Grinspoon Foundation Honors Outstanding Educators

Over a hundred well-wishers attended the Educators’ Gala at Temple Beth El in Springfield on May 28

Over a hundred well-wishers attended the Educators' Gala at Temple Beth El in Springfield on May 28, at which four outstanding teachers in our region received Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation: Esther Benari-Altmann of Temple Anshe Amunim in Pittsfield; Rabbi Yosi Eisen of OU-JLIC-Hillel at UMass Amherst, Chelsea Smith of Heritage Academy in Longmeadow, and Dr. Nicole Brackman of the Hebrew High School of New England in West Hartford, CT. HGF President Winnie Sandler addressed event attendees and presented the awards along with Western Mass Director Sue Kline, who moderated the event.

Brackman, who teaches history, was also named the 2015 Regional Grinspoon Award Winner. She is one of 39 awardees from communities throughout North America. Six among them will be named national winners at the NewCAJE conference August 2-5 in West Hartford, CT.

In their acceptance speeches, all four emphasized the joy and the learning that comes from their students and those whom they mentor - whether in the first grade, high school or college, or those with special needs. Said Brackman, "I am privileged to be adopted by them as a mentor, and wonder if they realize how much they teach me every day through their persistence, their honesty, and their pursuit of truth."

Also recognized at the Educators' Gala were six who are retiring this month: from Heritage Academy, Lead Administrator Lauren Life, Middle School Social Studies & Grade 6 Math Teacher Christine Heath, and Educational Consultant/Mentor Aileen Kramer; from LYA, Library & Media Specialist Joanne Meyer; from the Jewish Community of Amherst, Education Director Jody Rosenbloom; and from Gan Keshet Preschool at Congregation B'nai Israel in Northampton, Director Wendy Stein.

Delightful entertainment was provided by students from Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy, Lander-Grinspoon Academy, Heritage Academy, and the Hebrew High School of New England. Musician Brian Bender and his group provided background music.

Now a biannual award given in 2015 for the 19th time, the Grinspoon Awards for Excellence honor up to four educators with a plaque and a generous check from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. Since 1996, the awards have been presented to seventy-seven educators, many of whom were present this year to honor colleagues and peers.

For further information about the Grinspoon Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education, contact Sue Kline,