Jewish passions bring leaders together for JCF recognition

Sigal Gavish noticed some familiar faces in the audience as she accepted her Helen Diller Award for Excellence in Jewish Education: nearly two dozen of her students from Brandeis Hillel Day School in San Francisco.

The fourth-grade teacher said she was “honored and humbled” to receive the award, which came with a $10,000 prize. “There’s a sacred part of every educator who commits to this life and wants to think they’re worthy,” she said.


Sigal Gavish

The Israeli-born Gavish was one of several honorees at the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation’s 101st annual meeting, held June 16 at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.


The meeting, dubbed “Our Common Thread,” brought together hundreds of federation volunteers, donors, staffers and Jewish community leaders. Outgoing three-term federation president James Koshland turned the gavel over to Nancy Grand.

Honorees included Warren Hellman, who won the Robert Stinton Extraordinary Leader Award; Jordan Sills, named this year’s recipient of the Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award for Young Leadership; Dana Corvin, winner of the Judith Chapman Memorial Women’s Leadership Award; and Volunteers of the Year Laura Lauder, Josh Smith and Jeff Zlot.

Aviv Monarch, a Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School teacher, won a national Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award.

Other Diller Award winners were Temple Isaiah’s Charna Schakow, who won in the category of congregation/community school; JCCSF teen educator Alan Scher, for informal education; and Gan Shalom Preschool teacher Robin Mendelson in the early childhood education category.


Laura Lauder

Gavish is a 23-year veteran of the classroom. She has taught music, history and Jewish studies in Boston, Orange County and, for the last five years, at Brandeis Hillel.


“The reason I stay passionate about what I do is I constantly change,” Gavish said. “I move from grade to grade, develop curriculum, mentor other teachers and stay fresh. I’m helping to develop young lives.”

She said she appreciates the recognition from the Diller Awards and the federation.

“Unfortunately in education, Jewish or otherwise, so often teachers are the unsung heroes,” she said. “Our jobs are hard. I take these children into my heart and soul, and for the time I have them, they’re mine.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.