The 2005 Covenant Award for Exceptional Educators
Rabbi Elyse M. Goldstein
Previous winners have included, among other notable names in Jewish education: Danny Siegal, world renowned author and tzedakah expert; Rabbi Richard Levy, former head of Hillels of North America and president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; Debbie Friedman, whose songs and especially "Mi Sheberach" are sung at Jewish camps, synagogues and schools of all denominations throughout the world; and Yosef Abramowitz, creator and founder of "Jewish Family and Life!" the world's leading, most accessed, and most popular Jewish website.
There were 200 nominations, 20 semi-finalists and 10 finalists from whom the 3 winners are selected, and all 12 Board members must unanimously vote on the winners.
From Seymour Epstein (Epi), Executive Director of the Board of Jewish Education, nominator, from his statement of nomination:
"Her founding of the Kolel was one of those great paradigmatic leaps in which a very creative soul realizes that the current institutional parameters are not sufficient to the needs of both the community and the tradition, and initiates a new structure that was not part of the current landscape. This Nachshon-like jump could only be the product of a mind and heart dedicated to both Ahavat Yisrael and Talmud Torah.
The Kolel is a living and breathing example of pluralism at work. This is not the pluralism sometimes found in community institutions - a dumbed-down, pareve, lowest-common-denominator kind of pluralism, which is meant to offend no one. Elyse Goldstein's brand of pluralism strives for maximum depth in text study while preserving the ideological integrity of the student. A Kolel student is entitled to any opinion he or she can authentically derive from the text as long as the opinions of others are respected equally. Rabbi Goldstein, in her own mode of study, is a model of such pluralism, and she has successfully transmitted that model, through her own teaching and management style, to the Kolel, its teachers, and its students.
Rabbi Goldstein, however, is not satisfied with the sterile study of the classroom. Her life is a model of activism inspired by our sacred values. What she studies, she translates into life lessons."
From Bernie Farber, Executive Director Canadian Jewish Congress, from his letter of support:
"Her passion, charisma, and most importantly ability to inspire both her students and the community alike are unparalleled.
"From Rabbi Daniel Gottlieb, president of the Toronto Board of Rabbis, from his letter of support:
"She is known throughout the Toronto community as a creative thinker and dynamic teacher, with a special ability to reach out to young and unaffiliated Jews, to capture their imagination, and bring them closer to the centre of Jewish life. Some of her students have gone on to positions of leadership in their own communities, including a number who have since gone on to yeshivot and now serve as rabbis and educators, and some for whom Kolel provided the inspiration for a subsequent conversion... I am proud to have worked alongside Rabbi Goldstein...and to have witnessed her impact on hundreds of her students first-hand."
From Adrienne Rosen, president and CEO of International Courier,friend and Kolel supporter, from her letter of support:
"Rabbi Goldstein's leadership in education and her profound wisdom comes from her commitment to respect for all people and her acts of kindness for those she learns with....Rabbi Goldstein helped me to see that the wonderful and the mundane, and the secular and the sacred are not mutually exclusive. At Kolel, Rabbi Goldstein manages to do what many others have tried to achieve. She has brought together Jews to learn together regardless of where they come from. Many people are stunned when they enter Kolel and find a female Rabbi co-leading a class with an Orthodox Rabbi, while both are teaching students from every conceivable background. Rabbi Goldstein is utterly committed to the nurturance of every Jewish neshama."