West End Synagogue Honors Students & Teachers

In a cheerful and enthusiastic End of the Year Closing Ceremony on Sunday, May 7th West End Synagogue’s Beit Miriam student, Abi Kullock was presented with the 2023 Simon and Alven Ghertner Award for Excellence in Hebrew.


2023 Simon and Alven Ghertner Award Winner

Abi Kullock received the 2023 Simon and Alven Ghertner Award

Abi Kullock, daughter of Rabbi Joshua and Jessica Kullock was chosen as the 2023 recipient of the prestigious Simon and Alven Ghertner Award for excellence in Hebrew, now in its 78th consecutive year. Sharon Paz, West End Synagogue Director of Lifelong Learning, presented the award on behalf of Frank Ghertner, grandson of Simon Ghertner and son of Alven Ghertner, zichronam l’vracha, who was unable to attend. The Ghertner Award is a distinct award presented to the outstanding seventh grader each year and recognizes the importance of Hebrew reading proficiency for every generation of Jewish students. Paz noted, “Among Jewish teens nations wide, so few excel in Hebrew to the extent that our students do. We are so fortunate to have young people, like Abi in our school and congregation who have ability and who work hard to excel in Hebrew, both as a modern language and in prayer, reading Torah, Haftarah, and leading services for us.”


Sharon Paz shared the following remarks from the presentation, “I think Abi would say that her Hebrew skills were more a product of Akiva School than Beit Miriam, but she implemented them here every time she helped lead a Shabbat service over the years, from Havdalah, to Kabbalat Shabbat to the Torah service to the Musaf service. She also learned an additional Torah reading for the Thursday morning minyan of her Bat Mitzvah weekend. And I know she knows most, if not all, of Shacharit.


Abi comes to the Synagogue every Shabbat. This past year, I noticed she sat up front near her father observing, listening, and occasionally leading parts of the service. Abi does not enjoy the limelight. That is not her comfort zone. But she is a leader. Joseph Weil told me that when he needed a student to lead minyan for the 6th & 7 graders on Sunday mornings, he asked Abi to step up and she did. When I asked her to help Abby Sparks lead teen minyan, she said “sure.” Mazal Tov Abi. We are proud of all your Hebrew skills and look forward to having you on the bimah as a Baalat T’filah, a T’filah leader, as often as you would like. You have “Protexia!” Have a wonderful time at Camp Ramah Darom this summer and put your skills to use!


This award places emphasis on the effort and skills mastered in preparation for becoming B’nai Mitzvah and takes into account Hebrew language skills. It 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 shout out to all the teachers, a video of the year’s programs—a salute to Israel’s 75th Birthday and a delicious Israeli lunch for all of the Beit Miriam families and faculty.



2023 Anna Isenstein Teacher Aide Award Winner

Leo Wiston received the 2023 Anna Eisenstein Award

West End Synagogue’s Beit Miriam high school senior, Leo Wiston, son of Stuart and Debby Wiston was honored with the 2023 Anna Isenstein Teacher Aide Appreciation Award. This award directs cash toward a college-bound teacher’s aide to assist in their continuing education. Linda Nathenson and Joel Isenstein established the Anna Isenstein Teacher Aide Award Fund in memory of their daughter, Anna Michelle Isenstein in 2003 to encourage teens to guide younger students as teachers’ aides after completing their formal religious school education at West End Synagogue. During Anna’s short life, they learned that sometimes the most help for a student comes directly from another student.


The aides in the religious school classroom serve many roles. Not only do they assist the teacher in a variety of tasks, they also, serve as role models in the classroom. The award recognizes a unique aide who exhibits the attributes the teachers need the most and models the behaviors parents respect the most, dependability, attentiveness, friendliness, and initiative. The award has grown steadily since its inception to $1000.00.


Linda Nathenson wrote: “This year’s aide was exceptional in many ways. He received recommendations not only from the teachers he directly worked with in the classroom but also from the art teacher, the music teacher, and from the teacher he worked with last year.

Leo was consistently punctual, and typically arrived at Sunday School before the lead teacher. He has a kind and silly personality, which the children greatly enjoy. He put in great effort to engage with the kids in a patient and respectful manner. Leo was always willing to lend a helping hand, wherever necessary, a valuable asset in the classroom. Leo has an ability to remain calm and collected when faced with challenging situations and builds positive relationships with the children. Additionally, he was tremendously flexible and great at adapting to change.”


Sharon Paz, Director of Lifelong learning shared her thoughts about Leo. “We had 25 three and four-year-olds this year. Leo, who worked as an aide last year, was able to move from one classroom to the other as needed. When the lead teacher was out during the year, it was wonderful to be able to count on Leo’s consistency and maturity. Leo helped during carpool and walked our youngest children to their classrooms. He was very patient with the children who were often squiggly and wiggly! He helped students with tasks in the classroom and reinforced the Hebrew they were learning in a kind and caring manner. We will all miss him next year.


We salute all our 2023 high school teacher aides/teachers: Ethan Bengelsdorf, Sadye Prebus, and Celia Wiston and our ninth and 10th graders who helped out first period before their classes: Jaxon and Tommy Buchanan, Lilly Lapidus, Ari Lowen, Jacob MacBrair, and Esther Nissenson.

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


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