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January 23, 2020; New York, NY – The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) proudly announces that Jo-Ellen Unger, RJE, has been named a 2020 Distinguished Educator by the Association of Reform Jewish Educators (ARJE). Unger, the founding director of the URJ 6 Points Creative Arts Academy, is the first camp director to receive this recognition.
The Distinguished Educator Honor is awarded to educators who exemplify the values of ARJE and make significant contributions to Reform Jewish education in all its forms. Unger and Dr. Lesley Litman, RJE, will both be recognized as the 2020 Distinguished Educator Honorees at the ARJE Annual Gathering in Denver, Colorado, taking place January 27-29.
Unger is the founding director of URJ 6 Points Creative Arts Academy, the premier Jewish specialty camp dedicated to the exploration of the creative arts. She created, shaped, and brought into existence the vision of the camp community as a holistic, meaningful experience for artists in a living laboratory for learning and performing. Her leadership has continued to ensure the success and growth of the 6 Points Creative Arts Academy since opening in 2018.
Throughout her education and career, Unger has connected the worlds of Jewish education and the arts. Her work has an intentional, positive, and transformational impact on students, families, organizations, schools, and colleagues. She has opened countless pathways into Jewish life, whether in classrooms, workshops, performance and studio spaces, or the natural world. Her abundant musical and artistic talents enhance lessons, t’filah (prayer), and informal learning experiences.
“To be recognized for doing what you love, in the company of many of the people to whom you’ve looked up as role models in your career, is truly humbling,” said Unger. “The efforts of the ARJE in advancing the field of Jewish education in all its forms are a gift to the field and it’s an honor to be included as a practitioner of this sacred work. My gratitude goes out to my teachers and colleagues.”
Dr. Kathy Schwartz, RJE, ARJE president said, “Jo-Ellen is rare in the authenticity she brings to the enterprise of Jewish education. This inspires others to be receptive to her as she embodies the tradition and shows how the ancient ideas and ideals of Judaism can be lived in the modern world. ARJE is pleased to recognize her accomplishments as an innovator, leader, and role model by recognizing Jo-Ellen as the first camp director to receive the Distinguished Educator Honor.”
“The entire 6 Points Creative Arts Academy family is thrilled that Jo-Ellen is being recognized by the ARJE,” said Deborah Sternberg, CAA council chair. “Jo-Ellen works tirelessly to create an inclusive environment where hundreds of campers from around the world come together each summer to learn and experience Judaism through the lens of art. The fact that she is the first camp director to receive this prestigious honor is another testament to Jo-Ellen’s commitment to continually strengthen Jewish lives of all ages.”
Unger is an alumna of the Executive Master’s Program in Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She was selected to serve as the Fall 2019 Dr. Michael Zeldin Alumna-in-Residence, a program that recognizes alumni who are doing exceptional work and brings their experience teaching in the field directly into HUC-JIR’s education programs.
About the Union for Reform Judaism
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) builds community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life. Providing vision and voice to transform the way people connect to Judaism, we help congregations stay relevant and innovative, motivate more young Jews to embrace Jewish living, agitate for a more progressive society, and foster meaningful connections to Israel.
Founded in 1873, URJ has grown into the largest and most powerful force in North American Jewish life, with nearly 850 member congregations and work that inspires, connects, and educates millions of people. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision mean that we can unite thousands of years of tradition with a modern, evolving Judaism to strengthen Jewish communities today and for future generations.
Visit us at www.URJ.org to learn about our social justice initiatives, camps and programs for young Jews, services for congregations and communities, and how you can work with us to create a more just, whole, and compassionate world. Enjoy related content at ReformJudaism.org and connect with URJ on Twitter and Facebook.