2014 Diller Education Award Recipients

Marla Kolman Antebi, Chochmat Halev

Congregation/Community School

Israel has been a prominent feature of my life for a long time, visiting family and friends and creating a non-profit (Partners In Peace) to develop youth as peacemaker leaders and to open portals for cross-cultural relationship-building that could not be compromised by political circumstances.  I have always known that my life work would involve the Holy Land. Despite these strong connections and even stronger feelings, after my first son was born, the peace activism and travel that used to characterize my life work had to take a back seat to parenting and to finding more convenient work close to home.

Now, after two kids and five years passing with very little Israel contact, my heart aches to return. In February, a workshop sponsored by the iCenter and Jewish LearningWorks’ Israel Education Initiative about “Teaching Israel” woke me up to the realization that the time had come to add Israel back into my life – both in terms of my work/teaching and of going there, being there, being part of the story. I came home that afternoon and announced to my husband with complete conviction that “I don’t know how I am going to do it, but I am taking us to Israel next year.” I meant it. I prayed for a miracle. This award is allowing that dream to become reality. It came just at the right time. I stand in awe and appreciation – and complete gratitude – for life’s magic and for this incredible honor.


Adam King, Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School

Early Childhood Education

There is a moment after I say a blessing paddling out to surf, as I drop into a fun wave, throw my board under feet and look down a wall of turquoise green water, when bliss over comes me and that briefest of moments seems to last forever. Fins catch as I slide along the liquid glass realizing that I am doing what I love and there is a beautiful wave in front of me.

I find myself having a similar experience as I reflect upon all the people who have helped me become the teacher (and surfer) that I am today. I have just begun to stand up on the wave that is teaching and as I look down the line and prepare for the barrel ahead. I am excited to take on the wipe outs all while singing a song of shalom with the ocean. I am humbled to receive the nomination and award and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to do what I love—teach.


Rabbi Joshua Ladon, Jewish Community High School of the Bay

Day School

It is very exciting to be recognized for the Helen Diller Excellence in Jewish Education Award. The Talmud records a statement made by R. Chanina: “I have learned much from my teachers; More from my colleagues; But most of all — from my students.” (Babylonian Talmud, Ta'anit 7a). In the course of my own learning and teaching, I have indeed felt the truth of such a statement. The years I spent learning at the Shalom Hartman Institute and the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem exposed me to mind-expansive Torah, delivered by caring and challenging teachers. Since my first job  as a teacher's assistant at my family's synagogue at age 14, I have collected mentors, who have shared their wisdom and guidance.

The past three years as a teacher at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay have given me the opportunity to engage in my Judaism and learning at whole new levels. The special recognition of this award is really a tribute to all the teachers upon whose shoulders I stand, to my colleagues who teach me every day, and most of all to my students, who keep exposing me to new faces of Torah and pushing me to explore new and innovative strategies for creating deep and meaningful connection to Jewish learning.


Rabbi Akiva Naiman, NCSY

Informal Education

I am truly humbled and honored to have received the Helen Diller Excellence in Jewish Education award. I was completely blown away when I  found out, and I am so excited that my organization will receive extra funding which I intend to dedicate, most if not all, to scholarships for teens, for local and summer programming.

I am a big believer that every Jewish teen should go to Israel at least once in their high school career, regardless of what program they choose. NorCal NCSY is looking to give out almost $100,000 in subsidization for NCSY summer programs for 2015, and I am excited to collaborate with other programs to help spread this information.

I never would have been able to come this far without the amazing support that I get in my shul, community, and professional life. Thank you to all of those who have given guidance, advice, and support.