Federation and Helen Diller Family Foundation Announce 2021 Diller Educator Award and Diller Prize for Distinguished Lifetime Achievement

San Francisco, CA – The Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund (the Federation) today announced four recipients of the Diller Educator Awards and the inaugural Diller Prize for Distinguished Lifetime Achievement. A committee of lay leaders selected the recipients from this year’s pool of nominees who were nominated by leaders in their institutions. Recipients of the Diller Educator Awards will receive $10,000 and their organizations $2,500. The recipient of the inaugural Diller Prize for Distinguished Lifetime Achievement will receive $30,000 and $6,000 to give as a donation to a non-profit in the field. Recipients will be honored at a virtual event on September 30th, 2021.

“The Committee was extremely impressed with the quality and depth of experience of this year’s nominees, as well as each educator’s unique ability to pivot during these unprecedented times. It is clear that creativity in Jewish education is thriving in the Bay Area," said Karen Perlman Kaufman, chair of the Diller Educator Awards Committee. "All of the category winners exhibited a deep commitment to their learners, their learners’ families, their institutions, and the community. Additionally, we are thrilled to have selected the first ever recipient of the Diller Prize for Distinguished Lifetime Achievement, Irene Resnikoff, whose creativity, dedication, and impact will leave an imprint on Bay Area Jewish education for generations to come.”

Since the award program was launched in 2001, the Federation has honored 85 Jewish educators and awarded over $1 million to educators at Bay Area Jewish institutions. The Federation administers the awards in partnership with the Helen Diller Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Federation. 

“My mother, Helen Diller, cared deeply about the future of our Jewish community and understood the key role that exceptional educators play in ensuring our next generations are proud, knowledgeable, and connected,” said Jaclyn Safier, President of the Helen Diller Family Foundation. “Our community’s Jewish educators work tirelessly each day not just to teach or guide their learners, but to inspire them. It is an honor to recognize their significant accomplishments.

The 2021 recipients are:

Early Childhood: Lilach Mousseiri, Teacher, Chai Preschool in San Mateo  

Lilach has been in the field of Jewish education with her institution for her entire 15-year career. She is responsible for creating a curriculum, teaching the children, and leads a variety of enrichment programs for the school’s families and alumni community. A parent of a former student describes how “Through song, dance, story-telling, and more, Lilach deepens Jewish identity and engages children in a way that I have never before seen.”

Day School: Jamie Zimmer, Middle School Jewish Studies Teacher, Yavneh Day School in Los Gatos

Jamie has been in Jewish Education for 19 years and six and a half years at Yavneh Day School. She says, “My ultimate aim is for students to realize that Judaism and being Jewish is far more complex, multi-dimensional, and relevant than simply the rituals they engage with at synagogue or on a holiday.” Jamie’s nominator says, “what makes Jamie a truly brilliant educator is that she gets to know each student as an individual, so that, she is able to educate each of them according to their own path.” 

Congregational and Supplementary: Heather HoweTeacher, Temple Isaiah of Contra Costa in the East Bay

Heather has been with Temple Isaiah for eight and a half years serving many educational roles, and is currently the lead teacher for Omanut, an art class for 3rd and 4th graders. Her supervisor describes how Heather “does not rely on textbooks or pre-set curricula; rather, she creates lessons that help her students learn Jewish topics through the lens/modality of art.” Two parents of current and former students note Heather’s warm and engaging personality as well as how much extra time she devotes to making sure every student is successful.

Jewish Communal and Experiential: Meg Adler, Assistant Director of Jewish Life and Learning, Camp Tawonga in San Francisco

Meg has been with Camp Tawonga for her entire 10-year career and currently works as the program director for the Bar, Bat, and B’nai Mitzvah Program. According to her supervisor, Meg combined her Jewish knowledge with creativity and created a curriculum that has experiential and innovative learning tools for the students”. A parent notes, “she embodies great passion and verve for learning and life that is a wonderful inspiration for us all!”


Irene Resnikoff, Senior Educator, Edah- Studio 70 in Berkeley

For over 55 years, Irene has been involved at every level of Jewish education in the Bay Area, from teaching Sunday school and Hebrew language to working as a camp counselor and religious school director. “What is so remarkable about her is her ability to lift, engage, and inspire Jewish seekers and learners from across the spectrum of Jewish experience and knowledge,” says a former colleague. Her supervisor describes how throughout her career, Irene has been a “committed member of the Berkeley Jewish community… and has influenced not only students but also colleagues as a mentor, as well as the organizations with whom she helped to design and implement programs. She goes on to say that Irene is a life-long learner who brings a wealth of experience and passion for teaching desire to share it “with every human being around her.”


The Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund mobilizes innovation, collaboration, and investment to shape diverse and dynamic Bay Area Jewish communities where people find a meaningful connection to Judaism and each other; and where we work together to better lives and communities locally, in Israel, and around the world. Learn more at jewishfed.org.

For immediate release

May 25, 2021