Los Angeles, California

The Harold Grinspoon Foundation is proud to partner with BJE: Builders of Jewish Education to honor excellent Jewish educators in Los Angeles, California. Please direct any questions about the local award to coordinator Phil Liff-Grieff.

Educators who receive the Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education in Los Angeles have received the Simha and Sara Lainer Distinguished Educator Award for Early Education. They are nominated by colleagues and observed by the BJE staff, and the final selection is done by a lay committee. Awards are given at the annual Early Childhood Conference, attended by more than 400 educators. Read more about the Simha and Sara Lainer Distinguished Educator Award for Early Education.

The awardees for the 2016-2017 school year are:
Yana Peymer, University Synagogue Early Childhood Learning Center
Jody Rubin, Shomrei Torah Synagogue ECC
Andrea Baly, Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy

image of Yana PeymerYana Peymer was born in Moscow and raised in Russia at a time when being Jewish severely limited schooling and employment choices. Other than eating gefilte fish and matzah at Passover, her family did not practice Judaism. Her great-grandfather, under Stalin's rule, actually donated a piece of his land for a small shul and was killed as a result. Yana's Jewish education and practice began when she started working at University Synagogue and participated in BJE's Russian Immigrant programs. Having been denied the ability to live Jewishly until she arrived in the U.S. Yana continually stresses the importance of living and learning Jewishly to her three and four-year old students. She also teaches several after school enrichment classes including cooking, where she shares her Russian heritage.

Yana was 15 years old when her parents encouraged her to either become a music specialist or work in early childhood. While in college, she began to do both and loved it. She believes that early childhood education provides a platform, a base for future learning. She had a bad experience with a teacher as a child in preschool, and strives to do the opposite at all times. She loves creating close connections with her students and seeing that spark of interest and curiosity.

image of Jody RubinJody Rubin, a native Angeleno, grew up at a time when providing girls with a Jewish education was not a priority. Her Jewish education began when she started teaching in Jewish preschool. She took courses to expand her knowledge, learning along with her students and bringing what she learned into her family, giving her children the education she was denied.

Jody works hard to build strong and secure relationships with her young toddlers and their families at Shomrei Torah Synagogue. Her classroom is warm and inviting and changes frequently to provide new learning opportunities. She shows her students the respect they deserve and strives to help them be confident and capable individuals and encourages independence. A California Distinguished Educator, Jody mentors two student teachers from Pierce College each semester, helping to strengthen the field of early childhood educators.

Andrea Baly was born in Brooklyn, but her family moved to Marin County when she was very young. With no Orthodox synagogue near, her parents started Chabad of Marin. Her education continued at the Hebrew Academy of San Francisco through Tenth Grade, when she moved alone to Los Angeles to attend YULA through graduation, and then Valley College and UCLA, all the while staying with host families. Her teaching career began as a parent volunteer at Gan Chabad. Loving it, she returned to school to earn her ECE units and eventually became a teacher.

Her four-year old students at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy thrive in her very active classroom. Andrea loves seeing their excitement and eagerness to learn and how they model the values she has taught, such as performing acts of kindness on their own. One student excitedly asks every day what the class will be doing in science, and is never disappointed – Andrea loves science and it is a prominent part of her teaching.