Press Releases


October 13, 2009

Four Jewish Educators Surprised with $15,000 Milken Jewish Educator Awards

SANTA MONICA, CA (October 13th, 2009) Four outstanding Jewish educators in the Los Angeles area received the surprise of their lives today when they were presented with $15,000 Milken Family Foundation Jewish Educator Awards. Foundation Executive Vice President Richard Sandler announced the recipients at surprise assemblies at each educator's school. Joining in the ceremonies were Dr. Gil Graff and Aviva Kadosh of BJE.

The Jewish Educator Awards are presented annually to give public recognition and financial awards of $15,000 to teachers, administrators and other education professionals who have made significant contributions to excellence in education in day schools affiliated with BJE. "With these Awards, we acknowledge our debt to the men and women whose intelligence, scholarship, commitment and compassion not only help young people achieve individual success, but also help ensure the continuation of the heritage that gives meaning to that success," said Lowell Milken, Chairman and Co-Founder of the Milken Family Foundation.

The four recipients surprised with Milken Jewish Educator Awards today were:

  • Shelley Lawrence Lower School Director, Sinai-Akiba Academy, Los Angeles, CA
  • Melanie Berkey English Teacher & Department Chair, grades 9-12, Shalhevet School, Los Angeles, CA
  • Rabbi Mitch Malkus Head of School, Pressman Academy/Temple Beth Am, Los Angeles, CA
  • Rabbi Dov Goldman 4th & 5th grade Jewish Studies Teacher, Cheder Menachem (Boys), Los Angeles, CA

The Jewish Educator Awards were established in 1990 in cooperation with BJE as an adjunct to the Foundation's National Educator Awards program. These educators reflect the highest ideals of Jewish and secular education, fostering the lifelong pursuit of knowledge and nurturing a value system that can guide students through adulthood. Recipients also demonstrate an outstanding ability to develop Jewish children's understanding of the connections between their religion, their classroom activities and their life outside of school.

The Award recipients are selected by a committee of educators, professional and lay leaders from the Jewish community who have a long-standing concern for and involvement with education in Jewish schools. To be eligible for consideration, educators must teach a minimum of 15 hours per week at the kindergarten through 12th grade level; they must have been teaching for a minimum of seven years in a BJE-affiliated school; and they must hold a class "A" or higher scale rating (for Judaic teachers) or a state teaching credential (for general studies teachers).

The criteria considered for the selection of Jewish Educator Award recipients include:

  • Exceptional educational talent and promise, as demonstrated by outstanding practices in the classroom, school and community.

  • Evidence of originality, dedication and capacity for leadership and self-direction.

  • Strong long-range potential for even greater contribution to children, the profession and society.

  • Distinguished achievement in developing innovative educational curricula, programs and/or teaching methods.

  • Outstanding ability to instill in students character and self-confidence.

  • Outstanding ability to develop Jewish children's understanding of the connections between their religion, their classroom activities, and their activities beyond the classroom.

  • Commitment to professional development and excellence and the continuing Judaic and/or secular study necessary for it.

  • Personal involvement in responding to the needs of the Jewish and secular communities.

  • Criteria for administrators also include outstanding ability to attract, support and motivate committed education professionals.

Recipients are invited to attend an awards luncheon in Los Angeles to be held in December.