The Jewish Education Project Announces 2023 Robert M. Sherman Young Pioneers Award Recipients

Annual Honor Recognizes Five Innovative Educators Under 40  

PRESS RELEASE - April 24, 2023 

(New York) – The Jewish Education Project, an organization dedicated to inspiring and empowering educators to create transformative Jewish experiences, today announced the five recipients of the 2023 Robert M. Sherman Young Pioneers Award.  Named for the former CEO Robert M. Sherman and launched in 2012, this award has recognized over 40 Jewish educators from greater New York that push the boundaries in Jewish education. 

“Each of these inspiring educators has made a significant impact on the communities they serve through their inspiration, innovation, and creative influences on Jewish education,” said David Bryfman, CEO of The Jewish Education Project.  “We believe it is essential to celebrate these individuals for the enormous contributions, and inspiration, they provide to our communities, families, and students.”  

The 2023 Young Pioneers Award recipients are:  


Pam Alcala (she/her/ella) is an aspiring artist, hopeless idealist, and the Program Coordinator for Camp Ga’avah. Born and raised in Santiago, Chile, Pam has spent the last 20 years living on Long Island, NY. At Camp Ga’avah, Friedberg JCC’s LGBTQ Camp, Pam helped to revamp the arts program and has become the year-round camp care coordinator. She developed a curriculum that includes a multidisciplinary educational approach that utilizes the creative arts to allow participants to better comprehend Jewish values in their daily lives. Previously, Pam used her skills as a Social Worker and Jewish Educator to build and strengthen leadership skills and promote JEDI work.  

Rachel Barnehama is the Associate Director of Family Life and Learning at B’nai Jeshurun. Through immersive experiences, fostering learning and connection in the classroom, and building a team of early career educators, Rachel finds ways to reach everyone through their own unique pathway. This past year, Rachel’s innovative Shabbat-focused programming has allowed for students and families to grow their relationship with Shabbat through music, services, learning and community. Rachel converts passion into profession as she pursues her love for communal Jewish education and helps learners ignite their Jewish spark. 


Shira Kobren is the Manager of Family Engagement Music and Central Tots at Central Synagogue, where she works to share the joys of Judaism with her young students and their families through music, dancing, video, and interactive celebrations.  She is passionate about sharing a Judaism that children and their grown-ups can learn from and enjoy together. Shira is also a singer, songwriter, and bandleader, and has performed all over the tri-state area. With her band, “Shira & Friends,” she has released two albums: “B’yachad” (2020) and “When You’re A Kid” (2012). Shira’s music has been published by Transcontinental Music Publications and it is sung in synagogues throughout the country. 


Tziri Lamm is a veteran educator with 15 years of experience teaching in day schools with a background in English, educational technology, and computer science. A self-described educational optimist, she focuses her instruction on building critical thinking skills and developing creativity. She is the incoming Director of General Studies at Barkai Yeshivah High School (opening September 2023). She previously created multiple meaningful experiences at Yeshivah of Flatbush High School such as the “Little Red Box,” which is a kindness initiative whose mission is to spread positivity across our school.  She lives in Brooklyn with her three children.  


Yali Szulanski is an educational wellness consultant, teacher, and writer. She is the Youth Director of The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, and a rabbinical student at Yeshivat Maharat. She is also the founder of The “I Am'' Project/ The Neshima Initiative, through which she integrates emotional wellness practices in schools, camps, and Jewish organizations. She works with individuals, families, and communities to create a shared language of emotional wellness and spiritual fortitude. Yali’s vision is to create healing, inclusive, and evolving spaces that foster individual and community growth. She lives, teaches, works, and learns joyfully in Riverdale with her family. 

About The Jewish Education Project’s Robert M. Sherman Young Pioneers Award 

The Jewish Education Project's Robert M. Sherman Young Pioneers Award recognizes five innovative educators age 40 and under in greater New York City (the 5 boroughs, Westchester County, and Long Island) who demonstrate a personal and professional commitment to new ideas and have made a significant impact on children, teens and families in the communities they serve.  

The Young Pioneers Award is named for Robert M. Sherman, the CEO of The Jewish Education Project from 2007 until July 2019. During his tenure, he launched the Young Pioneers Award and several other new initiatives. Since 2012, the Robert M. Sherman Young Pioneers Award has recognized 40 Jewish educators from greater New York that push the boundaries in Jewish education. Recipients work in day schools, camps, youth groups, supplementary schools, community centers, seminaries and in foundation settings. 

About The Jewish Education Project 

The Jewish Education Project’s mission is to inspire and empower educators to create transformative Jewish experiences. For over 100 years, The Jewish Education Project has been supporting educators to build strong Jewish communities. Originally The Board of Jewish Education, The Jewish Education Project provides professional development and other resources to educators in early childhood centers, congregations, day schools and yeshivot, youth programs, and emerging spaces. 

To learn more about the recipients and register to celebrate them at The Jewish Education Project's Spring Event on May 17th, click here.