Congratulations to the 2013 Helen Diller Family Awardees for Excellence in Jewish Education

The Helen Diller Family Excellence in Jewish Education Award announced its 12th year awardees in four categories.  The winners receive a $10,000 cash prize and $2,500 for their institutions.  The Helen Diller Family has chosen to honor exceptional teachers in Jewish education because outstanding teachers encourage youth to explore the rich traditions of the Jewish heritage, to incorporate Jewish values into their own lives, to help build Jewish community, and to take responsibility for the common destiny of the Jewish people.

Congratulations to the 2013 Awardees:

Congregational/Community School: Day Schildkret, Congregation Rodef Sholom

Day is a Jewish educator, director, artist, rites of passage specialist, musician, youth mentor, author, healer, ritualist and upright human being. He brings over a decade of visionary leadership and experience to the Jewish supplemental educational world having worked as a Jewish educator at over 15 Jewish schools on both coasts. In addition to his Fire Circle program at Rodef Sholom, he currently serves as the Director of the Tri-Valley/Tri-Cities Midrasha in Pleasanton. Day has also launched a new business this year, Humbled & Thriving: A spiritual mentoring program for young adults ages 15-30 ( Day holds a B.A in Political Science and Judaic Studies from Binghamton University, and has attended the International Program at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has been trained at the The Art of Mentoring Program with Jon Young, Tama-Do: The Academy of Sound, Color and Movement in Switzerland as well as the Art Student League of New York. He dedicates this award to his father's memory, to Claire Mikowski and the Fire Circle crew, and to all the good work that reconnects.

Day School: Renee Fine, Yavneh Day School

It wasn’t exactly the most direct route that Renee Fine took to becoming a long term General Studies/Judaic teacher at Yavneh Day School in Los Gatos, CA. Until the first of her five children were born, Renee worked as a social worker, counseling victims of violent crime up. After spending the next few years as a stay-at-home mom, Renee quickly became involved with her children’s classrooms at the Addison Penzak Jewish Community Center. What begun as volunteer work eventually lead to a job teaching their Mommy and Me class. This in turn led to becoming the Judaica Specialist for the JCC Pre-school. After 7 wonderfully enriching years at the JCC, and as her children moved on to Yavneh Day School, it became apparent that her following them to Yavneh was a natural progression. Thus started what, to date, has been an incredible 15 year tenure serving as a 2nd, 5th, and currently 4th grade general studies and Judaica teacher. Her biggest joy in teaching has always been in the creating of meaningful connections by integrating General Studies with Judaica, and vice versa. Outside of the classroom, Renee and her husband of 30 years, Howard, enjoy watching their 5, now adult children, move through college and life. 3 of their sons have served in combat units of the IDF, so the family has been back and forth to Israel many times. Home for Renee can mean many things; home with her family, home with her Beth David community (where the family have been long time members), home in Israel, and home with her Yavneh students and colleagues.

Early Childhood Education: Silvia Gitlin, T'enna Preschool

Being Jewish and having been born in Mexico City defines who Silvia is, and, coupled with her love for children and education, motivates her work and community involvement. Silvia Gitlin is currently a Master Teacher in T’enna Preschool in the 4-year-old classroom. She strives to fuel the hearts and imaginations of her students through a comprehensive curriculum that intertwines Jewish values and traditions into her student’s daily lives, while meeting their emotional and developmental needs. Silvia is also adjunct faculty at Foothill College, were she has been teaching parenting skills and healthy habits classes in both English and Spanish to low-income parents. Her 16 years of experience in the field of education has also included teaching both ESL and Spanish in the Palo Alto and Mountain View School District as well as teaching Kindergarten through 4th grade at Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School. Silvia's true passion is in the classroom, teaching children the love of learning and the importance of passing on the same Jewish values and traditions that she was once taught.

Informal Education: Kenny Kahn, Be'chol Lashon Camp

Kenny Kahn, a 30-year old Jewish, African-American East Bay native, is the co-director of Camp Be’chol Lashon. A unique overnight camp in Northern California, Camp Be’chol Lashon's innovative activities educate children on diverse Jewish identities, communities, and cultures around the world, reflecting the inclusive values of young Jews. Also a high school English teacher and head football coach at his alma mater, El Cerrito High School, Kenny earned both his bachelor’s degree in Literature/Creative Writing: Poetry and master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in teaching single-subject English/Language Arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz. In the 2012-13 academic year, Kenny was awarded ‘Coach of the Week’ by the Oakland Raiders, ‘Hero in the Classroom’ by the San Francisco 49ers, and was honored by the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Northern California with the ‘Golden Bagel’ award.


For further information or questions about the Helen Diller Family Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education, please contact Carrie Sullivan at or 415.512.6226.

Categories: Awards, Community, Endowment


May 09, 2013


The Federation