Meet Aviva Rand
The JCCMP Family Library’s New Program Director
You’ve worn many career hats. Can you tell us about your professional background?
Hi, I have my master’s degree in speech therapy from Brooklyn College. I did practice for a few years but eventually took on a teaching position in the school that I was servicing and felt that it was much more my calling than therapy. I love teaching and hope to remain a teacher for many, many years! I taught in Ahi Ezer, Shaare Torah, Prospect Park, and Sara Schenirer for close to fifteen years. During that time, I opened up a photography business in my home and was one of the first female photographers to approach children’s portraits in a more artistic way and that was very gratifying as well – both in meeting so many children and families and turning children’s portraiture into art.
When my six-year-old daughter started learning figure skating as a hobby, I used the opportunity to learn a sport that I always wanted to as a child. At one point, I was training at the rink during morning hours when my children were at school almost every day. About four years ago, I passed the highest skating test in the USA Figure Skating curriculum and became hired as coach at Aviator Sports.
Together with my friend and skating partner, Chumi Reisman, we opened SOAR, which is a figure skating group program for frum children. We have taught hundreds of children to skate, including many children with handicaps and special needs and have seen tremendous results.
Of all you’ve done so far, what have you enjoyed most?
I would say producing the show Unlimited for HASC last year. It allowed me to wear all my hats at once and it was very rewarding.
What was your part in that and why did you join that project?
My oldest daughter, Ita, had performed two years ago in a local women-only show. During the cast party, the director, Esther Sara Zyskind, approached me and asked me to be the producer for a much larger and grander performance, a remake of the renowned Broadway show Wicked for the frum audience. It was a huge undertaking and probably the biggest project I’ve ever worked on, but together we put on for four sold-out audiences and to tremendous reviews.
We also received beautiful feedback on the impact the show had on teens and girls who – through the collaboration and process of working on the show and performing in it – made significant changes in their personal lives, which was very gratifying to learn. I hope to produce more shows in the near future.
How did you hone your talents when you were growing up?
I was a big library fan. If I wanted to learn how to do something, I went to the library, borrowed a book, and learned it. My kids are always shocked to hear that when I was growing up, there was no internet, no cell phones, no Waze – zero! Sunday programs, and private lessons in sports and the arts weren’t really a “thing” – most parents didn’t have a lot of extra money for extra curriculars.
I remember when I wanted to learn gymnastics. I borrowed a bunch of books on gymnastics from the library and I would practice and build up skills on my living room floor. Everything is so different now.
In what ways do you feel Jewish literature has changed over the last decade or two?
I think there is a much, much larger focus on mental health, both on children’s levels and on adults’. I’m so glad for that and I’m happy that we found a way to speak about things in the open that we may have been previously afraid to bring up.
Are you and your children avid readers?
All I did growing up was read! We didn’t have that many other things to do, and yes, I still love to read, but I only really have time to on Shabbos. My kids do read, but I wish they would read more. It’s a shame that technology competes for their attention.
One of my fifth-grade teachers used to end class fifteen minutes early and read out loud from a favorite book of ours. It was the best time; we closed the lights and some of us put our heads down, and it was a great way to de-stress at the end of the day. My teacher read with great expression. During my fifth grade year we read Matilda, which we loved, and in turn made us all read the rest of Roald Dahl’s books.
Which genres do you favor and why?
Literary fiction and fantasy. There’s nothing like a really well-written book that makes you feel.
What is the role of a library in our community?
A library does so much. Although initially it is intended as a place where the community can come and escape in a book, it quickly can evolve into so much more. New relationships, support between mothers and teens, and in our case at the JCC, a place where we can use the library to evolve into a community center.
Tell us about your new position at the JCCMP
I’m the director of programs and events at the JCCMP. Our vision is to implement programs and events that help bring the community together, provide support for those who need it, and add that little extra infusion of joy into our daily lives. Next month, we are hosting a challah bake. It’s a really inspirational event that helps mothers and daughters bond and mothers engage with other mothers. It’s a chance to hear divrei chizuk while performing a mitzvah, leaving participants happy and spiritually recharged.
What is your vision for the library’s future?
For the most part, I’ve been hearing really positive feedback about our events and I’m always getting requests to do more events.
Next on the agenda, we are planning to offer music classes, studio recording, and after school homework help and tutoring. I’d love to offer a drama class in the future too.
Aviva’s Favorite Reads
I enjoy reading Jewish biographies. I buy them as soon as they come out and can’t quite catch up on them due to lack of reading time. I absolutely loved Holy Woman by Sara Yoheved Rigler (Mesorah Publications). I can read that over and over and wonder about how much we can achieve in middos. Of course, I loved Rebbetzin Kanievsky’s biography, A Legendary Mother to All by Naftali and Nomi Weinberger (Mesorah Publications).
Another favorite is All for The Boss and Reaching the Stars by Ruchama Shain (Feldheim Publishers), both of which greatly impacted my childhood.
Rav Mendel and His Wisdom by Yisroel Greenwald (Mesorah Publications) is probably my favorite and my husband’s favorite biography as well – we read and reread it!
I love all the books by Gila Manolson, and everything Rebbetzin Jungreis ever wrote.
My beloved grandfather, Rabbi Dr. Walter Orenstein was niftar earlier this year. He was a special, learned rabbi and chazzan and author of many books. We always celebrated each new one when they came out and they all hold a special place in my heart too.