educators demonstrating the power of inspired Jewish education, including Dr.
Rebecca Schorsch, Director of Jewish Studies at Chicagoland Jewish High School
in Deerfield, are the 2014 recipients of The Covenant Award for excellence in
the field, The Covenant Foundation announced last week.
joined by Alison Kur, Executive Director of Jewish Living at Temple Beth Elohim
in Wellesley, Massachusetts and Rabbi Yisroel Boruch Sufrin, Head of School at
Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy in Beverly Hills, California, as the recipients
of the award, among the most coveted of honors in the field of Jewish
Eli N. Evans,
Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Covenant Foundation, cited them as catalysts
of innovation and educators with a drive, commitment and creativity that is
strengthening students, institutions, communities, and the Jewish future.
“These three individuals
illuminate the field of Jewish education through a combination of devotion,
approach, strong leadership for the present and sacred obligation to the
future,” he said. “Each of them, each day, is proving that Jewish education –
across the broad spectrum of ages, venues and denominations – fuels individual
and community enrichment, cohesion and growth. They are models of what we all
made an impact on students, fellow educators and the greater community in the
Chicago area and beyond with singular dedication and leadership. At CJHS since
2003, she oversaw the merger of the school’s Bible, Talmud and Jewish Thought
departments under a greater Jewish Studies department and has led it for the
past three years.
she has created a culture of Torah Lismah
– learning for its own sake – and has developed a voluntary learning
program to engage various levels of students, her colleagues included, in Jewish
study. For example, a series of lunch-and-learns by faculty and for faculty has
created a new learning space for educators in which the categories of teacher
and learner are fluid.
compelling and even stirring both in Rebecca’s teaching and in her more
personal interactions is how she pushes people to challenge their beliefs and
engage in difficult reflection about the things that matter most,” said Tony
Frank, CJHS Head of School, who nominated her for The Covenant Award. “Ultimately,
this is the way in which Rebecca’s influence is so often experienced not merely
as profound, but as transformative.”
based at CJHS – which enrolls 166 students in grades 9 to 12 – her reputation
and influence as a Jewish educator has traveled far beyond the school’s walls. Schorsch
has served as Scholar-in-Residence at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin since 2001,
teaching campers, staff, visitors and families, and working with counselors and
unit heads to craft educational programming.
kids of any age can be a challenge for an educator,” said Benjy Forester, a
2012 graduate of CJHS who studied with Schorsch and continues to do so as a
counselor at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. “Empowering the next generation of Jews
and helping them cultivate Jewish identities that make them proud, however, is
an imperative on which Jewish continuity depends. The skills Rebecca teaches
and the conversations she begins leave students with important challenges and
lessons that resurface as they continue their lives as independent young Jewish
teaches in private study groups, university and academic settings, local and
regional synagogues, and Jewish institutions and organizations nationally,
describing herself as an “educator at large” and a “community educator” with
the stated purpose of helping each student individually on his or her Jewish
day I feel blessed to do what I love, something at once meaningful and critical
to building the world that we wish to inhabit,” Schorsch said. “I am grateful
to Covenant for honoring my work and, more importantly, for valuing the
significance of Jewish education.
depends upon the deep support of family and friends, students, colleagues
and community, who nourish me, encourage me, challenge me, and work
devotedly to teach and embody Torah. I am excited to join a national cohort of
committed and excellent Jewish educators who will further stimulate my thinking
and support my work in the field."
Schorsch, Kur and Sufrin join
69 other Jewish educators honored with a Covenant Award since the Foundation
established it in 1991. Along with the honor, they will receive $36,000, and
each of their institutions will receive $5,000.
Foundation and the Jewish community will honor them at an awards dinner in
Washington, D.C. on Nov. 9, during the General Assembly of The Jewish
Federations of North America.