January 03, 2001
"We are here today to strengthen our community's commitment to Jewish education by honoring the outstanding educators who each and every day teach and guide our children," said Richard Sandler, executive vice president of the Milken Family Foundation.
"They not only stimulate and nourish the intellect; they build character. They are not only responsible for preparing our children to understand their religion; they are also responsible for preparing them to live in the larger society of which we are a part, while maintaining their identity."
The five honorees - all of whom were surprised with the news of their Awards in late October at schoolwide assemblies throughout the Greater Los Angeles area - were selected on the basis of several criteria, including exceptional educational talent and promise, distinguished achievement in developing innovative educational curricula, and an outstanding ability to develop Jewish children's understanding of the connections between their religion, their classroom activities, and their activities beyond the classroom.
"I feel that every day I walk into my classroom is an award and a reward," said Award recipient Kathy Reynolds, a middle school science teacher and science coordinator at the Milken Community High School in Los Angeles. "This is an extraordinary honor, to be able to be with my friends and my family and such esteemed leaders of the Jewish community, to honor something that I do every day and love to do, and would do anyway."
Yaroslavsky, whose own parents were Southern California Jewish educators, told of a visit he made six years ago to his mother's hometown in Uzbekistan, where his grandfather operated a one-room school whose alumni include several important Israeli leaders.
"With practically no resources," said Yaroslavsky, "they were able to educate a generation of leaders who changed the Jewish world. We have that capacity today, and the people you are honoring today have certainly demonstrated that capacity."
Andi Schochet, second grade Judaic studies teacher at Maimonides Academy in Los Angeles, is the first person from her school to receive the Award. "It's really a very big honor, and I'm hoping that more of my colleagues will follow suit," Schochet said.
Of his Award, Rabbi Pesach Wachsman, Torah Studies Principal at Emek Hebrew Academy in Sherman Oaks, said, "It's important for our educators to realize that they're appreciated and that it's a profession which is held in highest esteem."
The Milken Family Foundation Jewish Educator Awards were established in 1990 in cooperation with the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles (BJE). Each year, the program offers major financial recognition to teachers, administrators and other education professionals who have made significant contributions to excellence in education in day schools affiliated with the BJE.
To date, 55 awards have been presented to Los Angeles-area educators. The Milken Family Foundation also provides Jewish day school scholarships annually to hundreds of children through the Milken Scholarship Fund, which is administered by the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles.