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Passionate Teachers Recognized For Excellence in Jewish Education

Each year the Helen Diller Family honors four  exceptional Jewish educators because outstanding teachers encourage youth to explore the rich traditions of the Jewish heritage, to incorporate Jewish values into their own lives, to help build Jewish community, and to take responsibility for the common destiny of the Jewish people. Recipients of the Helen Diller Family Excellence in Jewish Education Award receive a $10,000 cash prize, and $2,500 for their institutions. We’ve asked the 2013 awardees to share what receiving this award means to them:

Congregational/Community School: Day Schildkret, Congregation Rodef Sholom

When I found out I won this award, I danced. I danced to not only celebrate my own win, but for all who are benefiting from the Fire Circle and reconnecting through ritual. I danced for all the Jewish teens who now have a place in their lives for something sacred, something powerful, something ancient each and every week. I danced for nature being the perfect vehicle for personal discovery and wonder. And, I continue to dance because our teens are now returning to be mentors and are continuing this cycle of connecting to their ancestral Jewish roots. I continue to dance because our world desperately needs our adolescents to transition into their adulthood and it is happening here. I am beyond grateful for this award and for the opportunity to serve our youth, our community and our planet. May we continue to regenerate our culture and find our place once again beneath the larger Etz Chaim.

Day School: Renee Fine, Yavneh Day School

I am truly humbled to be recognized for the Helen Diller Excellence in Jewish Education Award. During the course of my more than 20 years in Jewish education, I have been associated with many excellent teachers, and to receive this special recognition is extremely meaningful to me.  I truly love teaching, and I love being Jewish. So it is quite natural for me to be working at a Jewish Day School where I can combine both my passion for teaching and my love for Judaism.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned in education, it is the importance of weaving the threads of Judaism throughout both General Studies and Judaic curriculum. When a student makes a Jewish connection through Art, Music, Literature, Science, etc…it becomes more relevant to their lives through their own personal prism. The challenge for the educator is to utilize both creativity and sensitivity to children’s distinctive needs and interests.

Early Childhood Education: Silvia Gitlin, T’enna Preschool

Jewish teachers of young children have a truly unique opportunity. This early period of time is crucial for instilling enduring Jewish identity in children, for engaging and inspiring new parents and for serving as a gateway for additional Jewish education and involvement in synagogue and community life. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be part of the educational process of young families and to be honored for doing what I love. Thank you!


Informal Education: Kenny Kahn, Be’chol Lashon Camp

Winning this award is incredible. Thank you to all of my Be’Chol Lashon people that nominated for the award. I accept this award on behalf of all the amazing and inspiring Jewish educators who I have been taught by or worked with in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by incredible individuals who invested their time and efforts on me, creating both an engaging and safe place for me to learn and identify as a Jew. Temple Beth El, Camp Kee Tov, UAHC Camp Swig, Berkeley Midrasha, and Be’Chol Lashon helped shape me into the Jewish man and educator I am today, and it is through their programs and amazing staff that I was able to learn and feel accepted. Returning the favor is an honor and a pleasure, and through Camp Be’Chol Lashon, with my co-director Sarah Spencer, I wish to continue educating the diverse population of young Jews from across the nation and the world on how community and identity are vital to one’s self and an understanding of religion and culture. We all share the common thread of Judaism, and it’s important that we celebrate it through one another.

For further information or questions about the Helen Diller Family Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education, please contact Carrie Sullivan at CarrieS@sfjcf.org or 415.512.6226.

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