I am a little envious of our Jewish kids. They can bake a beautiful challah in preschool, deliver a discourse on Maimonides in day school, and give a rousing call to action against injustice from the bimah of their congregation. They are guided by our family values, but their strength, eloquence, and passion come from Jewish teachers they encounter in their preschools, day schools, and congregations.

This year, 27 outstanding teachers were nominated for the Helen Diller Family Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education. These teachers come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are religiously observant, some are secular, some were born in or have lived in Israel, some were born in the former Soviet Union, and some became Jewish by choice. What unites them is a belief that Jewish values, ethics, and traditions remain relevant in the modern world and serve as an invaluable guide for our children on how to treat themselves, others, and our environment. These teachers dedicate countless hours to continuing education, host radically cool parent education programs, build Star Wars-worthy maker’s labs, deliver comfort to the sick, and, along with their students, support the less fortunate in our communities. They are a tireless source of support for our children – and for us as parents – as we try to figure out what it means to be “Jewish” in the secular world.

This year’s awardees – Shelley Kaplan, Rabbi Erin Mason, Hadas Rave, and Sandy Rosenberg – will be honored in a ceremony at the Contemporary Jewish Museum on Wednesday, May 17. I am excited to hear them speak, but most of all I am looking forward to saying “thank you” for the knowledge, warmth, and encouragement they give our children every day.

MEET THE WINNERS

Hadas Rave, Contra Costa Jewish Day School (Day School)

After completing her B.A. in Elementary Education in 1997, Hadas Rave made Aliyah to Israel to work at an alternative school and live on a kibbutz for 10 years. In 2008, she and her family moved to the Bay Area and Hadas began working at the Contra Costa Jewish Day School in Lafayette. She currently serves as her school’s director of Jewish life and coordinates the service learning and Israel education programs alongside being a lower school Judaic Studies teacher. During these past nine years at CCJDS, Hadas completed an Executive Masters degree in Jewish Education through Hebrew Union College. She feels lucky to work in this profession where her job affords her the opportunity to grow and learn with and from incredible educators and inspiring young people.

Shelley Kaplan, Gan Ilan Preschool (Early Childhood Education)

Shelley Kaplan joined Gan Ilan in 2014 as an early childhood educator and the Jewish Resource Specialist. Every day, she ignites passion for learning among the children as she enthusiastically weaves Jewish culture, traditions, values, and Hebrew through emergent curriculum. As a connector for families and a mentor teacher, she has implemented many successful new programs that have significantly increased parent engagement, teacher involvement, and Jewish learning. One of Shelley’s unique and meaningful contributions to Gan Ilan has been the creation of a learning biblical garden, an interactive hands-on outdoor classroom where children and their families experience the connection between Torah, Israel, and the Jewish holidays while they are playing, exploring, planting, and harvesting.

Sandy Rosenberg, Congregation Rodef Sholom (Congregation/Community School)

Sandy Rosenberg has enjoyed 17 years in Jewish education. She currently teaches first, fifth, and sixth grade learners at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael. Her goal is to provide a magical introduction to the rich traditions of Judaism and to excite her students about learning to read Hebrew. Sandy holds an M.A. in Education and her career includes 19 years as a lecturer in the Sonoma State University Graduate School of Education, where she supervises Multiple Subject Teaching Credential candidates during their student teaching in elementary schools. Sandy is also honored to volunteer as a wish grantor for Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area.

Rabbi Erin Mason, Camp Newman (Informal Education)

Rabbi Erin Mason has been passionate about Jewish camp ever since her first summer as a camper at age 10. She brings over 15 years as a Jewish professional to this work and is continually reinvigorated in her chosen rabbinate. Ordained from the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, she was in the first class of the Mandel Fellowship for rabbinic-education students, where she explored what it means to create, implement, and sustain Jewish institutional visioning and change. A native Texan, Rabbi Erin attended the University of Texas at Austin. She has been on the director team of URJ Greene Family Camp in Bruceville, Texas, and Gindling Hilltop Camp in Malibu.

– See more at: https://jewishfed.org/news/blog/outstanding-teachers-our-community#sthash.JSQlGcFL.dpuf