The Federation Announces Recipients of the 2020 Helen Diller Family Educator Award

San Francisco, CA – The Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund (the Federation) today announced four recipients of the Helen Diller Family Award for Excellence in Jewish Education for 2020. A committee of lay leaders selected the recipients from this year’s pool of nominees who were nominated by leaders in their institutions in four education categories. Recipients will receive $10,000 and their organizations $2,500. Recipients will be honored at a virtual event in September 2020.

“The Committee was deeply impressed with the caliber of this year’s nominees, and with so many nominations from throughout the Bay Area, it is clear that local Jewish education is thriving,” said Karen Kaufman Perlman, Chair of the Award Selection Committee. “The four educators who won showed innovation, creativity, and excellence, and also exhibited a deep commitment to their learners, their learners’ families, and their institutions.”

Since the award program was launched in 2001, the Federation has honored 81 educators and awarded over $1 million to Jewish educators and Bay Area Jewish institutions. The Federation administers these awards in partnership with the Helen Diller Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Federation.

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. The Helen Diller Family Foundation is committed to supporting our community’s Jewish educators, understanding that they work tirelessly each day not just to teach or guide their learners, but to inspire them. The Helen Diller Family Foundation is honored to recognize their incredible accomplishments.

The 2020 recipients are:

Early Childhood: Jeni Markowitz Clancy, Jewish Family Programs and Engagement Manager, Peninsula JCC in Foster City

Jeni has been in the field of Jewish education for 25 years. In her third year with Peninsula JCC, she leads a range of programming with the early childhood community and their families. In Jeni’s words, "It is my goal to relay inspiration from this source of power to each family who walks through the center’s doors and participates in our Jewish family programs."

Day School: Efrat Simhi-Aloni, Hebrew Teacher and Middle School Judaics Teacher, Oakland Hebrew Day School

Efrat has been in Jewish education for 29 years and at her current institution for 18 years. A parent describes her as "special because of the individual care and coaching she is able to give every student. She gives work and attention based on level and ability and never takes a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach."

Congregational and Supplementary: Lisa Bialkin, 4th Grade Teacher and B’nai Mitzvah Tutor, Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael

Lisa has been with Congregation Rodef Sholom for the length of her 18-year career. She created an Israel curriculum that engages learners and is retained long after they leave her class. As a tutor, one parent with a child who has learning differences wrote, "Watching Lisa was nothing short of miraculous. She navigated my child’s learning differences beautifully. She brought joy to the process, her face alight with excitement when my child achieved a new milestone."

Jewish Communal and Experiential: Isaac Zones, Music Educator, Congregation B’nai Shalom in Walnut Creek

Isaac has been in the field of Jewish education for 19 years and with Congregation B’nai Shalom for 1 year. He uses music to engage learners and draw them into the experience. His nominator said, "Isaac is innovative. His creative vision has brought new and vibrant energy to the Bay Area and beyond. He encourages connection with Jewish tradition by balancing traditional with innovative approaches to Jewish worship."



The Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund connects people of all ages, backgrounds, and perspectives to the power of the Jewish community to improve the world. We partner with donors, organizations, and foundations to address pressing issues facing our community, and develop innovative strategies that result in deep and lasting impact locally, in Israel, and around the world. Learn more at

For immediate release

June 10, 2020