Press Releases


November 08, 2002

Five Los Angeles-Area Educators Surprised with Jewish Educator Awards

Milken Family Foundationís 13-year tradition honors the excellence of Jewish educators in Greater Los Angeles

When teacher and administrator Rabbi Gordon Bernat-Kunin arrived for work Wednesday morning at Milken Community High School in Los Angeles, the last thing he expected was to be told he would receive $10,000.

That is precisely what happened, as Rabbi Bernat-Kunin became the last of five outstanding Los Angeles-area educators to receive a prestigious Jewish Educator Award from the Milken Family Foundation.

"Utter, overwhelming, awesome shock and gratitude," said Rabbi Bernat-Kunin, describing his feelings on hearing his name as the recipient of the Award.

Each year the Jewish Educator Awards give public recognition and financial awards of $10,000 to teachers, administrators and other education professionals who have made significant contributions to excellence in education in day schools affiliated with the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles.

"With the Jewish Educator Award, we honor these remarkable educators for their commitment, drive and innovation," said Lowell Milken, chairman of the Milken Family Foundation. "They are the shepherds of young minds and the guardians of our Jewish heritage, and we thank and applaud them for their excellence in carrying out this important work."

The other four recipients were surprised with their Awards on October 22. They are:

  • Rabbi Avrohom Klyne
    1st grade Jewish Studies Teacher
    Yavneh Hebrew Academy, Los Angeles

  • Barbara Wirtschafter
    General Studies Principal
    Bais Yaakov High School for Girls, Los Angeles

  • Sara Yoseph
    Judaic Studies Teacher, Grades 4-6
    Atid Hebrew Academy, West Covina

  • Marty Uslaner
    Physical Education Teacher, Middle School Health Instructor and Middle School Advisor, Grades K-8
    Kadima Hebrew Academy, Woodland Hills

"It makes me more aware of the fact that what is given to us is meant to be used and celebrated," said Rabbi Bernat-Kunin of the Award. "But it's also given so that we can make more of a difference in a world that requires a lot of repair."

The Jewish Educator Awards were established in 1990 in cooperation with the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles 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 Bureau-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.

  • Commitment to influencing policies that affect children, their families and schools.

  • 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.