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2010 Recipients of Targum Shlishi – Funded Teacher Excellence and Creativity Award

September 21, 2010 – Five teachers in Jewish educational institutions in Miami have received the Teacher Excellence and Creativity Award for 2010, with an $1,800 award to be applied to a continuing education opportunity.

Five years ago Targum Shlishi initiated the Teacher Excellence and Creativity Award, which provides teachers in select Miami day schools, congregational schools, and early childhood programs with the award in recognition of their contribution to promoting excellence and creativity in their respective schools.

The award is administered by the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE) Miami, which received a five-year grant from Targum Shlishi to promote and recognize Jewish educational leadership in the Greater Miami Jewish community.

“We believe that quality Jewish education is critically important. Unfortunately, it is underappreciated, as are our teachers, whose contributions often go unrecognized,” explains Raquel Rubin, co-director of Targum Shlishi. “In addition to honoring individual teachers and affording them professional development opportunities, which will have a positive impact on their teaching, we hope that this award sends the message that educational excellence is of great value. We hope that other communities follow our example and honor their educators.”

Aryeh Rubin, founder and director of Targum Shlishi, calls teaching a “noble profession” and says that now, when the Jewish world is facing major challenges, the importance of Jewish education is more critical than ever.

The five educators who received the 2010 award are:

Karen Alvarez of  Lehrman Community Day School is a third grade teacher who has worked at Lehrman Community Day School for the past twenty-seven years. She is an active member of the school’s Senior Advisory Council and also works closely with the school’s administration every summer to coordinate school purchases. Mrs. Alvarez is trained in the Core Knowledge Curriculum, which she implements in her classroom, and is an evaluator on the Association of Independent Schools of Florida Evaluation Committee, a position for which she travels and evaluates area schools in Miami and Broward counties.

Melissa Burger of Kesher LD has been an integral part of Kesher for the past eight years. She is also part of the CAJE-Miami Project Day School Excellence Instructional Coaches’ Academy. Some of her favorite hobbies include reading and speed walking. She enjoys being a mother to her four children ages eleven, eight, four, and ten months. Melissa also enjoys volunteering for different causes, and is currently the co-president of the Young Israel of Hollywood Sisterhood. “When a student feels positive about learning and aspires to be the best they can be, they become a productive part of society,” she says. “There are many students who have come into my classroom with little or no reading skills. I have made it my mission, no matter how long it takes, to provide my students with this important skill. I have always felt that if you can read there are many doors open to you.”

Rabbi Baruch Plotkin is an instructor at the Florence Melton Adult Mini School and the campus rabbi at the University of Miami Hillel. Recently, he was a senior educators’ fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In the past, Rabbi Plotkin served as the founding rabbi of the Shul by the Grove, and as the founder of Boca Tov, a Jewish enrichment center that provides educational and spiritual programming.

Patti Sacks has been a teacher at Temple Beth Am Day School for over 30 years. After starting a family, Patti wanted her children to not only have a Jewish education, but to share the experience with them so she applied for a position as the Music Specialist at Temple Beth Am Day School. Thirty-two years later, she has come to realize that finding one’s “deep soul work,” and throwing oneself totally into it, can be the among the most gratifying and passionate experiences in life.

Haya Sidi has been teaching Hebrew and Judaic Studies at the Bet Breira Samu-El Or Olom Schimmel-Binder Religious School for four years and has been teaching in the Miami-Dade County Public School system for twenty years. Born in Rishon L’tzion, Israel, Haya has lived in Miami for over thirty years. She served in the IDF and is active in the Reserves. Her hobbies include cooking and art, which she incorporates regularly into the learning experience for students in her classroom. As a lifelong learner, Haya has enthusiastically participated in the CAJE-Miami sponsored Sharsheret learning initiative for Congregational School professional development. Haya considers herself a learner first, and then a teacher. She says, “I feel that it is my mission to help children develop an appreciation for the beauty of their religion, Israel, and the language of our people.”

About CAJE

The Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE) is deeply committed to Jewish continuity and renewal through quality formal and informal Jewish education. Through its extensive network of day school, early childhood programs, congregational schools, and adult education programs, CAJE endeavors to create an exciting and meaningful Renaissance for Jewish living and learning in the Greater Miami Jewish Community. CAJE is a beneficiary agency for the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. For more information, visit its website at

About Targum Shlishi

Targum Shlishi is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website at

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