First Academy Excellence Awards in Jewish Education – a revolutionary success

On Sunday, the 5th of November, the first ever Excellence Awards in Jewish Education were hosted by the Academy of Jewish Thought and Learning, the Pincus Foundation and the South African Association for Jewish and Hebrew Professionals (SAJEP). More than three hundred participants, supporters, degree graduates, nominees and educators attended, from around the country.

The event celebrated the unsung heroes of our Jewish community, and every Jewish community: our Jewish educators.

Jewish educators are at the coalface of every facet of our Jewish future. Right now, in the midst of the second-worst onslaught of Antisemitism in living memory, it is the educators who are called upon to strengthen hearts, clarify minds, impart facts, uplift and inspire.

But who thanks and celebrates Jewish Educators? The answer is: The Academy of Jewish Thought and Learning.

Sunday’s event celebrated the graduation of all those educators who have participated in the advanced degrees and courses either begun by the Academy directly or indirectly, over the past six years, as well as other training courses run independently: MA degrees in Jewish Education, Hebrew Teaching Courses (the first run in decades in South Africa by the Academy) and the Rimonim training course. These educators have heeded the Academy’s call to ensure that our Jewish Educators are no less qualified than our maths or biology teachers. Why would our community accept any less (even though we have in the past)?

Furthermore, in the run-up, more than 100 educators were nominated in seven categories of Excellence to receive awards for their positive contributions to our community. Every nominee received a gift and certificate prior to the final ceremony, delivered to their home, as the Academy’s view is that each of these educators is an incredible asset, regardless of who won an award.

A panel of independent, anonymous judges made the selections and the winners of the categories were:

The Eric Samson z”l Award for Jewish Educational Leadership
Gold Rabbi Dovid Hazdan
Silver Lorraine Srage
Bronze Sarah Bronstein

Jewish Studies Education
Gold Sheila Sklaar
Silver Shared by: Kareen Sandler & Yael Fish
Bronze Shared by: Rabbi Steven Krawitz & Rabbi Yonatan Landau

Hebrew Education
Gold Mazal Sacks
Silver Chana Makori
Bronze Shared by: Meira Margolis & Dalya Kan-Dror

The Ivan Saltzman Award for Zionism and Israel Studies Education
Gold Shared by: Hannah Ben Moshe & Isla Feldman
Silver Rabbi Ilan Raanan
Bronze Dr Jordan Moshe

Experiential Jewish Education
Gold Darren Bass
Silver Viv Anstey
Bronze Sarit Swisa

Adult Jewish Education
Gold Rabbi Menachem Mendel Popack
Silver Shared by: Rabbi Shmuel Ozhekh & Rebbetzin Zeesy Deren
Bronze Rabbi Sam Thurgood

Lifetime Achievement in Jewish Education
Gold Shared by the Wolf Family & Rabbi z”l and Rebbetzin Tanzer
Silver Geoff Cohen
Bronze Shared by: Raisy Hecht & Pam Tauby

This event also celebrated the Academy’s Tenth Year! In a mere decade, the Academy has transformed the worlds of Jewish Adult Education and Jewish Teacher Training in South Africa. Many schools, shuls and educational institutions now boast an Academy graduate at their helm. The Academy’s contribution has focused on uplifting the people who work within and run these organisations, multiplying the effect to all Jewish stakeholders nationally, from children to adults.

A huge mazal tov to all the educators, the graduates, the nominees and winners. But most of all, a mazal tov to the entire Jewish community, the beneficiary of all of this. The Academy is very aware that, “The day is short and the work is plentiful” (Pirkei Avot 2:15) – there is still much more work to be done as the Academy targets the 80% of our Jewish Educators nationally who are still not yet trained and qualified – much to do in the next 10 years!

Mazal tov!

The Academy of Jewish Thought and Learning, email

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