December 25, 2003
Milken Family Foundation Surprises Five
"It was quite amazing because I'm not someone who is easy to surprise," said Shulamith May, an eighth-grade teacher and assistant principal of Jewish studies at Harkham Hillel Academy in Beverly Hills, remembering the moment she found out she won a Milken Family Foundation Jewish Educator Award at a surprise school assembly in November. "It was nice to be appreciated and it's very important for Jewish education to be recognized."
May was one of five local Jewish educators to be honored at the 14th annual Jewish Educator Awards Luncheon on Dec. 11 at the Luxe Summit Hotel in Bel Air. The other recipients were Rabbi Shlomo Goldberg, head of school at Yeshiva Ohr Eliyahu in Culver City; Jan Navah, an art specialist at Stephen S. Wise Elementary School in Bel Air; Tamar Raff, principal of Jewish studies at Valley Beth Shalom Harold M. Schulweis Day School in Encino, and Aliza Dallalzadeh, a kindergarten teacher at Emanuel Academy in Beverly Hills. In addition to the luncheon held in their honor, all of the winners were awarded $10,000 each.
"What the Milken Family Foundation does in creating the big hoopla is communicate to all the teachers, parents and children that teaching is a very respected and lauded profession," said Gil Graff, the executive director of the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles.
Camp Goes to the Holy Land
If summer camp conjures up images of the Western Wall, the Negev or the beautiful shores of Eilat, then you're going to Camp Shachar, a new modern Orthodox summer program in Israel for teens.
During their travels through the Holy Land, 200 American teens ages 12-17 will have the opportunity to go through mock-training with the Gadna Israel Defense Forces army program, spend a week with Israeli teenagers and participate in activities like jeep rides, kayaking, hiking and sports. One of the highlights of the summer will be when the campers take a two-day cruise on an ocean liner from Greece to reenact the 1947 Exodus, when Jews sailed from Europe to Israel.
The camp directors' vision is to get as many Jewish teens as possible to visit Israel this summer.
"Every Jew that comes to Israel is actually strengthening Israel, strengthening the Jewish people and strengthening himself," said Rabbi Avraham Kramer, the camp co-director, who is also a Jewish day school teacher in New York. "We're all one people and it doesn't matter where you're from. We're all Jews."
For more information about Camp Shachar, call (800) 593-3382 or visit www.campshachar.org .
ADL Tackles Holiday Fairness
Is it OK to celebrate religious holidays in public schools or use religious symbols or decorations? In accordance with the United States Constitution, the answer is a resounding no. This December, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) provided public schools and public institutions nationwide with materials and information on how to handle what they call the "December Dilemma."
The ADL's Pacific Southwest regional office in Los Angeles sent all of the public schools in its seven counties a letter advising schools to be sensitive and cautious in how they teach students about the various December holidays.
"Special school events, assemblies, concerts and programs must be designed to further a secular and objective program of education," the letter stated, "and must not focus on any one religion or religious observance."
The ADL also offered supplementary materials on the topic.
"Every December there are questions that arise about how we can enjoy the holiday season without making anyone feel excluded," said Amanda Susskind, the ADL's Pacific Southwest regional director. "There's a balance to be found between what the law allows and what schools adopt as their practice."
Because Los Angeles is a city known for its multiculturalism, there were more concerns in the suburban and rural areas where the population is not quite as diverse.
Yeshiva Educators Gather for Conference
"Teaching can be a lonely business," said Gil Graff, executive director of the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles (BJE), during a lunch break at the 23rd annual Yom Iyun Conference for Yeshiva Educators, "so when teachers see that they're part of a large group of [other teachers], there's a certain inspirational quality."
Over 800 educators from the 21 local yeshiva schools gathered at Emek Hebrew Academy in Sherman Oaks on Dec. 15 to attend professional development sessions on topics like student indifference, classroom discussions, planning for retirement, bringing Israel to life in the classroom and teaching Hebrew. Both Torah studies and general studies teachers attended the conference.
"I learned that it's OK for children to get angry," said Scott Kolanach, a general studies teacher at Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn in Hancock Park, after attending a session called, "Dealing With Anger, Tantrums and Acting Out." "Anger is a part of adult life, so you have to learn how to deal with it at a young age."
Meir Kakone, a seventh- and eighth-grade Judaic studies teacher at Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles, learned a thing or two about respect during one of his sessions.
"Without respecting the students and respecting yourself, there's no chance you can teach something to your students," he said.
The BJE held the conference in hopes that the teachers could acquire new skills and gain a sense of renewal and validation for their work.
Briefs compiled by Sharon Schatz Rosenthal.