2022 Simon and Alven Ghertner Award Winner

(L to R) Iara Kullock, Frank Ghertner, and Sam Sparks. Frank presented the 2022 Simon and Alven Ghertner Award to Iara and Sam at the closing ceremony of Beit Miriam.  

Samuel James Sparks, son of Jason and Abby Sparks, and Iara Kullock, daughter of Rabbi Joshua and Jessica Kullock were chosen as the 2022 recipients of the prestigious Simon and Alven Ghertner Award for Excellence in Hebrew, now in its 77th year. Frank Ghertner, grandson of Simon Ghertner and son of Alven Ghernter, zichronam L’vracha, presented the awards in person this year! The Ghertner Award is a distinct award presented to the outstanding 7th grader each year and recognizes the importance of Hebrew reading proficiency for every generation of Jewish students.  Among Jewish teens nations wide, few excel in Hebrew to the extent that our students do. We are so fortunate to have young people in our school and congregation who have the ability and who work hard to excel in Hebrew language reading, including Torah, Haftarah, and leading services for us. 


Sharon Paz, Director of Lifelong Learning, and Cantor Sarah Levine shared their observations of both Sammy and Iara. Cantor Sarah shared, “Sammy has been a wonderful leader among his peers at Beit Miriam. He mastered Torah and Haftarah tropes with ease. He led Kabbalat Shabbat Maariv, Shacharit, the Torah Service, and Musaf for his Bar Mitzvah. He came to several Thursday morning minyanim to feel comfortable with the daily minyan/Shacharit service where he laid T’fillin and wore a Tallit for the first time. Between lessons on zoom and in person, there was rarely a time he was unprepared. Sammy took on a Torah reading for the first day of Pesach this year and learned it basically on his own, with little help from me and without the use of any recordings.” Paz added, “Sammy is eager to co-teach the T’filah class and is so supportive of his classmates. He has been a strong student in his Hebrew language class at Beit Miriam as well.  Sammy strives for excellence, has a positive attitude, is respectful of his peers and his teachers, and enjoys learning. We are so proud of the Hebrew language and davening skills he has mastered. About Iara, Cantor Sarah noted, “Iara is super comfortable on the bima, and makes davening and leading davening look easy. She flew through learning Shacharit and Friday night Ma'ariv.  She also took on a Torah reading for the Thursday morning minyan of her Bat Mitzvah weekend.”  Morah Paz shared, “Iara’s Hebrew language skills were honed at Akiva. She could be found at the Synagogue every Shabbat, but a year before her Bat Mitzvah she was fully “present” and sat through the whole Shabbat morning service so she could learn. Iara is a wonderful davener and Shabbat service leader. She has led Kabbalat Shabbat and maariv services several times since becoming Bat Mitzvah earlier in the year. When we held junior congregation in person before Covid, she was already helping lead parts of the Shabbat morning service. We are so proud of both these students”  

This award places emphasis on the effort and skills mastered in preparation for becoming B’nai Mitzvah. The award comes with a gift from the Ghertner Family and the honor of chanting the Haftarah on Rosh HaShanah. 

Many thanks to Frank Ghertner and Dorothy Ghertner Miller who oversee this award on an annual basis. The Closing Ceremony included a video of the year’s programs—and the return to in-person learning. 

2022 Anna Isenstein Teacher Aide Award Winner 

West End Synagogue’s Beit Miriam’s high school senior, Sydney Emeson was recognized for her work this year as the outstanding Beit Miriam Religious School teacher’s aide. 

Sydney Emeson, daughter of Martha and Ron Emeson was honored with the 2022 Anna Isenstein Teacher Aide Appreciation Award.  Joel Isenstein noted that the Anna Isenstein Award directs cash toward a college-bound teacher’s aide to assist in continuing their education.  Isenstein shared the purpose of this fund with students, teachers, and parents, “We created this fund in memory of our daughter Anna Michelle Isenstein in 2003. During Anna’s short life, we learned that sometimes the most help for a child comes directly from another child. Our goal, by setting up this fund, was to encourage our students to guide younger students as teachers’ aides after completing their formal religious school education at West End Synagogue.”   

The aides in the religious school classroom serve many roles. Not only does the aide assist the teacher in a variety of tasks the aides (madrichim) also serve as role models in the classroom.  When creating this Award, we wanted to recognize a unique aide who exhibits the attributes the teachers need the most and models the behavior parents respect the most: dependability, attentiveness, friendliness, and initiative.  

The award has grown steadily since its inception to $1000.00. We want to thank the people who have contributed to this fund. 

This year’s recipient is to be commended for many things, work ethic, initiative, and flexibility. But in addition to all that, we learned that this aide missed only one Sunday the entire year. In a year filled with college tours (Covid helped a little on this end), college prep, difficult classes, and social events, we are particularly impressed and appreciative of this aide’s dedication to our school. This aide exemplifies everything we hoped for when we created this award. 

Sharon Paz, Director of Lifelong Learning shared comments from the teachers who worked with Sydney. “She came early every Sunday morning and was the first teacher in the class to greet the three-year-old students when they arrived. Sydney helped with carpool both at drop off and during pick up on Sunday mornings. The little kids went right with her; we could count on her to take them to class and/or to be with them in the classroom as they arrived. 

There were 12 three-year-olds this year. Sydney was the one consistent teacher. The lead teacher had to be out several times during the year and being able to count on Sydney’s consistency and maturity with such a large, young class made it possible. She helped students with tasks in the classroom; gave them independence and was always positive, cheerful, and kind.  The children loved to take turns sitting in her lap during music and Hebrew time…the perfect teacher aide. 

Sydney took direction well and never seemed to mind doing anything that was needed.  We will all miss her next year. Sydney Emeson is graduating from USN and will be going to the Hartford University Hartt School, BFA Dance. 

We salute all our 2022 high school teacher aides/teachers: Ethan Bengelsdorf, Sydney Emeson, Abby Landa, and Leo Wiston.  

Many thanks to Joel Isenstein and Linda Nathenson for creating this special recognition award and opportunity for our Teacher Aides. 

Mazal Tov to the WES Class of 2022  

Graduating High School Seniors 

Dustin Averbuch        

Son of Sam and Jessica Averbuch

Graduating Hume Fogg 

Attending NYU ‘s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music 

Counselor at Ramah Darom this summer 

 Abby Cohen                

Daughter of Jon and Renee Cohen 

Graduating Franklin High School 

Attending Indiana University 

 Sydney Emeson          

Daughter of Ron and Martha Emeson  

Graduating USN 

Attending University of Hartford, The Hartt School, BFA Dance-planning a music history minor! 

Jonah Hoffman            

Son of Elisha Hoffman and Nicole Hoffman 

Graduating from Nolensville High School 

 Attending MTSU

Abby Landa                

Daughter of adam and Valerie Landa 

Graduating Franklin High School  

Attending George Washington University, Washington DC

Counselor at Ramah Darom this summer

Jaden Levin                 

Son of Daniel and Kristine Levin 

Graduating Franklin High School 

 Attending University of Tennessee to study Chemical Engineering, Knoxville, TN 

 Maia Prichard            

Daughter of Jonathan and Deena Prichard 

Graduating Brentwood High School 

Attending Ogelthorpe University 

 Mazal Tov to WES/Beit Miriam  

College Graduates 2022 

 Talia Barton   

Daughter of Kirk Barton and Nancy Lipsitz 

Graduating from New York University (NYU) 

Isaac Eskind   

Son of Billy Eskind and Amy Eskind 

Graduating from the University of Wisconsin 

 Boaz Kelner   

Son of Shaul and Pam Kelner 

Graduating from Indiana University (IU) 

Marin Kirshner

Daughter of Mike Kirshner and Bari Bettan 

Graduating from Indiana University (IU)  

Sydney Lewis

Daughter of David and Jenny Lewis 

Graduating with a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Pennsylvania 

Zoe Lewis       

Daughter of David and Jenny Lewis 

Graduating from Elon University 

Elliot Tishler

Son of Michelle and Steven Tishler 

Graduating from Miami University of Ohio 

 Joseph Weil  

Son of Howie and Karen Weil 

Graduating University of Maryland 


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