December 09, 2005
Five Los Angeles-Area Jewish Educators Honored with $10,000 Awards
Milken Family Foundation presents local Jewish educators with prestigious—and unexpected—honor
Five outstanding Jewish educators in Los Angeles were honored with $10,000 unrestricted financial awards—the Milken Family Foundation Jewish Educator Awards—at a special luncheon on December 8, 2005.
These five educators were surprised with the Award in November during announcements made at schoolwide assemblies throughout greater Los Angeles by Milken Family Foundation executive vice president Richard Sandler, together with Dr. Gil Graff, executive director of the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles.
The five recipients are:
- Rabbi Berish Goldenberg, principal of Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn-Torath Emeth Academy, Los Angeles
- Vivian Levy, third-grade teacher at Sinai Akiba Academy, Los Angeles
- Chaya Moldaver, second-grade Judaic Studies teacher at Yavneh Hebrew Academy, Los Angeles
- Dr. Bruce Powell, head of school at New Community Jewish High School, West Hills
- Robin Solomon, kindergarten teacher at Adat Ari El Day School, Valley Village
“Research has shown that our greatest challenge in education today is the recruitment and retention of outstanding educators to teach in our schools,” said Sandler. “This is as important in our Jewish day schools as it is in all of our secular schools. Our teachers, our principals have the most important job in America today.”
The Milken Family Foundation 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.
Each year the program provides 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.
The program has presented 80 of these Awards to Los Angeles-area educators. The Milken Family Foundation also provides Jewish day school scholarships annually to hundreds of children.
Selected by a committee of educators and community leaders who have a long-standing concern for and involvement with education in Jewish schools, award recipients 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.
They also demonstrate an outstanding ability to develop Jewish children’s understanding of the connection between religion, classroom activities and life outside of school.
The mission of the BJE is to ensure present and future generations of knowledgeable Jews who are committed to their religious, cultural, and national heritage. Through promoting lifelong Jewish learning and love of Israel, the BJE plays a vital role in fostering meaningful Jewish continuity and strengthening contemporary American Jewish life.
Following is biographical information on this year’s five recipients:
Rabbi Berish Goldenberg
As principal of the largest Yeshiva in Los Angeles —Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn-Torath Emeth Academy —and a teacher there for nearly 30 years, Rabbi Berish Goldenberg knows what it takes to run a successful school. In addition to serving as teacher and principal, Rabbi Goldenberg has even taken responsibility as primary coordinator of the Yeshiva’s fundraising efforts and capital improvement projects. Rabbi Goldenberg is a true servant of the Jewish community, serving as chairman of the Family Commission of the Rabbinical Council of California. He is also a volunteer for the Chevra Kadisha, serving bereaved families, and gives a daily session on the daf yomi in Yiddish. He attends the meetings of the Yeshiva Principals Council and is an active participant in its deliberations. But perhaps most important to Rabbi Goldenberg is a lesson he learned as a student, from the words of Joshua Ben Perahyah, who said, “Provide yourself a teacher; get yourself a companion.” For many a student at the Yeshiva, Rabbi Goldeberg is just that person.
Since she began teaching at Sinai Akiba Academy nearly 30 years ago, third-grade teacher Vivian Levy has been recognized as one of the pillars of the faculty. She makes it her priority to learn the interests and passions of her most able students and finds ways to weave them into her daily lessons. She is well known for her current events unit in which students learn to analyze newspaper articles using the 5W’s. At the end of the year, they present News Panels, complete with station identification music, commercials and microphones. Mrs. Levy questions and pushes gifted students so that they learn something new each day, and is equally adept at dealing with students who struggle, expertly identifying and improving areas of weakness. She has an outstanding ability to both instill character and help students see connections between their lives and Judaism, in addition to cultivating their involvement in the Jewish community. Daily, Ms. Levy acts with belief in her profession, faith in the value of education, and certainty about the importance of Jewish life.
As the second-grade Judaic studies teacher at Yavneh Hebrew Academy, Chaya Moldaver (Morah Chaya, as her students call her) fills her students’ hearts and minds not only with the essential knowledge they need to grow academically, but also with the love and joy of Torah. Much of her teaching is based on a multi-modality approach, using a combination of visual, audible, textual and kinesthetic strategies. She created her own approach to teaching Chumash (prayer book) skills, vocabulary and sharashim (roots) using homemade sentence strips. One of her specialties is teaching the Brit Bain Habsarim(Genesis, chapter 15), as her students learn the entire episode by song and by their own animal manipulatives. Mrs. Moldaver is a role model of values, character and modesty, not only for her class but for the entire staff at Yavneh Hebrew Academy.
Dr. Bruce Powell
Dr. Bruce Powell’s passion for Jewish education has inspired his involvement in the creation of 19 Jewish high schools in America, three of which exist in Los Angeles, including New Community Jewish High School, where he currently serves as Head of School. Under Dr. Powell’s leadership, NCJHS has become a place that nurtures both mind and soul. Students must fulfill a unique Jewish arts requirement designed to project a child’s Jewish soul through the study of Jewish texts. They also participate in the school’s World Language Department —currently offering seven languages —as the school believes that mitzvot must be done in many languages and only through knowledge of other cultures and languages can they be most effective in doing those mitzvot. But perhaps Dr. Powell’s favorite program is the “culture of kindness” that permeates and informs every aspect of his students’ lives. Dr. Powell serves as a mentor to other Jewish educators, and both the Partnership in Excellence in Jewish Education and the Jewish Theological Seminary have invited him to work with them in their respective missions to improve day school education.
A veteran educator of 27 years, Mrs. Solomon’s goal as a kindergarten teacher at Adat Ari El Day School has always been the same: to demonstrate her joy, love, devotion and knowledge of Judaism to every student she teaches. Mrs. Solomon constantly adjusts her curriculum to address the changing trends in education, most recently by weaving the Reggio philosophy into her curriculum. She coordinates the school’s Oneg Shabbat, and every Friday afternoon, leads three different Kabbalat Shabbat Services for students. She co-coordinates the Los Angeles-Tel Aviv Partnership for her school, and led its first exchange with sister school Nitzanim in 2004. During Yom Ha’atzmaut, Mrs. Solomon prepares her students for a “trip” to Israel in which they experience Israel almostfirsthand. On the day of the “flight,” she transforms a classroom into an El Al airplane complete with a movie and snack service, and then spends three weeks learning about and “touring” the land of Israel with them. In order for students to participate in any of these activities, they must learn Mrs. Solomon’s mantra, “treat others the way you want to be treated.”