Five Smotrich and Lainer Award winners

BJE Honors Five Religious School Educators with 2022 Lainer and Smotrich Awards

In the Jewish community, part-time religious schools have always needed to be nimble and adaptable, meeting students weekdays after school and on Sundays, fitting into windows outside their regular school days and extracurricular activities. As we’ve moved through the pandemic, religious school teachers have often been an extra source of emotional support for students, and have worked tirelessly to foster a sense of community and joy of Judaism, during short classes, sometimes on zoom, often with everyone in masks. The teachers being recognized this year have made many contributions to the Community, their schools, families and students, both before the pandemic, and throughout.

The Simha and Sara Lainer Distinguished Educator Award for Religious School Education is given annually to up to three veteran teachers – those who have been teaching for at least six years. The winning teachers receive a $2,500 prize, funded by an endowment established by the late Simha and Sara Lainer.  The Lainer awards were presented to: Lizzy Genatowski of Temple Isaiah, Anne Hromadkha Greenwald of IKAR, and Judy Gaffin of Valley Outreach Synagogue.

The Smotrich Family Foundation Award of Merit for Excellence in Teaching is given annually to up to two newer religious school teachers – “rising stars” in their field. The winning teachers receive a $1,000 prize, and their schools receive a $500 prize.  The awards are made possible through the generosity of the Smotrich Family Foundation.  The Smotrich award was presented to Hayley Silvers of Temple Aliyah, and Jenny Lerner of Temple Judea and Valley Outreach Synagogue.

Recipients for both awards were chosen from among nominations submitted by BJE-affiliated Religious School programs.

Mazal tov and Yasher Koach to all the educators from BJE staff and leadership!

For more information, contact David Lewis, BJE Director, Center for Excellence in Part-Time Jewish Education.

Read what their respective directors had to say about them:

Judy Gaffin, Valley Outreach Synagogue

Judy’s warmth, vitality and enthusiasm for life are instantly contagious. She is kind, compassionate and gets down to the level of her kids and really listens to them. From her willingness to get messy cooking latkes or perform an original Purim puppet show, Judy captivates her young students with her zest for Jewish traditions and values. If every child’s introduction to Jewish education began with Judy, we would have more children excited about being Jewish.  Carla Adivi, Valley Outreach

Lizzy Genatowski, Temple Isaiah

Lizzy Genatowski is the example of teacher that every parent wishes their child would have in religious school or any other setting. Her classes are engaging, creative and really fun and because she believes that kindness is king, she regularly mentions its importance and encourages her students to be kind to each other and to regularly do acts of kindness wherever they are. I am so lucky to have her as a part of my staff and a part of our community. - Carla Kopf, Temple Isaiah

Anne Hromadkha Greenwald, IKAR

Anne intuitively understands that excellent teaching requires deeply knowing her students and families and then teaching responsively. Through her creative and engaging lessons, Anne instills in children a sense of pride in who they are, as Jews and as complex people. She is a model Jewish educator in every way.  - Rebecca Berger, IKAR

Jenny Lerner, Temple Judea and Valley Outreach Synagogue

Whether motivating fourth graders by opening class with Israeli dance moves, or engaging with teens about their struggles with stress during the ongoing pandemic, Jenny infuses her creative spirit and commitment to excellence in everything she does. Jenny is an exemplar of Jewish values and a cherished educator at Valley Outreach Synagogue.  – Rabbi Eric Rosenstein, Temple Judea and Carla Adivi, Valley Outreach Synagogue

Hayley Silvers, Temple Aliyah

Put simply, Hayley Silvers is a dugma (example) in the best of ways. She comes to class thoroughly prepared with full lessons that speak the language of her students. She knows how to use technology both to draw students into the material she is teaching and to engage them with it. As a human being Hayley embodies the idea of giving every person the benefit of the doubt. She runs her classroom in such a way that every student feels seen, heard, and valued. For that reason, Hayley earns the respect of everyone she teaches.  – Rabbi Adam Schaeffer, Temple Aliyah