CESJDS Lower School Judaic Studies Teacher MollyBeth Jacobs Rushfield has been named the inaugural recipient of the Avi West Jewish Education Award, honoring the memory of beloved community educator - Avi West (z”l). The Avi West Endowment Fund, established in 2022, supports an annual award for professional development for an exemplary Jewish educator who embodied Avi’s character, his love of Jewishness, Israel, and every Jewish individual. The endowment was funded by hundreds of community members and colleagues who were close to Avi and enriched by his teachings and leadership.
MollyBeth has had a substantial impact on her students, campers, community, and organizations. Her application and stories stood out among the many Jewish educators nominated, who currently serve the Greater Washington Jewish community in a variety of settings, including day schools, congregations, youth groups, summer camps, adult education programs, or universities.
Molly Beth embodies Avi’s enthusiasm, warmth, inclusivity, values, joy, and compassion for everyone as well as models the inspirational, creative, accessible, and imaginative Jewish learning experiences he created. MollyBeth has taught children of all ages in the classroom, led Junior Congregations, and run camp programs in the Washington DC metro area for more than 30 years.
As described by one of her nominators, “MollyBeth is a unicorn, truly unique and singularly gifted in being able to meet diverse learning needs of children through her creativity, empathy, and dedication. MollyBeth meets every child where they are and supports their growth, offering a ‘perfect fit’ education for students who otherwise likely would not be able to attend a Jewish day school.”
MollyBeth will receive a $5,000 award to impact our community through her continued Jewish learning and/or professional development. She will share the outcomes of her learning, funded by her award in the future.
“We are so grateful to the Washington DC Metro area Jewish community for everyone’s generosity and enthusiasm in creating the award in memory of my father,” commented Liron West Silbert, daughter of Avi West. “Jewish education is a cornerstone of building strong Jewish identity, and Jewish educators are at the core of this work.”
As a master teacher and a creative, innovative educator, Avi’s depth of Jewish knowledge was only matched by his depth of character. Embodying warmth, empathy and humility, Avi demonstrated a unique talent for weaving together rich Jewish content with contemporary topics. He brilliantly created relevant, joyful learning experiences for people of all ages, backgrounds and identities. Avi exuded endless optimism and hope that lifted our spirits. His spirit was lifted every day by his greatest treasures—his wife, Chagit; children Yohai (Yael) and Liron (Justin); and grandchildren whom he cherished dearly. Avi died at age 68 in August 2021/Av 5781. His words, lessons, and actions will endure through the people he taught and then all of the people they taught. We are a better Jewish community because Avi was a part of it. Zikhrono l’vrakhah – his memory will always be a blessing.
Kol Hakavod to all the awardees and especially to MollyBeth Jacobs Rushfield, who truly exemplifies the CESJDS core values through her teaching and leadership within our school and the broader Jewish community.
About Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS):
The Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS) is a leading JK-12 pluralistic independent Jewish day school that is known for its strong academics, comprehensive program, and commitment to Jewish values, learning, and Israel. A CESJDS education fosters the growth of confident, compassionate thinkers who engage the world through Jewish values. Learn more about our mission and values at www.cesjds.org.
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