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Josh Allen, teacher with ‘heart of gold,’ 37
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Josh Allen, teacher with ‘heart of gold,’ 37

Former Golda Och educator dies on the job at JCC’s Camp Deeny Riback

Josh Allen wearing a Camp Deeny Riback T-shirt. 
Josh Allen wearing a Camp Deeny Riback T-shirt. 

Josh Allen, a South Orange resident and inner-city teacher, died June 25 while working as a unit leader at JCC MetroWest’s Camp Deeny Riback in Flanders.

According to an eyewitness report, Allen fainted during an orientation session before the camp’s opening on June 27 and never regained consciousness. He was 37 years old and is survived by his wife, Jamie, and their four-year-old daughter, Rachel.

Allen was a mathematics teacher at a charter school in Newark and, previously, at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, from 2012 to 2015. GOA head of school Adam Shapiro reacted to the news with “a heavy heart and tremendous sadness.”

“He was a larger-than-life guy with a heart as big as gold who cared deeply about his friends, his family, and his students,” Shapiro told NJ Jewish News in a June 27 phone interview. “As a teacher he always went above and beyond. He cared so deeply about educating the next generation of Jewish leaders.”

Allen, added Shapiro, “worked with the kids not just on their math skills but in many different ways. While he taught at the high school level, he also spent afterschool time with the math enrichment program at our middle and lower schools, and when you walked into his classroom, the energy in the room was palpable.”

Shapiro said that although math is not a universally popular subject, Allen’s students “were always involved. Hands were always up. They were eager to answer questions. 

“But it wasn’t just about the math in the textbook. Josh always tried to bring real-life examples to his work. He certainly made math interesting for our students.”

Allen was raised in Pikesville, Md., and was a graduate of the University of Maryland. He came to New York to teach math in East Harlem and obtain a master’s degree at the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He remained a member of Beth El Congregation in his hometown. Prior to his three years of teaching at GOA, he worked as a curriculum writer at the Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Miss. 

He left GOA a year ago to teach at the Link Community Charter School in Newark. 

Courtney Judd Mallon of New Providence, a close friend of the Allens for the past five years, has organized a gofundme drive to help the family. “There has been a groundswell of community support,” she told NJJN. “We started it because we all felt helpless and did not know what to do. We wanted to show that we love them and everyone has been amazing. We started raising money to cover his funeral costs, and with this groundswell, we want funds to support Rachel’s schooling and for her college fund.”

Mallon described Allen as “a gentle giant. Josh and Jamie would never go anywhere without each other. They had one beating heart, and wherever Rachel was, he was like this big shadow behind her. Jamie and Rachel were his life.”

So too, was his love of teaching mathematics. On his LinkedIn page, Allen defined the joy he felt as a teacher.

“I’m a dedicated math teacher who loves teaching middle-school students….,” he wrote. “My favorite moments as a teacher is when the first, second, and third attempts to reach a student and teach them something fail, but with the fourth, different try, they exclaim, ‘Oh! Why didn’t you teach it like this in the first place?’” 

Allen was buried June 27 after a graveside Service at B’nai Abraham Memorial Park in Union.

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