Reconstructionists give top honor to educator

Reconstructionists give top honor to educator

Ellen Kolba, winner of the Reconstructionist Federation’s Moreh Derekh Award
Ellen Kolba, winner of the Reconstructionist Federation’s Moreh Derekh Award

Linda Jum, managing director of The Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life in Whippany, will be honored with the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation’s national Yehudit Award.

The award honors leadership and creativity in Jewish education and recognizes Jum’s work with No’ar Hadash, the Reconstructionist youth movement, and especially its Camp JRF in South Sterling, Pa.

“Linda has been a real powerhouse for greater youth activity, and we are really thrilled to honor her,” Melanie Schneider, JRF regional director, told NJ Jewish News.

“I spent many years of planning and dreaming before our summer camp came to fruition,” Jum said in a phone interview March 1.

The member of Bnai Keshet, the Reconstructionist synagogue in her hometown of Montclair, has served on the national Reconstructionist federation’s board of directors and is treasurer of the Camp JRF board of directors.

“This fits in very well with my work at the Partnership,” she said. “What I do professionally and what I do as a Reconstructionist lay leader are connected.”

The Partnership is a beneficiary agency of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ.

The award will provide seed money for The Linda C. Jum Fund for Innovative Youth Initiatives, which will serve as an incubator for programs in leadership development.

“I want to fulfill an unmet need among young people in the Reconstructionist movement,” she said. “We get kids at our camp who feel very excited and connected. Then they go off to college and they may keep in touch, but we have not been doing anything for them from an institutional point of view.” The fund, she said, will provide ways “for young college graduates to stay connected.”

Another Montclair resident and Bnai Keshet member, Ellen Kolba, will also be honored by the Reconstructionist Federation’s New York/New Jersey region.

She will receive the Moreh Derekh Award for teachers and leaders who have “shown us the path.”

Kolba, a 29-year member of Bnai Keshet, has been active in her congregation’s leadership “and practically all of the committees there are.” She currently chairs Bnai Keshet’s Tikkun Olam Committee.

Kolba also volunteers as a visitor to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Detention Center in Elizabeth, offering assistance to asylum-seekers claiming persecution on political or religious grounds.

She describes her fellow congregants at Bnai Keshet as a “very interesting group of people who always stand up for those whose rights have been curtailed. That has always been a big motivator for me.”

“Ellen has been on every important committee and initiative that has brought Bnai Keshet to the flourishing place it is now,” said Schneider.

The two women will receive their awards at an Evening of Celebration on Monday, March 8, at the Eldridge Street Synagogue in New York City. Jum, who is currently recovering from back surgery, said she hopes to be able to attend.

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