The Simha and Sara Lainer Distinguished Educator Awards for Early Childhood Educators

The Lainer family is renowned for its philanthropic, intellectual and cultural endeavors benefitting Jewish life through Jewish education. To highlight the critical role that Jewish educators play in our children’s lives and in perpetuating Jewish traditions and values, the Lainer family created “Distinguished Educator Awards” for early childhood educators. Cash awards of $2,500 each are presented annually to three exemplary educators from BJE-affiliated early childhood centers who have been teaching at least 7 years in a BJE-affiliated school.   

2024 Winners:

Hadassa (Dassi) Bass (top left) is finishing her 15th year at Pressman Academy, where she has grown from working as an assistant to lead teacher to now teacher leader. Dassi brings a joy and light into each space where she works, whether she is guiding her class in meditation and mindfulness, teaching Parsha and Pizza, leading Havdallah and Line Up for the students each morning or collaborating with colleagues in an Idea Exchange. In addition to being a child whisperer with both preschool children and former students, Dassi earned a Bachelor’s from CSUN and a Master’s in ECE. Hailing from a family of educators, Dassi is part of a large extended family, is one of four siblings, and is the proud aunt to Mason.

Judy Harris (top center) has been teaching at Aaron Milken Center at Wise for over 20 years. Before that, she worked at Jewish Family Services for many years. As a child of holocaust survivors, Jewish values and community have always had a special place in her heart. Judy lived in Israel and received her degree from Haifa University. Judy is passionate about creating a warm and loving environment in the classroom for the children and their families. Giving back to the community is another passion of Judy’s. She is a member of AMC Yachad committee and volunteered at SOVA for many years. When not at school, she enjoys spending time with her granddaughter, Ellie, reading and taking long walks with her dogs.

Esther Servin (top right) was born and raised in Los Angeles, California to a family of six. She is a proud mother to three beautiful daughters and the loving grandmother to three grandchildren. She first started her teaching journey in 2002 before moving to Temple Akiba in 2007. It was her first time working in a Jewish school, but the community and her fellow teachers welcomed her with open arms and taught her the value of Jewish traditions. She has a passion for nurturing young minds and helping them flourish to their fullest potential. One of her goals is to create a community of learners and instill the love of Judaism in every child she has the opportunity to teach.