Skip to Main Content

ECE-RJ Awards

Keter Shem Tov (The Crown of a Good Name) Award

Honorary Lifetime Membership is awarded to individuals whose dedication and passion have allowed the organization to move forward in the Reform movement. These individuals have used their leadership to springboard ECE-RJ in new directions. Their impact on early childhood Jewish education is long-lasting and valued.


2017 Elaine Gaidemak
  In recognition and appreciation of your leadership, as a founding member of our organization, and as our Executive Administrator, which helped to build us into the professional organization that exists today. Your tireless efforts ensured that our organization adapted to each change of the landscape, and that our members always knew they a friend and a resource available to them at all times. We honor and salute you for your vision, guidance, and creativity.  
2015 Robert Koppel
  In recognition and appreciation of your leadership, which created the path that allowed ECE-RJ directors to participate in the Reform Pension Board, thus raising their professional status within congregations. We honor and salute you for your vision, guidance and steadfastness. 
2014  Rabbi Dan Freelander

In recognition and appreciation of your vision, leadership, and guidance as well as for placing our name into consideration to become an affiliate of the URJ, June 2004, in Denver, Colorado.


2011 Rabbi Jan Katzew
  In recognition and appreciation for conceptual vision, for leadership in and for service to Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism.  


Person of Valor Award

This person has demonstrated innovative methodology and/or perspective that has impacted early childhood Jewish educators. They are an advocate for young children and their families. Their inspiration and dedication strengthen the growth of the field of early childhood Jewish education.

2022 Dale Cooperman, Early Childhood Education Director, Albuquerque, NM
  As a member of ECE-RJ you have supported your colleagues with your vast knowledge and as a voice of reason. You lift up individual educators and the profession by example and through your work. You are the very best of what ECE-RJ represents.
  Shelly Sender, Early Childhood Education Director, Dallas, TX
  You are a trailblazer in Jewish Early Childhood Education. Your passion for children, families and colleagues shows through all you do. You are an inspiration to others to reach higher and did deeper whether through innovative programming, opportunities for your staff, or authentic relationships with children and families.
2021 Jill Cimafonte, Early Childhood Education Director, Westfield, NJ
  As a founding member of ECE-RJ, you have been a backbone for the organization, stepping up to the plate whenever needed. You have helped our organization strengthen and grow, representing ECE-RJ as our first voting member of the Reform Pension Board, all while demonstrating excellence in your own community.
  Katie Theobald, Early Childhood Education Director, Orange Village, OH
  You have elevated the field of Jewish Early Childhood Education with your work in your individual school and your incredible advocacy on behalf of all educators. Your efforts to ensure that early childhood educators were not left out of the vaccination campaign in Ohio, brought awareness to the need to see early childhood educators as essential workers and raised the professionalism of our field.
2019 Carol Paster,  Early Childhood Director, South Orange, NJ

As a Founding Member, your continuous dedication and assistance has guided our organization in many ways by serving on several Nominating Committees, documenting through photography our journeys and time together, and providing creative professional development and support to our members. 

2017 Heidi Baker, Early Childhood Director, South Easton, MA

Your leadership and vision brought ECE-RJ through a time of transition, and positioned  us for tremendous growth. As President, you solidified our infrastructure, streamlined our processes, and set ECE-RJ on a course that has rocketed it into new frontiers. Your dedication has inspired our membership to be involved, and our leadership to reach for the stars. 


Marci Sperling Flynn, Early Childhood Director, Oak Park, IL

Not only have you helped revolutionize our dues structure, but have revamped our budget reporting process as well.   You have gone above and beyond in personally responding to any member with concerns about their dues and created ways for all to be included during this transition year.  Your dedication to ECE-RJ is truly appreciated.  You have helped us build on our strong financial base and have moved us into the future!

2015 Jennie Rubin, Early Childhood Director, Morristown, NJ

Your vision and leadership as our VP of Marketing ECE-RJ. "Your creativity has made has created a unified and professional look to all of our materials.  Your perseverance has spread our message throughout the virtual world!  We thank you for your hard work and dedication to ECE-RJ.


Elaine Gaidemak, RJE, ECE-RJ Executive Administrator, Livingston, NJ

Always going above and beyond, you have made sure that ECE-RJ has been an organization of excellence.  Your attention to detail and follow-through, especially during this year of many changes, has been invaluable and has allowed us to reach this point.  Every one of us has felt what you do.  We love your support!

Tammy Vener, Early Childhood Consultant, La Jolla, CA

A true partner, you have been responsible for moving ECE-RJ into a new era.  Your dedication, clear visions and leadership qualities identify us as innovators within the larger Jewish movement.  You created a nominating process that worked well and gave all participants a renewed sense of ownership in the organization. We thank you for your ongoing support and guidance.

Ruth Rubin, Early Childhood Consultant, Hollywood, FL

During a year of radical change you were a key contributor in the re-writing of the ECE-RJ By-Laws and the development of a new board structure.  Not only did you work tirelessly to help move the process along in a logical manner, but your insight, thoughtful questions, and hard work helped us reach our goal in record time.  Thank you for taking an idea and helping turn it into a reality.

Norma Cahen, Early Childhood Consultant, Canton, NC

You have been a driving force behind ECE-RJ from the beginning.  Your leadership skills continue to move our organization into the future.  You have the ability to take on a very complicated project and then communicate information in a clear way.  Our organization has benefited in so many ways from your guidance.  We thank you for your continuous hard work and dedication to ECE-RJ.


Dana Rosenbloom, Early Childhood Teacher, New York City, NY

Your understanding of and your enthusiasm for modern, ever-evolving methods of communication has been the force behind bringing ECE-RJ into the modern technological era. You have worked tirelessly to expand our online capabilities, to update and redesign our website, to make our monthly Board Meetings “virtual”, and have worked with others to expand the potential for digital continuing education opportunities. Thank you for your willingness to go above and beyond.

Sari Luck Schneider, Early Childhood Director, New York City, NY

During a very difficult personal time in the life of the President of ECE-RJ, you compassionately stepped in with the calm ability to take meaningful and supportive action. Performing two concurrent leadership roles, your steadiness and ability to synthesize information kept the organization from floundering. In the end, and at the appropriate moment, you stepped out with grace. Thank you for your consummate professionalism.


Nancy Bossov, RJE, Early Childhood Consultant, Cherry Hill, NJ

Through gentle guidance, constant nudging, future thinking, the highest of standards, a passionate love of Judaism and above all an innate knowledge of our profession, you took a fledgling organization and helped it grow into a substantial professional force within our movement.  Not content to stop at that great achievement, you are now forging a path toward new opportunities of recognition, benefits and professional development for the membership of ECE-RJ!


Roanne Miller, Early Childhood Director, Sudbury, MA

Due to your dedication and leadership, and because of your sheer determination, you took a bookkeeping system that was immature at best and transformed it into a system any organization can be proud to publish.  In so doing you helped to grow the organization in accountability, confidence and stature.  Thank you for your vision and persistence!


Dee Cohen, Retired Director & ECE Consultant, East Hanover, NJ

Because of your wisdom, your insight and your patience, you have helped ECE-RJ develop and refine a set of professional By-Laws and job descriptions of which we are extremely proud.  Thank you for your grace and compassion and for all that you have accomplished on our behalf AND for all you will accomplish on our behalf in the future!


Cathy M. Rolland, Founding President of ECE-RJ, Warren, NJ

Under your guidance as the founding President of ECE-RJ, you brought us from creation to an affiliate of the URJ by taking the reigns of leadership and forging ahead with vision and stamina.  Thank you for your passion, your excitement and above all for your strength!  Your dedication to ECE-RJ honors us all.


The Marc Newman Shomrei Or Award

This person has demonstrated exceptional volunteer efforts on behalf of early Jewish education. They are a leader, whose passion has had a measurable impact on the field of early childhood Jewish education. Their exceptional character has inspired others to value the work of early childhood educators.


2022 Judi Goozh, Union for Reform Judaism North American Board Member and ECE-RJ Liaison, Potomac, MD
  As a member of the URJ's North American Board and the ECE-RJ Liaison, you model sacred partnerships by advocating for early childhood education and inspiring others with your extraordinary volunteer efforts. Your dedication to ECE-RJ shines through your participation at board meetings, kallot and conferences, and other gatherings, and through your valuable input and feedback.
2021 Laurie Duhan, Advisory Committee Chair, Washington Hebrew Congregation, Washington, DC
  As a lay leader, you have gone above and beyond in your dedication and commitment to the Jewish community and continuity. You have spent many hours supporting and caring for a school with a new Director during a pandemic. Your selflessness is an inspiration to both lay and professional leaders.
2021 Heidi Baker, Director of Education, Newton, MA
   For your ongoing leadership and inspiration to all that you are involved in. As a director for over 25 years and a past president of ECE-RJ, you have continued to innovate and provide an exemplary model of engagement and involvement in the organization and as an Early Childhood Director.
2019 Louise Van Schaack, Early Childhood Director, Greensboro, NC
   For all of the hard work and dedication that you give to the organization, chairing the committee that did extensive and important work on the by-laws and volunteering for many committees and willing to help wherever needed.


Marc Newman, URJ North American Board Member, NY


In recognition of his passion for, and dedication to Early Childhood Education and the Reform movement, Thank you for being a guardian of the light, and for blessing us with your knowledge, time and voice.



The scholarship is for educators who are pursuing an advanced degree or certification in Jewish Early Childhood Education or Jewish Leadership. 


2019 Mary Passell,  Early Childhood Director, Phoenix, AZ
    Executive Masters Program In Jewish Education at the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion


Susie Wexler, Early Childhood Director, Deerfield, IL


Executive Masters Program In Jewish Education at the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion