The Epstein School’s 50th — A Golden Celebration

The Epstein School’s 50th — A Golden Celebration

The foundational institution celebrated a half-century of molding young Jewish minds and building community.

Head of School David Abusch-Magder, PhD (Dr. D) and Alana Sonenshine ’94, Epstein’s first alumni board president, delivered remarks during the anniversary program, recognizing past presidents, dignitaries, and special guests, and reflecting on the rich history and tradition of Epstein.
Head of School David Abusch-Magder, PhD (Dr. D) and Alana Sonenshine ’94, Epstein’s first alumni board president, delivered remarks during the anniversary program, recognizing past presidents, dignitaries, and special guests, and reflecting on the rich history and tradition of Epstein.

Marking its 50th anniversary, The Epstein School hosted special events and programs for its supporters throughout the school year. The grand finale was the school’s annual gala, aptly named, Celebration. The 50th Anniversary Celebration Chairs, Sara Kogon and Alli Halpern shared, “Celebration 2024 was a raging success – we hosted over 600 guests, our annual fundraising campaign far exceeded our anniversary year goal, and the night-of-the-event endowment fundraiser, Funding our Future blew past its goal in less than five minutes. To date, we have raised over $1.245 million this year.”

“What an evening we shared with our Epstein parents, faculty, grandparents, alumni, and school leaders, along with past parents, grandparents, faculty, board presidents, trustees, and so many other supporters,” said Ronette Bloom Throne ‘84, The Epstein School Chief Development Officer. “We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our Epstein community. Our fundraising committee worked diligently throughout the school year talking with donors, sharing our anniversary story, and discussing plans for the future. As an alumna and past parent, it is truly so moving to watch the community continue to invest in our mission as it has for over 50 years; we are excited to focus on the next chapter in Epstein’s story.”

Debbie Fertel and Rachel Lavin of Chicago, granddaughters of Rabbi Harry and Reva Epstein, joined the anniversary gala while honoring the legacy of their grandfather, the founder of The Epstein School.

“Our year-long anniversary has certainly provided an opportunity to nurture the connections we have with families across our 50-year history; equally, it has provided an opportunity for us to bring our community together, allowing us to showcase our school, and for everyone to experience the magic that is Epstein,” David Abusch-Magder, PhD, (Dr. D) Epstein Head of School said. “Hosting our Celebration at Ahavath Achim Synagogue (AA), where our school was founded in 1973, brought the entire year of celebration full circle,” he continued. “Among our exceptional faculty and staff today, we have several school professionals who have been with Epstein since our AA days. It was nostalgic to go back to our beginning, and it was meaningful to honor our past. As I mentioned the night of Celebration, Epstein has always remained true to its mission and values since its founding. Challenging minds, nurturing hearts, and making mensches have been central philosophies to Epstein since 1973, and they still guide us today.”

In an effort to create engaging displays that shared the broad strokes of the school’s history, there were four vignettes in various spots in the venue depicting the school’s longevity. The 1970s included original images from school archives and alumni, there were directories and yearbooks from the ’70s, and the dedication plaque with the founders was on display. Each vignette also included accessories to illustrate the time period and emphasize what that era meant to the school, ie: the ’90s vignette included the original shovel that broke ground when the second building was built on Colewood Way in Sandy Springs.

“What a privilege it was to have Rabbi Harry and Reva Epstein’s granddaughters with us at Celebration,” said Alana Sonenshine ’94, Epstein’s first alumni board of trustee’s president. “Debbie Fertel and Rachel Lavin traveled from Chicago to share this milestone with us and to honor their grandfather’s legacy. What a special moment to watch the emotion on their faces as they listened to the many accolades showered on our founder, their grandfather, during the program.”

In celebration of the school’s 50th anniversary, Epstein alumna and parent of two Epstein graduates, Cathy Weinstein Schiff ’81, created a beautiful mosaic to be displayed at school depicting its history and most treasured traditions while highlighting its milestone anniversary.

“Celebration included a silent auction that raised more than any other year in school history,” said Lori Miller, Director of Annual Giving at Epstein. “The items auctioned ranged from unique Epstein experiences like ‘Head of School for a Day’ or ‘Learn to Ride a Bike with Coach Carlos’ to fine jewelry pieces, pasta making and dinner for 10, sports memorabilia, travel excursions, art, and so much more. The auction chairs worked tirelessly for months to gather items that would be enticing to our guests, and we are so grateful to the donors of our auction items for their generosity. I have worked on Celebration for 20 years and this year’s event was special in every way. We honored our rich history and truly had a great time commemorating our anniversary.”

At every turn, YES Event Designs outfitted Ahavath Achim with unique seating spaces, unforgettable bar décor, dramatic lighting, and more. There was seating throughout the venue for guests, reserved tables for sponsors and their guests, and multiple full-service bars to comfortably accommodate the large crowd.

Miller added, “We worked with Bluming Creativity, who brought together a wonderful team of talented professionals and vendors, and who created ‘Epstein50,’ a spin on a Studio54 vibe, that was executed flawlessly. From the bar designs to the lounge areas, every corner of the synagogue welcomed our guests with flair and fun! The food stations and menu selections were creative and incredibly delicious and had everyone raving! There were so many partners who played a vital role in making the evening the spectacular moment it was for our school community.”

Throughout the venue, decade vignettes depicted an era in the school’s history with original photos and accessories illustrating the time period. The 1970s included photos of friend groups, class photos with teachers, Rabbi Epstein with students during their milestones, and more. The décor included a lava lamp, disco ball, yearbooks from the 1970s, and other fun memorabilia.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, The Epstein School hosted a gala on May 9, 2024, at Ahavath Achim Synagogue, the site of the school’s founding in 1973. The theme of the evening was Epstein50, brought forward in signage, seating, table décor, room décor, and more.

The ’80s was a pivotal time for the school, moving to Sandy Springs and branching out into its own space. The photos and accessories highlighted the shift to digital pop culture, the prevalence of music videos, personal computers, cell phones, and more. During the ’90s, Epstein built a second building at its new home in Sandy Springs which elevated the trajectory of the school. The theme of construction for this vignette included building supplies, tools, and even the original shovel that broke ground on Colewood Way almost 30 years ago. To illustrate the 2000s, nearly 100 pictures accented the illuminated chain-link display wall with photos from classrooms, milestones, Shabbat, school plays, Maccabiah, and so many other special moments for the Epstein community.

“There are so many people to thank for making our 50th anniversary year and Celebration such a success,” Throne said. “Our generous sponsors and donors were joined by so many community supporters who are committed to our school. Many of them have been our donors and partners since our founding. We cannot say thank you enough to everyone who has supported Epstein through the years and helped make it the special place it is today. To honor those supporters, our families, our teachers, our alumni, and our leaders, we worked with a local cinematographer, Meaningful Media, to compile our 50-year history in a retrospective video. It encapsulates our story, beginning with our founding, our two campuses, and our role in Atlanta Jewish education through the years. It is historically interesting, beautifully sentimental, and incredibly inspiring as we position ourselves on the shoulders of those who came before us and prepare for the next 50 years of Epstein.”

Epstein’s 50th Anniversary Celebration gala was chaired by Sara Kogon and Alli Halpern, a 2001 alumna of Epstein. The co-chairs opened the evening’s program recognizing the many supporters who helped put the evening together and the donors who so generously contributed to the school’s 50th anniversary fundraising efforts.

During the program, Sonenshine and Abusch-Magder unveiled a large mosaic created by Epstein 1981 alumna and past parent of two Epstein graduates, Cathy Weinstein Schiff. The mosaic was dedicated to the school in honor of its 50th anniversary.

“I made this mosaic to be a vibrant tapestry of symbolism and spirit, capturing the essence of the school’s ethos and community,” said Schiff. “Interwoven within the mosaic are elements deeply rooted in Jewish tradition and learning.” The mosaic, which will be displayed at the school with a detailed artist’s statement, illustrates the academic, athletic, artistic, and spiritual features of Epstein.

As a piece of the evening’s program, internationally renowned mentalist, Wayne Hoffman, mesmerized the audience with his predictions and illusionist talent. His performance was followed by a live fundraiser.

YES Event Designs and A Kosher Touch brought the Epstein50 theme to life through Studio54 inspired décor, furnishings, and accessories, delicious menu selections and spectacular food station presentations, a roving electric violinist, an internationally acclaimed mentalist, dessert on a rotating album, and so much more.

“The goal for the evening was to raise $50,000 before dinner and silent auction shopping,” said Throne. The Epstein Advancement Chair, Jeremy Greenstein, joined Hoffman on stage, shared his family’s story with the audience, highlighted special moments in the ‘Epstein Experience’ for various stakeholders in the room to connect with, and he lauded the school’s faculty and staff for creating a life-changing experience for students. The needle on the fundraiser surpassed its goal in less than five minutes, landing at $67,000 when everyone in the sanctuary shared a hearty Mazel Tov to Epstein, followed by head of school, Dr. D, stepping on and breaking a glass in celebration of the school’s anniversary milestone and bright future.

For more information on the Celebration gala, additional photos, and the retrospective video, please visit

Lani Ashner contributed to this report.

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