Baltimore, MD - June 10, 2024 -  What an amazing night! Over 200 educators, family members and school administrators joined Jewish Educational Services, a program of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, last week for the 2024 JES Educator Awards Celebration and Annual Meeting, to pay tribute not only to 10 amazing awardees, but to the more than 100 educators who were nominated, and to all the teachers in our community who dedicate their lives to their students and to Jewish education.

The attendees represented most of the Baltimore Jewish Day, Congregational and Early Childhood schools, coming together to celebrate Jewish education as a community.  The beautifully arranged desserts, unique table centerpieces and exclusive gifts were all part of JES’ efforts to demonstrate appreciation and gratitude on this incredibly special evening.   

The evening began with interactive activities that provided a glimpse into the incredible and wide-ranging services that JES provides in our local schools.  This moving JES video, featuring members of the community and school leaders who expressed their appreciation for JES’ work, followed.


Aaron Levitt, Executive Director of JES, shared that JES serves 36 Jewish schools, with over 9300 students and 1200 teachers. With new professional development programs this year including the Jewish Education Mental Wellness Summit, Educator Expo, Congregational School Project Bet-A, and Early Childhood Spotlights programs, JES is always looking to innovate and “find more ways we can support our Jewish educational community,” said Aaron Levitt.  “We have so much to look forward to as we continue growing.”    

In addition to the professional development programs, the Israel Department at JES enhances the academic programming at schools with a shinshinim program and Community Shlicha.  The shinshinim are Israeli high school graduates who come to Baltimore to volunteer in the community and serve as informal educators at schools, synagogues, camps and youth movements to teach about Israeli culture and traditions and share their passion for Israel. Then, when they return to Israel, they become informal ambassadors for the American Jewish communities. The community Shlicha provides support for the Community Fund for Israel Experiences grant, facilitates the Shevet Achim school twinning program, which included hosting the Ashkelon delegation in Baltimore this year, and provides Israel educational consultation. 

The highlight of the evening was the meaningful presentation of awards, with each recipient acknowledged with a certificate and monetary gift. 

The Sam Kahan Distinguished Educator Award went to Rabbi Gershon Riselsheimer, a middle-school Rebbe at Ohr Chadash Academy.  This award was established by the family of Sam Kahan to perpetuate Sam’s commitment to Jewish education and to strengthen Baltimore’s Jewish educational institutions. 

Erica Allen, a middle-school Judaic teacher at Krieger Schechter Day School and the Rosenbloom Religious School of Chizuk Amuno was chosen to receive the Inspiring Educator Award, which recognizes an educator who inspires students, colleagues and families. 

The Jewish Educational Leadership Award, which honors a principal or school director for dedication to professional growth, commitment to effective school structure and inspirational leadership was awarded to Michelle Gold, longtime Director at the Goldsmith Early Childhood Education Center. 

The list of awardees also included Chani Rayman, a teacher at JEWELS who received the Special Education Award. Two Early Childhood teachers, Baily Wolowik from Cheder Chabad and Basya Kadish from Bais Yaakov Preschool received the Early Childhood Teaching Excellence AwardToria Burrow, from Bolton Street Synagogue Religious School, received the Congregational School Educator AwardSima Eastman, from Talmudical Academy, received the General Studies Educator Award. And finally, the Ahavat Tzion Ivrit Award went to Rochel Vim, an educator at Bais Yaakov Middle School.

The final award conferred was the Robin F. Jacobs Student Achievement Award.  This award is given to students benefiting from SHEMESH Student Services who demonstrate a high level of motivation and increased self-advocacy and awareness. From early childhood behavior and education consulting to executive function coaching, speech and language therapy, reading intervention and more, JES provides educational support through SHEMESH Student Services for children with learning differences to reach their full potential in a Jewish setting.  Adina Hackerman, a senior at Bais Yaakov High School, was unanimously chosen by her teachers to receive this award for her positive attitude, hard work, and dedication to maximizing her achievements. 

The evening ended with JES Board President, Avi Greenlinger, asking everyone to raise their glass for a l’chayim to the educators, “As educators, you truly embody the roles of both heroes and role models to your students.  Your commitment to fostering environments of curiosity, innovation, and understanding has not only enhanced the lives of your students but has uplifted our entire Jewish community. You are on the front lines and we here at JES are here to support, facilitate and enable you to do your job in the most optimal way.”

At Jewish Educational Services, it is their mission and honor to support educators throughout the year. Through Professional Development, Coaching and Consultations, Teacher HelpLine, and Communities of Practice, they are here to lend a supporting hand. Programs such as Teacher Feature and EC Spotlights bring attention to the amazing educators that are tasked with teaching our community’s children. The Todah Teacher initiative and Educator Awards not only provide monetary prizes but also the recognition they so richly deserve.