Celebrating Excellence in Jewish Education, 15 Years and Running

The Helen Diller Family Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education were established in 2001 at the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund in order to recognize and honor teachers who have made an extraordinary impact on the youth of our community. The winners receive $10,000 individual awards, as well as a $2,500 award for the institutions in which they teach.

It was inspiring and gratifying to learn about the variety and quality of Jewish educational offerings in the Bay Area and, naturally, not easy to select just one winner in a category. This year’s winners are looking to make Judaism relevant for our children by taking it out of the classroom and into the real world, whether by sharing challah with the neighborhood business community, engaging with local nonprofits, or celebrating Jewish holidays in the wilderness. Please join me in congratulating our 2016 winners: Jody Bloom (Day School), Sarai Shapiro (Informal Education), Jodi Gladstone (Early Childhood Education), and Tikva Farber (Congregation/Community School).

L to R: Jody Bloom, Sarai Shapiro, Jodi Gladstone, and Tikvah Farber

Meet the Winners

Learn more about these four outstanding teachers through the words of their colleagues and students:

Jody Bloom teaches middle school Judaic Studies at the Brandeis School of San Francisco.

“I am continually surprised that no matter what the content of Ms. Bloom’s lesson, my children seem to come home with great hope and richer sense of Jewish belonging and identity. Jodi has a gift for making thousand year old prayers and customs relevant to their modern, young lives,” said Elizabeth Milstein, a parent at the school. Camille Shira Angel, a colleague of Jody’s, added that Jody “draws students at lunchtime like a magnetic force.”

One of Jody’s many accomplishments is Brandeis’s 7th grade Tzedek project. It’s an experiential philanthropic journey whereby 7th graders meet the representatives of various philanthropic organizations and engage in daylong service learning projects. The process culminates in the award of funds to one organization chosen by the students.

Sarai Shapiro is a lead mentor at Wilderness Torah, a Berkeley-based organization with the mission to awaken and celebrate the earth-based traditions of Judaism.

“Sarai helped pioneer innovative, nature-based youth and rites of passage programs at Wilderness Torah. She has brought her sensitivity and vision to bear on the formation of what are now nationally recognized programs,” said Wilderness Torah’s founding director, Zelig Golden.

In the words of Susan Aaron, a recent parent, “Sarai is the embodiment of the new wave of Jewish educators willing to think outside of the box about how to engage, inspire and encourage youth to become curious about and deepen their commitment to Jewish and environmental practices.”

Jodi Gladstone is a Jewish Resource Specialist (learn more about the Federation’s JRS program here) and Jewish outdoor educator at Beth El Nursery School in Berkeley.

“Jodi’s strong belief in Jewish values has influenced the way we all practice our day-to-day curriculum. Her passion for transmitting Jewish values, specifically shmirat ha’adamay (protecting the earth), kavod (respect for ourselves and others), hachnasat orchim and kehilla kedosha (welcoming guests into our sacred community) has become our life-long goal,” noted Maguy Weitzman McGuire, rabbi of Congregation Beth El.

Jodi created a popular Challah-it-Forward program at Beth El Nursery School. Teachers, children and parents come together to bake challah and deliver it to neighborhood businesses, getting to know their immediate community in the process. This program inspires children and their parents to make meaningful connections with others through acts of loving kindness.

Tikva Farber teaches Hebrew and Torah service at Congregation Kol Shofar’s afternoon Hebrew school in Tiburon. She is passionate about making Hebrew language and Judaism meaningful to her students and their families. She created her own online resource for Hebrew learning to counteract limited classroom time and to make learning easier for children with learning differences. Jonathan Emanuel, supervisor of education programs at Kol Shofar, remarked that, “By participating in the spiritual struggle along with her students and their families, Tikva is able to bring the students into a relationship with Judaism.”

Join us as we celebrate these outstanding teachers on Monday, May 23, at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. In addition to an award reception, we are pleased to welcome Rabbi Ed Feinstein, a renowned scholar and long-time Rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California, as our keynote speaker. Learn More and RSVP

For more information about the Helen Diller Family Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education, please contact Katherine Tick or call 415.512.6265.

Categories: Endowment, Community


May 05, 2016


Irina Kovriga