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.
In 1942, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America published A Model Program for the Talmud Torah, a guide to building rich Jewish and Hebrew literacy through after school courses of study. Its editors were Joseph Kaminetsky, a leading Jewish educator of the era, and Leo Jung, a pre-eminent congregational rabbi who also served on the faculty of Yeshiva University. While Jewish day schools expanded in number and student enrollment in the decades post-World War II, many Orthodox congregations continued to sponsor after-school Talmud Torah programs, well into the 1980’s.
This week, BJE-affiliated day schools were engaged in the important work of leadership development and skills building, facilitated by Rae Ringel, a faculty member at the Georgetown University Institute for Transformational Leadership and a leading expert in fundraising, board development and communication.
Increases in anti-Semitism and violence in schools, as well as the recent tragic wildfires across the state, have posed greater challenges for educators working with Jewish students.
In response, BJE recently hosted two video conferences for educators, titled: "Working with Jewish Students Through Traumatic Times."
On November 30, nearly 800 people participated in Shabbat dinners as part of BJE Celebrates Shabbat. The group represented the broad Jewish religious spectrum of Los Angeles, and included four generations of Los Angeles Jews - one dinner actually had all four generations gathered together. All participants - those who celebrate Shabbat regularly and those who do not - were brought together on this night in celebration of Shabbat, BJE and Jewish education.
BJE is grateful to BJE Celebrates Shabbat co-chairs, Joanna Kasirer, Liz Rosman Schwartz, and Marci Spitzer.
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.
In recent months, a series of heartbreaking, disruptive events have rocked the greater Los Angeles area and its Jewish communities. The Woolsey Fire burned nearly 100,000 acres, caused the death of three people, destroyed many hundreds of structures – engulfing in flames three Jewish residential camps’ facilities and a school building at a Jewish day school – and caused the evacuation of thousands of families from their homes. At the same time, those of us in Southern California were mindful of and concerned about the devastating conflagration in Butte County, to the north.
On October 21, more than 75 community members from across Greater Los Angeles joined BJE and Mountains Restoration Trust for a family-friendly day of community service learning at Malibu Creek State Park. The morning's activities followed BJE Impact's service learning model of: learning, action and reflection. Led, by BJE Impact's Rachel Dubowe, everyone discussed the Jewish values that framed our work with the natural environment, both before and after the gardening,