Mr. Ezra S. Ashkenazi
Hillel Yeshiva Board of Trustees
We are extremely pleased to honor Mr. Ezra S. Ashkenazi, a true friend of Hillel Yeshiva, in this year’s Journal. Ezra has supported our school for as long as he can remember. His father, Saul E. Ashkenazi, A”H, was one of the founding fathers of our present day campus. The initial phase of Mr. Saul’s vision for the future of Hillel Yeshiva began with the construction of the core building and three additional buildings to house classrooms.
His father realized that it would be wonderful for Hillel to have a gymnasium and “thought it would be a great opportunity for Ezra to raise money towards its construction as he was young and loved sports.” At first Ezra thought “how can I do this? I’m just a kid. I have no experience fundraising.” With a few suggestions from his dad, Ezra approached a group of his friends and soon discovered a way to raise the needed funds. This was his first introduction to creative fundraising and certainly not his last.
Ezra credits the influence of his father with one very important message: “give back to the community.” Ezra has not only followed in his father’s footsteps but he has blazed his own trail. Since his initial effort Ezra’s true passion was the establishment of the Sephardic Rabbinical College, named after his parents, his loving role models, Saul A”H and Sally Ashkenazi, in 1998. Since its founding he has devoted most of his time to ensure its continuing success. The college has produced over twenty-six community rabbis trained in the traditional Sephardic approach to Tanach, Halacha and Torah.
In 2000, he founded the Allegra Franco School of Educational Leadership to inspire and train women to become Judaic Studies teachers and maintain Sephardic heritage. In 2011, he co-founded the Morris I. Franco Community Cancer Center with Mrs. Nancy Sutton. The Center provides patients with knowledge, hope and support to empower them to take an active role in their treatment.
Then in 2014 he co-founded the Propel Network with Mrs. Rebecca Harary. This organization is dedicated to encouraging and helping women to become self-sufficient as they discover new professions, enroll in certification courses and ultimately new careers.
In 2016 he and Rabbi Harold Sutton co-founded Yeshivat Moreshet Yerushalayim in Jerusalem. The yeshiva educates eighteen-year-old men in Judaic Studies and offers them internships in start-up companies. Many Hillel alumni have been the beneficiaries of learning at the yeshiva and have come back to share their enthusiasm and inspire our younger students and members of the community at large.
Ezra has continued to support his father’s goals at Hillel Yeshiva. In 1991 he led a meaningful campaign to honor his father at a special fundraising event. He raised over two-thirds of the ads and planned the logistics of the event. In June 2006 he and his father were honored at a benefit luncheon for their steadfast dedication to Hillel Yeshiva. In 2010 he was asked to join the Board of Trustees where he is an active member.
Last year Ezra spoke at Hillel’s annual Follow Your Dreams Program in Founders Hall. Surrounded by students and faculty, armed with prizes from his successful company, SDI Technologies (iHome), Ezra spoke about setting goals, the importance of ethics in business, leadership and careers. He explained his own path to success and leadership. He gave tips to the students, credited his father, as well as the bedrocks of Torah and his family for the framework to excel. He also explained the importance of education and the value of reading a variety of books.
This past November Ezra was invited by Hillel Yeshiva High School faculty member, Mrs. Michelle Soley, to speak to the Business Literature Class, a special class for seniors, about the way ethics in business has applied to his life and career. His talk complemented the material being taught in class. The students gained understanding of the importance of ethical behavior and have great respect for him and what he has accomplished.
Ezra S. Ashkenazi was born in 1959 and attended Magen David Yeshiva Elementary School. He graduated from Asbury Park High School and Monmouth University. Since his graduation, he has continually pursued education for his own personal growth by attending seminars, courses and private classes.
He is married to Sharyn Kassin and has five children and eight grandchildren. Their eldest, Saul, is married to Joyce Salame, Sally is married to Joe E. Betesh, Albert is married to Eileen Sutton, Isaac is married to Paulina Dahan and Jack, who is 19 and attends college. In addition to his family, work and community involvement, Ezra spends time playing full-court basketball, swimming, biking and backgammon. One of his greatest accomplishments is running and finishing four consecutive New York City Marathons.
When asked about his vision for Hillel, Ezra said “I believe the school will continue to grow. I am amazed at the alumni who love Hillel, continuously work for the school and have become leaders of the community. I am pleased to support Hillel and continue doing the DNA of the founders who taught us to give back to the community.”