Our Stories

Mazal Tov to 2024 Ruby Award Winner, Adam Lowy

The Ruby Award is Jewish LearningWorks’ award for excellence in Jewish youth education and engagement. This annual opportunity for recognition was established in 2020 in collaboration with the San Francisco Teen Initiative, to amplify the importance of teen engagement. We are proud to give this award in memory of Rob Ruby, and honor his commitment to teen education.

In 2024, the Ruby Award was awarded to Adam Lowy, Lifelong Learning Moreh Derech at Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco. As an educator, Adam understands how to meet youth where they are, and bring the wisdom and joy of Jewish tradition and community to that meeting. In his time at Congregation Beth Sholom he has re-energized the post-b’nai mitzvah programs–from the Shabbat School Madrichim program to creating “Jews for Hot Cocoa. Parents report having to drag their teens out of his programs at the end of the evening, because long after the program ends they are still sitting together, talking excitedly and laughing while they discuss their Jewish identities, values, and how to live lives of meaning and purpose.

We are honored to share with you Adam Lowy’s words and teaching, as he received the Ruby Award

I would like to thank:

  • Jewish LearningWorks for this award, and for all you do for me and other Jewish educators throughout the Bay Area;
  • Eileen Ruby for her generous support of youth programming;
  • My friends and colleagues that are here, and my friends and colleagues who are not;
  • My family – Irit, Micah, my beshert, my soulmate, Shira, my Mom who is here from Detroit and my brother Jordan.

And, thank you Beth Sholom teens – the Madrichim that work every Shabbat at Shabbat School, and especially to the Jews for Hot Cocoa crew – for your enthusiasm, passion and desire to continue your Jewish learning.

Thank you.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the great mazal – fortune – that I have had throughout my life as a person, and over the years as an educator.  The great fortune being that many people saw potential in me that I was absolutely unaware of.  They encouraged me, they motivated me and they provided opportunities that I would never have sought out on my own.  Many of these people were my first teachers, and my most influential teachers – and it is wonderful to see so many of them here today: Name Mom, Shira, my brother Jordan, Janet, Denise…

I would also like to acknowledge some of my other teachers that are here today, some of my more recent teachers, that I have learned so much from: Name RAR, Dale, Alan, Ben, Dawne…

And, it would be remiss of me, not to mention, two of my greatest teachers – who I learn from everyday and who have helped me as I strive to work with the ever evolving and changing youth of the world – my children, Irit and Micah.  I have known a lot of children throughout my life and career, and I am very aware of how blessed I am to have the two that I do.  Blessed, grateful and trying my best to remain relevant, hip and up to date.

My relationship with my children brings me to the most important skill that I have developed throughout my professional career – Listening.  It may surprise some of you to know that I used to need to be the center of attention, the voice you heard the most, the most goofy, silly, wild, whatever I needed to do to feel like I was in control of the room or space that I was in.  Eventually, I realized, being with others did not have to be about me – and I began to listen.  And listening changed everything.  So, when I organized a Zoom with some Beth Sholom teens in the summer of 2020, shortly after the pandemic began and about a month after I started working at the synagogue, I asked them, “What is in place for teens at Beth Sholom that you would like me to continue?” – and, what I heard was, silence.  Then, one of them said, we really like when Rabbi Russell meets with us, and we get to drink hot cocoa.  That was it, that was what they wanted to keep.  I heard them and I listened.  And, Jews for Hot Cocoa was born.  I encourage you all, and everyone in the world to exercise their listening skills.  It is amazing what you can learn when you truly listen.  SH’MA, HEAR, LISTEN, SH’MA.

Listening is a critical part of the other foundation that my work stands upon.  Many years ago, I was reading Ron Wolfson’s book Relational Judaism, and a few pages in, he shared a Martin Buber quote, it was so simple – In the Beginning is the Relationship.  In the Beginning is the Relationship.  In the beginning, in the middle, throughout, and in the end – is the relationship.  Know every child’s name.  Know their parents and caregiver’s names.  Make eye contact when you talk with them.  Be present with people.  Maintain the relationships you have built.  This takes work, energy and time.  And this work is worth it because the relationships that you build become the canvas, the relationships become the environment where the learning, teaching and community come to life.  When the relationships are built – the learning experiences have more meaning.  When the relationships are built – a space has been created for all of us to make connections.  Jewish life and learning means more and we connect to it more deeply when we do it with people we care about, who know us, and we know them.  In the Beginning is the Relationship.

I would like to conclude with a blessing for those in the room that work with children and their families, to those in the room that work in the Jewish community, for all you Jewish professionals.  It’s a personal goal, a blessing that I also want to give myself.  When I create, offer, facilitate, lead and teach, I often watch people deeply connect, people thank me for a wonderful event, an inspiring experience, the best “fill in the blank” that I have ever been to.  And, it makes me proud, happy and – mostly fulfilled.  Yet, not entirely fulfilled because I have become aware of an empty spot.  My own personal fulfillment, a spiritual space that I want to fill with wonder, inspiration, gratitude and bests.  Professionally, I am rich and wealthy, my cup runneth over!  Personally, I’m striving and hoping to make connections, to deepen, to spiritually uplift.  I leave you all with an invitation to share a hot beverage with me, a meal, a walk – a space to share your wisdom about how you personally connect while you professionally guide.  It would be my honor to learn from you.  And together we say – Amen.  I am blessed to be with you all, thank you. 

Enjoy the photos of our learning and celebration at the 2024 Ruby Award

Photo credit: Jonathan Miller