(left to right, Lowell Milken, Chairman and Co-Founder Milken Family Foundation, Dr. Gil Graff, Executive Director BJE, awardees: Rabbi Levi Solomon, Kelly Shepard, Jamie Gomer, Hanna Keynan (in her absence her husband accepted), Richard Sandler, Executive Vice President Milken Family Foundation)
All too often, educators – who are so vital to the learning experiences of students – are not recognized for the significant work that they do. Through the generosity of several community philanthropists, BJE is able to recognize excellence in Jewish education by honoring exemplary educators.
Since 1990, the Milken Family Foundation has, annually sponsored Jewish Educator Awards, spotlighting outstanding day school educators at BJE-accredited schools. Each year, four educators receive the prestigious awards, including prizes of $15,000 each, at a luncheon hosted by the Milken Family foundation.
In 1997, the late Simha and Sara Lainer, long-time supporters of Jewish education, established annual awards recognizing exemplary Jewish educators in early childhood and complementary Jewish education. Up to three awards, including prizes of $2,500, are presented to distinguished educators in each of these fields at annual professional development conferences, before hundreds of colleagues.
Early childhood educators who receive the Lainer Award are also nominated for the prestigious national Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. Local award recipients receive a $500 stipend and participate in a national community of practice of Grinspoon-Steinhardt award-winning educators and national professional development opportunities such as NewCAJE.
In 2002, Dr. Marvin & Mehry and Thom & Iris Smotrich established the Smotrich Family Foundation Award of Merit for excellence in teaching in Religious schools (part-time, complementary schools) and in Early Childhood Education. Two awards are presented annually for Religious School educators and one for Early Childhood educators, to early career (2-5 years) educators who have demonstrated excellence in their educational work. Recipients receive $1,000, and their schools receive $500 in the awardees’ honor.
Photo left to right: Suzana Tzimerman (Lainer/Grinspoon winner), Phil Liff-Grieff (Associate Director, BJE), Ofra Bachar (Smotrich winner), Donna Dawson (Lainer/Grinspoon winner), and Chana Abaie (Lainer/Grinspoon winner)