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Dara Torres to speak at Heritage Academy Scholarship Dinner

LONGMEADOW – Dara Torres, the most medaled female U.S. Olympian of all time, will be the keynote speaker at Heritage Academy’s annual Scholarship Dinner, “An Evening of Champions,” to be held on Thursday, May 18 at 5:45 p.m. at Temple Beth El, 979 Dickinson St. in Springfield.

Torres, who has won 12 Olympic medals (four gold, four silver and four bronze), gained worldwide fame as the first ever 5-time U.S. Olympic swimmer, and became the oldest swimmer to compete in the Olympic Games at the Beijing Games in 2008. An accomplished author of two best-sellers, she has appeared on ESPN, CNN, Today Show, Fox News, Good Morning America, and many other programs. This amazing competitor was also named one of the “Top Female Athletes of the Decade” by Sports Illustrated.

In 2005 she was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

This year, Heritage Academy will honor two couples as its “Community Champions” for their volunteer work in the Jewish community: Dr. Paul and Esta Farkas of Temple Beth El and Bob Kushner and Connie Ryder of Congregation B’nai Torah. In addition, the school will honor “Heritage Heroes” Sharon Cohen and Eric Barker, for their many years of dedication and generosity to the school.

Dr. Paul and Esta Farkas are both graduates of the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning. They are both active members of Temple Beth El in Springfield, where Paul served as president for three years.

Bob Kushner and Connie Ryder are dedicated members of Congregation B’nai Torah and the Jewish community. He has served on the boards of two synagogues and currently serves as co-president of B’nai Torah. He previously served as president of B’nai B’rith. He worked on the team that started Heritage Academy’s annual trips to Israel. Connie has been an active volunteer in the Jewish community. She has spent innumerable hours working on the synagogue’s rabbinical search committee, participating in women’s readings, taking minutes for the board meetings, and cooking for various functions. They have been supporters of Heritage Academy for many years and his and Connie’s son Ethan attended the school.

Sharon Cohen served on the Jewish Federation Board for many years and is currently a vice president. She received the Federation’s Young Leadership award in 1995. She served on the National Young Leadership Cabinet for a six-year term. Eric has served on the Federation’s Community Relations Council, and both have been active at Heritage. Sharon joined the board of directors as treasurer and served in that capacity for many years, while assisting with the ad journal, the annual Scholarship Dinner and other fundraising. During the 2011-2012 academic year, she became the school’s liaison from the Federation, and served as president and treasurer. She is immediate past president. Eric served on Heritage’s Technology Committee, composing software for the fundraising efforts and provided support for Sharon.

Tickets for the dinner are $72 per person for young Heritage alumni; $118 per person (Bronze Donor); $150 per person (Silver Donor); and $200 per person (Gold Donor).

Student members of local swim teams or swim programs may join the event at 7:30 p.m. (for dessert and to hear Dara Torres’ presentation only) for a donation of $18 per person. Tickets will be available to purchase online at For more information, contact Heritage Academy at (413) 567-1517.

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