Two long-serving teachers at a Jewish day school in South Jersey are the first recipients of an annual award for excellence in education established by Eric Fraint, President and Founder of Your Part-Time Controller, and his wife, Kathie.The Herman Fraint Memorial Award for Jewish Day School Teaching Excellence was established to honor Eric’s late father and to carry forward his lifelong love of Judaism and respect for teachers. The award offers a $1,000 prize to each of two educators who exhibit teaching excellence in secular and Jewish studies.
The first two teachers to be recognized are Ellen Barmach, for secular education, and Ayala Varadi, for Jewish education, at Kellman Brown Academy in Voorhees, NJ.
Barmach, a middle school teacher, has taught world history, Jewish history and American government at Kellman Brown for 25 years, where she taught all three of Eric and Kathie’s children. Varadi, a native Israeli, has taught for nine years and currently teaches Hebrew and Jewish studies to third- and fifth-graders.
Although Barmach and Varadi are being recognized for their individual pedagogy, each is quick to point out that the environment of the entire academy is conducive to quality education.
“We have an excellent faculty and any one of us could have received this,” said Barmach. “To be so honored honors everyone on the faculty.” Varadi echoed this sentiment. “We’re all very close to each other, which makes teaching here rewarding and fun. I come from Israel, and to be recognized in America is a way to spread the love of Hebrew and of Israel,” she said.
Eric and Kathie Fraint established the award as the best way to honor Herman Fraint’s memory by donating to a cause that combines a love of Judaism with a commitment to education. The choice of the recipient school was a natural: Eric and Kathie’s three children Ellen, Aaron and Jacob all attended Kellman Brown, and Eric serves on its Board of Trustees. The award is housed in a charitable fund managed by The Philadelphia Foundation.
Herman Fraint grew up in Burlington, Vermont, in a deeply religious family. While other members of the family were able to achieve higher education, Herman Fraint went to work as a photographer. He eventually established a successful photography business in New York, and raised his own family in the suburbs of Bergen County, North Jersey.
“My father had a love of Judaism and at the same time he taught us to appreciate teachers,” said Eric. “His respect for teachers grew out of his understanding the importance of education. Family situations had prevented him from going to college, but he never lost his love of learning.
“He was an avid reader, and would read the newspaper every day from cover to cover. I don’t know that I really appreciated how much he knew until I went to college,” he said. “I would come home from school and try to impress my father with things I had learned about business and the world, and he always knew more than me!” Herman Fraint passed away in February, 1990, at the age of 68.
Established in 1958, Kellman Brown Academy is an accredited member of the Solomon Schechter Day School Association, a voluntary association of Jewish day schools in 19 states and two Canadian provinces. Offering secular and Jewish education and programs to nearly 200 youth from nursery through 8th grade, the school is founded upon the principles of integrated general and Judaic studies, teaching Jewish values, and developing leadership skills in a challenging and supportive environment.
The dual curriculum’s goal is to produce well educated ethical individuals who will enjoy success in future study and who become valuable contributors to the American and Jewish communities. The curriculum and religious practices are a product of Conservative ideology, in which Judaism is studied in its historical perspective and is viewed as a living religious and cultural heritage. Students are taught the major features of American civilization and Western culture, to foster pride in the United States, and to actively promote its welfare. The Hebrew language is seen as both a second language and an essential key to open the door to Jewish culture and history.
The awards were presented at the school’s annual tribute dinner on May 6, 2010.