Call Jay at: 800.752.6050 or 215.332.244
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MatzaFun Stars & Bios

Jerry & Shelly Abramson
MatzaFun Tours Owners
Since 1986 Jerry and Shelly have been providing the ultimate service and kosher cuisine for their Passover resort guests. The hallmark of their successful programs is their attention to detail and innovative cuisine that only comes through decades of personal hands-on experience. Their combined backgrounds cover the culinary arts (Jerry began his classical training as a master chef in Europe), marketing (Shelly began her sales career at one of the nation’s top food products companies), kosher foods industry, and hotel management. In addition to MatzaFun Tours, Jerry and Shelly own and operate a year-round upscale kosher catering business in the Philadelphia region. They are also kosher foods purveyors, offering exclusive Glatt products and delicacies to the industry. Shelly and Jerry are both very active members of the Cherry Hill Jewish community, serving as volunteers and board members of several institutions.
Jay Press
Reservations & Co-Host
Jay has been an on-site host for Passover Tours for many years. He is truly a master at the art of customer service. Jay has the great advantage of meeting all his guests and knowing their special requests and needs before they arrive at Ocean Place. It’s easy since all OP guests make their reservations exclusively with Jay. Jay is also the owner of International Travel Exchange, a travel agency based in Philadelphia.
Avery Umlas
Avery is no stranger to the Passover scene. He spent 15 years as the ‘Tummeler’ at the Lebowitz Pine View Hotel and twenty years as the Program Director at the Homowack Hotel in Spring Glen, N.Y. Avery’s wonderful penchant for keeping people in good humor, stems from his Youth Director Days at the Y.I. of Hillcrest & Special Education career in the New York City School system. Both these positions have honed his skills as a people person and will serve him well as a Co Host for Matza Fun Tours.
Bracha  Schechter

Bracha is a veteran to Pesach programs having grown up watching her father, Jay, at work for the better part of the last 30 years.  Bracha herself joined the Matzafun family at its inception nearly 18 years ago, coordinating the dining room, assisting with reservations and check in, and accommodating the needs of guests.
Bracha now brings her own family annually to join the Matzafun crew, and it is one of the highlights of their year!
Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel

Scholar in Residence
Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel is the E. Billi Ivry Professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University. He teaches at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies and at Stern College for Women, where he is also head of the Jewish Studies program. Dr. Kanarfogel is an internationally recognized scholar of medieval Jewish intellectual and social history, and rabbinic literature. He is the author or editor of five books and more than fifty articles, and he has won a series of prestigious prizes for his work, including the National Jewish Book Award. Rabbi Kanarfogel was educated at Yeshiva University, from his undergraduate days through his doctorate and smicha, and he was also a member of the Kollel at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. Rabbi Kanarfogel is a much sought-after speaker and a world-traveler, lecturing at universities, synagogues and Jewish communities throughout North America, Europe and Israel. His vast historical and talmudic knowledge allow him to weave fascinating accounts and episodes of history and halachah, as he focuses on the productivity and resilience of the Jewish people in periods of plenty and persecution as well. He is also a sports fan and an amateur musician, two areas of interest that often find their way into his lectures in entertaining places. A talented talmid hacham and communal rav, Rabbi Kanarfogel is also an experienced darshan and maggid shiur. Rabbi Dr. Kanarfogel is married to Dr. Devorah Kanarfogel, an optometrist.
Stephen J. Savitsky
Scholar in Residence
Stephen J. Savitsky of Hewlett, Long Island, NY, is a past President of the Orthodox Union. Mr. Savitsky was a dynamic President, introducing a stunning variety of new programs, traveling North America and the world on behalf of the Orthodox Union, and visiting Jewish communities large and small – not to mention the White House — to deliver the OU message.

Prior to his presidency, Mr. Savitsky served as Chairman of the Board, as well as Chair of the OU Kashrut Commission, which oversees the work of the department which provides much of the funding for OU programming.

Mr. Savitsky has held many additional leadership positions in the Jewish community, including President of the Vaad Hakashrus of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway; founder and President of the Kew Gardens Hills Eruv; President of Congregation Ansche Chesed in Hewlett, Long Island, NY; and Chairman of the Board of Mesivta Ohr Torah, in Forest Hills, NY. He is a member of the International Board of Governors of the Mesorah Heritage Foundation. Mr. Savitsky has also represented the OU as a Scholar-in-residence at numerous synagogues across the US.

Stephen J. Savitsky is the President and Chairman of the Board of ATC Health Care Services, a nationwide provider of temporary medical staffing. He also founded and served as CEO and Chairman of the Board of Tender Loving Care – Staff Builders, one of the nation’s largest providers of home health care services. Mr. Savitsky graduated from Yeshiva University with a degree in Economics and received an MBA from The Bernard Baruch Graduate School of Business of the City University of New York, with a specialization in finance and marketing.

Mr. Savitsky is married to Genie (nee Tennenbaum) Savitsky. They have four children: Julie (married to Shabsi Schreier), Avi (married to Cheryl Stein), Penina (married to Zvi Weiner), and Estie (married to Yehuda Berman). The Savitsky’s have grandchildren who – much to the Savitsky’s delight – live within walking distance of their grandparents.

Rachel Hercman

Scholar in Residence
Rachel Hercman, LCSW is a psychotherapist, speaker, and writer specializing in emotional wellness, relationships, intimacy, self-esteem, and trauma.  She maintains a private practice in Manhattan and is on staff at Maze Women’s Health, where she is part an interdisciplinary team providing treatment for sexual dysfunction and menopausal issues.She earned a B.A. in education and history from CUNY Queens College, an MSW from Wurzweiler School of Social Work, and personal trainer certification from the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Rachel has advanced training in numerous therapeutic modalities, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, somatic interventions, Internal Family Systems (IFS), Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing therapy (EMDR), sex therapy, mindfulness, and she completed an internship in Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples at the Ackerman Institute in New York City. 

A dynamic speaker, Rachel engages audiences with warmth, humor, and sensitivity. She has presented in universities, communities, and synagogues across the United States, and she has served as a consultant for rabbis, educators, and mental health professionals. She has trained Kallah teachers through Shalom Task Force, the Orthodox Union, Yeshiva University, and Nishmat, and she moderates a list-serv for Kallah teachers representing the full Orthodox spectrum.

Rachel lives in Riverdale with her husband Bradley and their three children.

Dr. Bradley Hercman
Community Seder Coordinator


Rabbi Dr. Bradley Hercman is an educator and psychologist with a passion for building innovative, supportive and exciting learning environments. He received his B.A. in Psychology and Jewish History from NYU, rabbinic ordination from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, and M.S. in School Psychology and Psy.D. in Combined School-Clinical Child Psychology from the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology of Yeshiva University. Rabbi Dr. Hercman currently works as a School Psychologist at Nassau BOCES for students with emotional challenges, learning disabilities, and autism spectrum disorders. In addition, Rabbi Dr. Hercman proudly serves as the Program Director of Meorot, an innovative Judaic Studies after-school program providing elementary school students with learning or language difficulties an inspired Jewish education within a supportive environment.  He has served in diverse settings and lectures on the intersection of psychology and Judaism, parenting, and evidence-based interventions for a wide range of psychological challenges.  Rabbi Dr. Hercman lives in Riverdale with his wife Rachel and their three children. 
Ronnie Baras
Ronnie Baras has been performing professionally since 1982 . Ronnie has performed several times in Las Vegas including headlining at the infamous Venetian Hotel. He is the first Orthodox Jew to headline at a Las Vegas Hotel.Ronnie is a MatzaFun favorite as a featured entertainer and lecturer. He is best know for his entertaining hypnosis & comedy routines. Ronnie is a certified hypnotherapist and goes to great lengths to entertain, without embarrassing either his audience or his hypnotism subjects. In addition to hypnotism, Ronnie also performs ‘mentalism’ shows where he demonstrates the ability to ‘read minds’ in an entertaining fashion.

Donna Lazaros 
Camp Director 
For the past seven years, Donna Lazaros has been director of several successful day camp Passover programs for area hotels. She has also served as director of the day camp program at the Orthodox Union annual convention. Donna has also directed the sports and aerobics programs at Camp Emunah and Camp Bnos. Her programs are not only enjoyed by her campers but also by her loyal staff who eagerly await each Pesach season.

Yaakov & Tzippy Charlap
Teen & Senior Adult Coordinators

Tzippy is the Aquatics Director at Simcha Day Camp and has been working at the Boro Park “Y” for twenty years. Her hands-on experience includes children, adults and senior programs. In addition, Yaakov & Tzippy have years of experience organizing and supervising hotel programming. With teens of their own, they certainly have first hand experience with the teen community. Yaakov & Tzippy are both active members of the growing Kew Gardens Hills, NY community.
Chef Martin Levin
Mauzone’s Catering by Celebration
For the past 40 years the team of Main Event-Mauzone Catering has created special moments in homes, synagogues, hotels and country clubs all over the Northeast and beyond. Their amazing array of unique Kosher for Passover delicacies will delight your palate. Executive Chef Marty Levin has been with providing Quality Kosher Catering for over 25 years. He seeks out signature, flavorful, and attractive foods to ensure that the results are pleasing to both the palate and the eye. Being a kosher chef on a world class level is a responsibility and a challenge Chef Marty loves to meet.To captivate your taste buds with new sensations for Passover, Executive Chef Marty Levin, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, also provides novel holiday dishes, such as Lamb Roast with Mint Demi Sauce or Russian-style Wild Mushroom Soup.Check out Chef Marty’s Recipes in the Jewish Press and 5 towns Jewish Times.