The Harold Grinspoon Foundation announced last month the four winners of the local Grinspoon Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education. These outstanding educators received surprise visits from community representatives bearing flowers and balloons: Esther Benari-Altmann, Temple Anshe Amunim in Pittsfield; Rabbi Yosi Eisen of the OU-JLIC Program at UMass Hillel, Amherst; Chelsea Smith of Heritage Academy, Longmeadow; and Dr. Nicole Brackman, Hebrew High School of New England in West Hartford CT, who received the additional distinction of being named the Regional Awardee for the North American Awards Program. In the past 15 years, more than 700 educators in the Pioneer Valley and throughout North America, have received the prestigious award.

All regional nominees were feted in January at a catered reception at the home of Harold Grinspoon and Diane Troderman. Reflecting on the difficult job of selecting winners from among 44 nominees, one judge commented:  “The efforts of these educators to make a lasting difference in the lives of Jewish children is inspiring.”

Regional Awardee Dr. Nicole Brackman, a faculty member for 12 years, was recognized not just for her commitment to her own professional development, her creative approaches to teaching and her caring interactions with students but also for being “a sounding board and moral compass” for her peers.

Esther Benari Altmann was described by Rabbi Joshua Breindel of Temple Anshe Amunim as “unmatched in her inspiring love of Judaism.” She was recognized for her talents and skillful enrichment of learning with experiential opportunities for students of all ages.

Rabbi Yosi Eisen, an experiential educator was praised for his ability to “empower a myriad of college students with the specific knowledge and leadership skills needed in various fields — and none of this took place in a classroom.”

Chelsea Smith, the first grade General Studies teacher at Heritage Academy for the past 5 years “leaves no stone unturned,” according to her recommendation.  She embraces Jewish values and skillfully weaves them into the curriculum and into her classroom, a true “blended learning” environment.

The Grinspoon Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education will be presented at an Educators’ Gala at Temple Beth El, Springfield, on May 28, hosted by the Grinspoon Foundation. The event celebrates all the area educators who commit themselves to changing the lives of Jewish students.


PRESS RELEASE: For immediate release

FROM: The Harold Grinspoon Foundation

Contact: Martina Zobel,, 413 276-0741