this endeavor: his wife, his parents, and the memory of his beloved Bubby (z"l), a Holocaust survivor who instilled in him the vital importance of Jewish education in building a strong and vibrant Jewish community. 

Dr. Jennifer Duchon, recipient of WTA's Community Health Award, earned a B.S. in Chemistry in 1997 from The City College of New York, and a medical degree from Montreal's McGill University in 2001. In 2011 she received her MPH in Epidemiology from the Mailman School of Public Health in New York, and is currently a DrPH candidate in Epidemiology under the mentorship of Dr. Elaine Larson. Dr. Duchon completed her internship and residency in Pediatrics at North Shore University Hospital, and completed fellowships in Neonatal/Perinatal Medicine and Pediatric Infectious Disease at Columbia University Medical Center. She is Board Certified in all three disciplines, and is licensed to practice medicine in New York and New Jersey. Dr. Duchon is currently a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics; she is also a Member of the Infectious Disease Society of America, and the Eastern Society for Pediatric Research. She has taught at Columbia University and Tufts University Medical Schools, and is currently training residents and fellows in Pediatrics in the Bronxcare Hospital system. 

 

In 2019, Dr. Duchon became an Advisor to the Institute for Advanced Clinical Trials (I-ACT) for Children, an independent non-profit with the goal of collaboratively improving the quality and timely completion of global pediatric studies. In 2020, WTA was honored and privileged to welcome Dr. Duchon as our Medical Advisor, a role in which she has been instrumental by creating a safe and evidence-based plan for our school's reopening during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

 

"In the face of the unknown," says Dr. Duchon, "we've had to adapt. It's been a learning process, but we've handled in-person learning successfully by being stringent, and consistent. Much has to do with the dedication of our parents, who've upheld the recommendations and have been willing to partner with the school community. It can be hard getting people to do things for the good of others, but WTA's core values make it unique in that regard. It's been an enlightening experience for me to learn that it's possible."