Jody Hirsh Receives 2014 Jewish Educational Leadership Award

January 22, 2014

By Deborah Carneol, Social Media Coordinator 

The Milwaukee Jewish Community has reason to celebrate!

Jody Hirsh, our JCC’s Director of Judaic Education has been chosen to receive the Morton L. Mandel Jewish Educational Leadership Award for his lifelong commitment to Jewish education. The Mandel Award is presented by JCC Association, the leadership network of the JCC Movement, and will be awarded at the JCCs of North America Biennial Convention in San Diego on Sunday, March 30, 2104.

“Jody’s breadth and depth of knowledge, his creative imagination, and his interest in the learning process make him the ‘Gold Standard’ for JCC Jewish educators,” said David Ackerman, Director of JCC Association’s Mandel Center for Jewish Education and staff coordinator for the Mandel Award. “I’m always learning from him; Jody is a JCC Movement treasure.” The Mandel Award is given biennially to an individual or an institution that has made a singular contribution to the enhancement of Jewish education in JCCs and JCC camps.  Morton L. Mandel, JCC Association honorary chair, was the first to receive the award in 1998, in recognition of his efforts to strengthen Jewish education in JCCs throughout North America. In 1981, Mandel chaired the Commission on Maximizing Jewish Educational Effectiveness of JCCs (COMJEE). His leadership helped spur JCCs to strengthen their capacities to deliver effective Jewish educational services. The Award was re-named in his honor in 2000.

Prior to joining our JCC as the Judaic Education Director in 1999, Jody taught Jewish studies at the University of California (both the Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses), Mills College, and the University of San Francisco as well as the Los Angeles University of Judaism and Hebrew Union College. In the fall of 1990 through the winter of 1992, he was a Jerusalem Fellow, concentrating on museum education at the Israel Museum and the Citadel Museum, with post-graduate work at the Hebrew University. For three years, he served as program director of the Hong Kong Jewish Community Centre. Jody has also been honored with the 2005 Covenant Award for Outstanding Jewish Educator.

In addition to his claim to fame as the world’s only speaker of “Judaeo Cantonese,” Jody is an OBIE Award-winning playwright who has had productions all over the world. His plays include the award-winning Seeing Double, written with the San Francisco Mime Troope; The Great King Herod Murder Mystery, Israel’s longest running play; The Long Seder, first produced in Houston, Texas, in 1996; and The Case for Matthew Nathan, performed in Hong Kong as part of the Handover festivities in June 1997. Among his publications is the award-winning book and holiday guide, Tastes of Jewish Tradition

In 2010, our JCC was the recipient of a generous grant from The Covenant Foundation for a Jewish Artists’ Laboratory of the Upper Midwest, created by Jody. It was a unique idea: three Jewish communities, Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis, would create an ongoing artists’ lab that would study together on a common theme and would produce works of art-related to it.  The Laboratory has fostered community, supported the participants as artists, created new works, and exposed the public to the power of art within a Jewish context. The Milwaukee Jewish Artists’ Laboratory was the recipient of the 2012 JCC Association Zahav Award for Excellence in Jewish Impact.  

Mark Shapiro, Executive Director of the Harry & Rose Samson Family JCC is proud of all of Jody’s accomplishments leading up to him receiving this award. “Jody represents the creative Jewish soul of our JCC and is a gift to our community. We are fortunate to have such a true prophet here in Milwaukee,” said Mark.

 “My primary goals are helping adult Jews find meaning and strengthening Jewish identity,” said Jody. “I feel that JCCs are the major place where Jewish education happens in a truly pluralistic setting.”

The Milwaukee Jewish Community is truly blessed to have such a knowledgeable Jewish educator in our community.  Want to study with Jody?  Contact him to find out more about the different classes he is offering this winter session.