By Rena Udkoff
What started out as a typical school day turned into the surprise of a lifetime for Cheder Menachem principal Rabbi Menachem Mendel Greenbaum.
At a school-wide assembly, the principal was honored with the Milken Jewish Educator Award before a crowd of cheering students and staff members. The accolade comes with a $15,000 cash prize.
Rabbi Greenbaum was aware that one of Cheder Menachem’s educators would be receiving the prize but had no idea that he was this year’s recipient. After the surprise was announced before the entire school body, the shocked Rabbi Greenbaum thanked the BJE and the Milken Family Foundation for the award. He expressed his gratitude to his school community, telling the crowd that “this award is representative of everybody who’s in this room…There’s nothing that I’d be able to accomplish without our wonderful faculty and students.”
The Jewish Educator Awards initiative was established in 1990 by the Milken Family Foundation, in cooperation with BJE: Builders of Jewish Education. The initiative is intended to provide public recognition and unrestricted $15,000 cash awards to teachers, administrators and other education professionals in the Greater Los Angeles area who have made significant contributions to excellence in day schools affiliated with BJE.
According to Milken Family Foundation Executive Vice President Richard Sandler, “The Jewish Educator Awards call upon others in the profession to emulate the high standards of those we honor today—educators whose intelligence, scholarship, creativity and compassion help guide children to greater success, while preserving the heritage that gives meaning to that success.”
He added that, “To me, the most elegant tile one can have is ‘teacher’ because teachers change the world.”
The award recognized that under Rabbi Greenbaum’s leadership, enrollment at Cheder Menachem has nearly doubled. Some of the “best practices” in education that he has introduced are: professional development for faculty, data-driven instruction, and the integration of technology into the learning.
Rabbi Greenbaum’s talents have extended beyond the Los Angeles boys school as well. He is currently an educational consultant for the national Menachem Education Foundation (MEF), and invests his time consulting with other Jewish schools, helping spread best practices.
Rabbi Greenbaum played a key role in the development of MEF’s Zekelman Standards for Chumash, piloting them at Cheder Menachem. Currently, the school is an exemplar of standards based learning, integrating the Zekelman Standards for Chumash – along with standards based assessment, analysis and action planning – into the school’s curriculum and culture.
Rabbi Greenbaum is one of four 2014 recipients of the award. The honorees will be celebrated, together with their families and community leaders, at an awards luncheon on December 16th.