The BJE March teaches powerful lessons of Jewish history and personal Jewish identity with a profound impact on participants. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Los Angeles delegation, along with...
seeks to inspire Jewish youth to “Learn. Act. Reflect. IMPACT.” BJE's goal is for youth to engage in meaningful service opportunities.
BJE offers a wide range of support to day schools (accredited, full-time K-12 private schools), educators and families with the goal of helping ensure the highest levels of quality and accessibility across the religious spectrum and through the greater Los Angeles area.
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I’m a product of the Reform Movement and have been blessed to have a variety of meaningful moments and experiences that have led me to where I am today. My mom is a Reform rabbi, which naturally meant that we were very engaged in the Jewish community. I was active in NFTY (the Reform Jewish Youth Movement), and was what I like to call “summer camp adjacent,” with so many friends who were devoted campers. In college, I was active in Hillel.
I’ve been fortunate to have had so many meaningful Jewish experiences which led me to want to help others have their Jewish moments and experiences. I realized that I could help guide them.
I think builders lay foundations, and what I get to do is help lay the foundations for Jewish journeys, identities and teachable moments. It is definitely my love of these cumulative experiences that led me on a path to become a Jewish educator.
I got my professional start working in Jewish camps – first at URJ Kutz Camp, where I coordinated the Gibush program for teens with autism, and then at URJ Camp Newman, where I was the Camper Care Director.
Working with campers with special needs was particularly meaningful, and as a result, I truly believe we can create space in the Jewish community for everyone to be their best selves and to foster a love of Judaism. In some ways, I’ve spent my whole life preparing to be a builder of Jewish education, so it’s exciting for me to bring my experiences and enthusiasm to BJE.
Rachel Dubowe is an Experiential Educator with BJE.
The 2019 winners of BJE's Lainer and Smotrich Awards have been named. The awards are made to educators working in after school or supplemental religious school programs in the Los Angeles area. These awards are made possible through an endowment established by the late Simha and Sara Lainer and the generosity of the Smotrich Family Foundation.
The Lainer Award is given annually to up to three veteran teachers - those who have been teaching for at least five years. The winning teachers receive a $2,500 prize. This year's winners are: Tracie Waco of Wilshire Boulevard Temple Religious School; Marcy Stieglitz of Temple Beth Am; and Julie Blair of Temple Ramat Zion & Valley Outreach Synagogue.
The Smotrich Family Foundation Award of Merit is given annually to up to two "up and coming" teachers - those who have completed two to four years of teaching. The winning teachers receive a $1,000 prize, and the Religious School receives a $500 prize. This year's winners are: Danielle Stein of Temple Ramat Zion; and Marissa Deutsch of Temple Menorah.
Each nominee had letters of recommendation submitted by leadership in their respective schools and was observed onsite working with students by a senior educator from outside the school. A BJE committee selected award recipients based on close review of recommendations and classroom observations.
Congratulations to the award-winning teachers, and to the schools that employ these exemplars of Religious School education.
For more information about the Lainer or Smotrich Awards, or to learn more about RESHET-LA, BJE's Religious School network, contact David Lewis, Director of Experiential Education and Engagement Services at 323-761-8618.
Shavuot, celebrated this year, June 9-10, is both an agricultural holiday and a festival associated in rabbinic tradition with the experience of Torah at Sinai. In describing the Israelites as they stood at Mt. Sinai, the Torah comments: va-yichan sham yisrael, Israel camped there. Noting the use of the singular in the verb form “camped,” Rashi famously observed that the Israelites (plural) were – at that moment – as one nation with one heart.
Unity among Jews has, before and since, often been elusive. Throughout the millennia, however, a shared narrative and vocabulary – grounded in Torah -- served as a connective link. Though there were, certainly, multiple Jewish cultures from place to place and period to period, historian David Beale notes that “the Jews throughout the ages believed themselves to have a common national biography and a common culture.”
Shortly after Passover, just six weeks ago, BJE led 300 teens and adults on a “March of the Living” experience that included commemorating Yom HaShoah in Auschwitz-Birkenau and celebrating Yom HaAtzma’ut in Jerusaelm. Though recalling pivotal, shared Jewish experiences of the twentieth century is quite powerful, enduring Jewish vitality does not come (alone) from sharing memories of the past. Shavuot, with Torah as a central focus, is a summons to connect with enduring values and to translate those values into a vision for the present and future.
Torah becomes torat hayyim – living Torah – when its teachings are applied to life at a given time, place and situation. In the words of the twentieth century Jewish philosopher Walter Wurzburger, Torah in its interpretation and application represents “the avenue towards the development of a Jewish ‘ethics of responsibility’ that mandates the ongoing cultivation of the kind of autonomous moral perceptions that emerge from the engagement of the human self with the ethos of the tradition.” The starting point for this life-long pursuit is Jewish learning.
Diversity can be a source of strength. In an increasingly polarized world, it is challenging to sustain a measure of unity within diversity. Shared experience and shared language (starting with Torah) can serve as cultural unifiers, and further our ability to make unique contributions to the communities of which we are a part . Perhaps this is the message of Shavuot.
Dr. Gil Graff is the Executive Director of BJE: Builders of Jewish Education
BJE’s impact is felt throughout greater Los Angeles. These are just a few
ways we’re making a difference this year.
Across the Jewish spectrum, Jewish schools in Los Angeles receive a wide range of services and support from BJE.
From birth through young adulthood, young Jewish people in Los Angeles are engaged in Jewish life through BJE programs and accredited or affiliated schools.
BJE leverages the strength of our vibrant community to generate public and private funding that benefits Jewish educational programs and institutions throughout Greater Los Angeles in a wide range of ways.