The Austin Teen Distinguished Service Award


Each year The Austin Teen Distinguished Service Award will recognize up to two eleventh or twelfth grade teens who have strengthened the Beth El community through their efforts in the arts, education, social action or other personal initiatives. 

Award support is graciously provided by Susan and Michael Austin.

The Award:

•    Each year up to two prizes of $250 will be awarded which recipients can use to further their interests. For example: 
o    attendance in workshops or retreats, in BESTY or in other NFTY related activities 
o    the purchase of books, equipment or supplies to support their interests or continue their initiatives
o    enrollment in Jewish learning programs such as Midrasha, Lehrhaus Judaica 
•    Their name will be engraved on a permanent plaque 
•    They will receive  public recognition at both the Spring Annual Meeting and The Celebration of Education Shabbat ceremony

Selection Criteria:

There are many ways teens can demonstrate exceptional skills or initiatives that contribute to strengthening the Beth El community. Following are a few examples:
•    Exceptional teaching ability as a madrich or madricha in any of Beth El’s Youth And Family Education (YAFE) programs
•    Designing and operating teen initiatives and projects that address social justice issues (Tikkun Olam)
•    Sharing their talent in the performing, visual, and literary arts with the Beth El community. For example: creative art projects, musical initiatives such as song writing and performing, dance performances/programs, writing articles for The Builder, or through video production.
•    Providing ongoing leadership in religious services (leading services, delivering sermons, torah chanting, creating and leading the musical portion of a service).


•    Nominations will be submitted four weeks prior to the Annual Meeting in two ways:
o    Self Nominations: any 11th or 12th grader who is a member of Congregation Beth El can submit their name for consideration, accompanied by a short statement (about 250 words) that describes how he/she meets the award criteria.
o    Staff Nomination: Any Beth El staff member can nominate an 11th /12th grader by submitting their name along with brief statement of support that describes how the student meets the award criteria.

•    Selection Committee:
o    Rabbi Yoel Kahn, 
o    Rabbi Rebekah Stern, 
o    Director of Youth & Family Education, 
o    Emily Schnitzer (Director of Camp Kee Tov and Youth Group Director), 
o    Ali Greenland (Youth Group Advisor).

•    The award is a recognition of excellence. The Selection Committee is under no obligation to make an award every year. 

•    Procedure for Claiming Monetary Award: the recipients may submit either a request for reimbursement to the Executive Director at any time during the award year (accompanied by a receipt), or for a check to be made out to the sponsoring organization or agency (e.g., NFTY, Lehrhaus Judaica, Midrasha).

Meet this year’s recipients!

Gefen Gladstone

Gefen is a graduating senior of El Cerrito High School with plans to go to Israel in the fall for a gap year program in Be'er Sheva. He has been an amazing contributor to so many Beth El programs including three years as a Camp Kee Tov counselor (and many more as a camper!) and over four years as a madrich. He has grown in his leadership and teaching skills- acting as an assistant teacher and hebrew tutor on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Gefen also devotes his time to Beth El Nursery School (BENS) helping with their events and work parties and working as a substitute teacher's aid if needed! 




Eli Waldman

Eli Waldman, a senior at Berkeley High School, is headed to Seattle University after graduation after years of dedication to Beth El. Eli, a Camp Kee Tov camper and counselor, became bar mitzvah at Beth El and participated in Rabbi Kahn's confirmation class and tisch. He has been a rock at Chug Mishpacha as both a madrich and assistant teacher and has anchored BESTY leadership through his positions on the BESTY board. Yasher Koach Eli!!