Milken Family Foundation SurprisesFive

“It was quite amazing because I’m not someone who is easy tosurprise,” said Shulamith May, an eighth-grade teacher and assistant principalof Jewish studies at Harkham Hillel Academy in Beverly Hills, remembering themoment she found out she won a Milken Family Foundation Jewish Educator Awardat a surprise school assembly in November. “It was nice to be appreciated andit’s very important for Jewish education to be recognized.”

May was one of five local Jewish educators to be honored atthe 14th annual Jewish Educator Awards Luncheon on  Dec. 11 at the Luxe SummitHotel in Bel Air. The other recipients were Rabbi Shlomo Goldberg, head ofschool at Yeshiva Ohr Eliyahu in Culver City; Jan Navah, an art specialist at Stephen S. Wise Elementary School in Bel Air; Tamar Raff, principal of Jewish studiesat Valley Beth Shalom Harold M. Schulweis Day School in Encino, and AlizaDallalzadeh, a kindergarten teacher at Emanuel Academy in Beverly Hills. Inaddition to the luncheon held in their honor, all of the winners were awarded$10,000 each.

“What the Milken Family Foundation does in creating the bighoopla is communicate to all the teachers, parents and children that teachingis a very respected and lauded profession,” said Gil Graff, the executivedirector of the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles.

Camp Goes to the Holy Land

If summer camp conjures up images of the Western Wall, the Negevor the beautiful shores of Eilat, then you’re going to Camp Shachar, a newmodern Orthodox summer program in Israel for teens.

During their travels through the Holy Land, 200 Americanteens ages 12-17 will have the opportunity to go through mock-training with theGadna Israel Defense Forces army program, spend a week with Israeli teenagersand participate in activities like jeep rides, kayaking, hiking and sports. Oneof the highlights of the summer will be when the campers take a two-day cruiseon an ocean liner from Greece to reenact the 1947 Exodus, when Jews sailed from Europe to Israel. 

The camp directors’ vision is to get as many Jewish teens aspossible to visit Israel this summer.

“Every Jew that comes to Israel is actually strengthening Israel,strengthening the Jewish people and strengthening himself,” said Rabbi AvrahamKramer, the camp co-director, who is also a Jewish day school teacher in New York. “We’re all one people and it doesn’t matter where you’re from. We’reall Jews.”

For more information about Camp Shachar, call (800)593-3382 or visit .

ADL Tackles Holiday Fairness

Is it OK to celebrate religious holidays in public schoolsor use religious symbols or decorations? In accordance with the United StatesConstitution, the answer is a resounding no. This December, the Anti-DefamationLeague (ADL) provided public schools and public institutions nationwide withmaterials and information on how to handle what they call the “DecemberDilemma.”

The ADL’s Pacific Southwest regional office in Los Angelessent all of the public schools in its seven counties a letter advising schoolsto be sensitive and cautious in how they teach students about the variousDecember holidays. 

“Special school events, assemblies, concerts and programsmust be designed to further a secular and objective program of education,” theletter stated, “and must not focus on any one religion or religiousobservance.” 

The ADL also offered supplementary materials on the topic.

“Every December there are questions that arise about how wecan enjoy the holiday season without making anyone feel excluded,” said Amanda Susskind,the ADL’s Pacific Southwest regional director.  “There’s a balance to be foundbetween what the law allows and what schools adopt as their practice.” 

Because Los Angeles is a city known for itsmulticulturalism, there were more concerns in the suburban and rural areaswhere the population is not quite as diverse.

Yeshiva Educators Gather forConference

“Teaching can be a lonely business,” said Gil Graff,executive director of the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles(BJE), during a lunch break at the 23rd annual Yom Iyun Conference for YeshivaEducators, “so when teachers see that they’re part of a large group of [otherteachers], there’s a certain inspirational quality.” 

Over 800 educators from the 21 local yeshiva schools gatheredat Emek Hebrew Academy in Sherman Oaks on Dec. 15 to attend professionaldevelopment sessions on topics like student indifference, classroomdiscussions, planning for retirement, bringing Israel to life in the classroomand teaching Hebrew. Both Torah studies and general studies teachers attendedthe conference.

“I learned that it’s OK for children to get angry,” saidScott Kolanach, a general studies teacher at Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn in HancockPark, after attending a session called, “Dealing With Anger, Tantrums andActing Out.” “Anger is a part of adult life, so you have to learn how to dealwith it at a young age.”

Meir Kakone, a seventh- and eighth-grade Judaic studiesteacher at Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles, learned a thing or two aboutrespect during one of his sessions. 

“Without respecting the students and respecting yourself,there’s no chance you can teach something to your students,” he said.

The BJE held the conference in hopes that the teachers couldacquire new skills and gain a sense of renewal and validation for their work.

Briefs compiled by Sharon Schatz Rosenthal.

Jewish Gridder

In a world where some high school athletes hang out at strip clubs or haze each other in powder puff rituals, isn’t it good to know that there’s still one nice Jewish football player keeping to a more righteous standard?

So what if he chalks up all his stats for an Episcopalian high school?

Matt Kirschner, a junior, attends Campbell Hall High in North Hollywood. Recently, Kirschner helped his school win a state track meet — he long jumps 22 feet — but wait until fall, because Kirschner prefers football.

He’s the Vikings’ star running back on offense and also plays defense, intercepting passes and tackling. Kirschner, who lives in Encino, started at Campbell Hall in the seventh grade. His favorite subjects are history and psychology and he sings in the choir — the Gospel Choir.

"I told his grandma he had the only solo," said Kirschner’s mother, Jan Winer.

Campbell Hall is funded through the Episcopal Church. However, during Jewish holidays, a rabbi speaks at the school. School events during Kwanzaa and Ramadan are held in a town hall environment called "chapel," which allows everyone to share their backgrounds.

"I think this is what has made it appealing to the Jewish families," Winer said, noting that the school is 40 percent Jewish. "Every color, shape and religion are together there."

Campbell Hall High is also about service, and Kirschner has worked two years at the Jeffrey Foundation with children at risk. The student-athele also has an interest in music and had a rock band called, The New Age Supermen.

Campbell Hall is in the Delphic League, playing schools like Malibu High, Pasadena Poly and Laurel Canyon.

"Matt is a coach’s dream," said football coach Anthony Harris. "He has also become a respected athlete on campus, because of his work ethic on and off the field."

To see the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Kirschner display his speed crossing goal lines, college recruiters can see him on video that Kirschner has made. That’s how colleges recruit these days.

The family has received letters of interest from schools such as Dartmouth, Colgate and UCLA. Kirschner attended a Nike camp held at USC last month, where college coaches put players through a variety of drills.

Kirschner, has always preferred football over track. In his sixth-grade graduation speech, he said he was going to play for the San Francisco 49ers.

As for his brothers, Eric 13 and Jesse 8, they’re into sports, too.

"Jesse’s going to be the one jumping out of an airplane," Winer said. "That’s my concern. He loves rock climbing, too."

Her 8-year-old learned to play tackle football when he was 4.