The Natalia Twersky Educator Award
The Twersky Award is presented annually to an educator working in a formal or informal Jewish setting who makes the most creative use of the resources on jwa.org. The winner will receive $2,500 plus $500 for his or her school or program. The award will be given based on the design and implementation of an original lesson plan. Visit our how-to pages for lesson planning tips using JWA's range of educational materials and for information about teaching with primary sources. JWA will provide feedback on each submission.
The deadline to for the 2013 Twersky Award has passed. More information about submitting for the 2014 award will be posted soon.
On March 18, 2012, Jewish Women's Archive recognized Allyson Mattanah, a teacher at the Kesher School of Congregation Beit Tikvah, Baltimore, as the winner of the Inaugural Natalia Twersky Educator Award. Mattanah was presented with the award at JWA's annual Making Trouble/Making History Luncheon. The Award was endowed by David Twersky, father of JWA's Executive Director Gail Twersky Reimer, to honor her mother's memory. The award is presented to an educator working in a formal or informal Jewish setting who makes the most creative use of resources on jwa.org.
Founding Director Gail Reimer made the following remarks when she presented the inaugural Natalia Twersky Educator Award at the 2012 Making Trouble/Making History Luncheon:
When she arrived in this country in 1945, having survived Auschwitz, my mother had every reason to abandon all she had been taught in her observant home in Cracow, Poland. But that is not what she chose to do. Though she had lost any simple faith and orthodox practice, she remained steadfast in her belief in Jewish education. My nine cousins and I all went to Jewish schools and Jewish camps because my mother insisted that we needed to know who we were and where we had come from.
Ever grateful for her decision, I am so pleased that the Jewish Women’s Archive can now honor her memory with an annual prize to a Jewish educator. It is most fitting that the lesson which garnered Allyson Matannah the inaugural Natalia Twersky Educator Award is one that among other things would enable her students to appreciate my mother’s particular heroism.
I don’t know as much of my mother’s story as I would like, but I do know that her position as a Kapo enabled her to save the lives of women in Auschwitz. While many Kapos were cruel agents of the SS, some, like my mother, exercised their power humanely, using the little extra food they would sometimes get to strengthen the weakest among their fellow prisoners.
The lesson Allyson created for her students from material on our website brings together the two queens of the Purim story—Vashti and Esther—with the story of three women active in the early 20th century labor movement: Clara Lemlich, Pauline Newman, and Rose Schneiderman, who fought to prevent tragedies like the Triangle Factory fire from ever happening again. Allyson asked her students to consider how these activists achieved their goals and what it means to make change by working within the system (as Esther did) or against it (as Vashti did).
Too much of Holocaust literature paints Kapos and resistance fighters in black and white. When Allyson's students encounter these and other instances of overt and covert resistance, they will have a nuanced understanding of the choices they made. Allyson—thank you for introducing your students to a few important women in our heritage, and along the way to helping them understand that women and men can make history and that there are many ways to speak truth to power.