Avi West Endowment

In Memory of Avi West, Our Community’s Beloved Master Teacher

A partnership between the Jewish Community and the West Family.

Donations to the Avi West Endowment will honor Avi’s memory and accomplishments by granting up to $5,000 to one exemplary local Jewish educator, as the recipient of the annual “Avi West Jewish Educator Award.” We hope you will honor Avi’s legacy and make a gift in his memory.

Gift Levels

$360Kehillah (Individual or Community Organization)

$36Talmid (Student)
$180Chaver (Friend)
$500Moreh Derech (Guide)
$1,000Lamdan (Scholar)
$5,000 Dugma Ishit (Role Model)
$10,000Manhig (Leader)
$25,000Gaon (Wise Person)
$50,000Tomchei Tzibur (Community Supporter)

Avi West, Leaving a Communal Legacy of Lifelong Jewish Living and Learning

As a master teacher and a creative, innovative educator, Avi’s depth of Jewish knowledge was only matched by his depth of character. Embodying warmth, empathy and humility, Avi demonstrated a unique talent for weaving together rich Jewish content with contemporary topics. He brilliantly created relevant, joyful learning experiences for people of all ages, backgrounds and identities. He helped us stretch and grow—as humans and as a Jewish community.

Avi West was born in 1952; a miracle baby to loving and caring parents who were told that carrying a pregnancy would not be possible. Fortunately, the determination and strength his mother embodied didn’t let that stop her.  Avi never stopped bringing wonder and delight to his family, classmates, peers, colleagues and friends. From school to summer camp to youth group to synagogue to concerts to foodie festivals, Avi’s magnetic personality attracted friends and fans of all walks of Jewish life.

Growing up without siblings, Avi connected with each and every one of us as a member of his Jewish family. With a career dedicated to K’lal Yisrael (the Jewish people) he made each of us feel better about the world and our role in it. He transformed our lives, and he transformed our community.

Avi was a true cornerstone of our Washington metro area Jewish community for over 40 years. He was the model of a Jewish communal professional.  He always had the best interests of the community at heart. Avi valued the uniqueness of each person and organization, while also recognizing our common interests and commitments.  Avi built trust and confidence across our community—even in times of contention or division—because he was guiding us toward the beacon of Jewish learning and literacy.  Avi was relatable, genuine, and exceedingly generous in time and spirit—a real mensch.

Avi’s smile and laugh were contagious; his energy and enthusiasm lit up the room because each person there felt he was shining uniquely for them. With unparalleled wit, whimsy, puns and word play Avi’s humor was legendary, yet he never took himself too seriously. He was masterful in selecting just the right poem or song to fit the beauty and poignancy of a moment. He infused meaning and purpose into his work bringing out the extraordinary in Jewish learning and in every person. Avi made room for every perspective at the table, and showed his appreciation for others, which is why he was beloved by so many.

Avi exuded endless optimism and hope that lifted our spirits. His spirit was lifted every day by his greatest treasures—his wife, Chagit; children Yohai (Yael) and Liron (Justin); and grandchildren whom he cherished dearly.

Avi died at age 68 in August 2021/Av 5781. His words, lessons, and actions will endure through the people he taught and then all of the people they taught. We are a better Jewish community because Avi was a part of it.  Zichrono l’vracha – his memory will always be a blessing.

Avi West Jewish Educator Award

MollyBeth Jacobs Rushfield has been named the inaugural recipient of the Avi West Jewish Education Award, honoring the memory of our beloved community educator — Avi West z”l. The Avi West Endowment Fund supports an annual award for professional development for an exemplary Jewish educator who embodied Avi’s character, his love of Jewishness, Israel, and every Jewish individual. The quality of the candidates was so impressive that an anonymous donor stepped forward to remember two more exceptional Jewish educational leaders and honor two of Avi’s beloved Jewish education colleagues and collaborators — Barry Krasner and Shulamith Reich Elster. This additional gift recognizes two additional outstanding Jewish community educators from the initial group of Avi West nominees — Debra Beland Ackerman and Sharon Freundel.

Read the full press release here