Meet the Honorees: Judy and Rabbi Josh Elkin

Special Events

On May 29th, Mayyim Hayyim’s annual benefit, Making Waves, will celebrate four dear friends and community leaders for their impact at Mayyim Hayyim and beyond. 

For two people whose careers have been defined by supporting others, it seems fitting that both Judy and Josh Elkin credit mentors and family members who led them to careers in Jewish education – and to one another.

Born and raised in Seattle, Judy attended Brandeis University, where Professor Marshall Sklare encouraged her to pursue graduate studies in education. Another mentor, Shelly Dorph, recommended the Jewish studies and education program at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles – a move that led to the Los Angeles Hebrew High School, where she eventually became vice principal. In that role, Judy returned to attend a conference at Brandeis where she went to a session taught by Rabbi Josh Elkin, who was at least as interesting as his subject.

Later that day, she called him from the airport and left a message, inviting him to join her for a drink while she waited for her flight. Josh missed the call but they stayed in touch and after several months of correspondence and conversation, Judy invited Josh to celebrate Passover with her. When he offered to clean the oven, Judy knew she’d met her bashert (intended); she moved to Boston and they were engaged soon after.

The Elkins became leaders in the field of Jewish education while raising three children: Jon, Ben, and Liza. Judy directed the Brandeis DeLeT Program, which trains day school teachers. “Mentoring those young students brought it full circle,” she says.

Josh’s parents were passionate advocates of Jewish education – his father served as the Executive Director of the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Rhode Island, and his mother was a committed Hebrew school teacher. After ordination at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Josh was Head of School at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston for 20 years (where he spoke Hebrew whenever he addressed students), and then served as Executive Director of the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, a grantmaking and advocacy organization that supported Jewish day schools across North America. He is currently an Executive and Leadership Coach.

Both Judy and Josh have been supporters of Mayyim Hayyim from the beginning. Judy helped train Mikveh Guides, and created and taught “Beyond the Huppah,” where engaged and newly married couples explore ways to create a Jewish home, manage their finances, and maintain healthy intimacy. The program is now a formal curriculum used by communities across the country and was adapted by Honeymoon Israel for their participants.

In 2007 Judy became a certified Life Coach, and works primarily with both career transition clients and executives, a profession that combines her love of teaching, training, and working with people one-on-one. She is proud to have coached both of Mayyim Hayyim’s executive directors: Aliza Kline, and Carrie Bornstein, a former DeLeT student.

Josh’s career in the Jewish world made him keenly aware of the importance of healthy partnerships between professionals and lay leaders. He, Shelly Dorph, and Susan Shevitz created Onboard, a program of Legacy Heritage Fund, to provide training and coaching to board leaders of Jewish nonprofits. Sheri Gurock, Mayyim Hayyim’s board president, was one of the first participants. In 2016, Legacy Heritage awarded Mayyim Hayyim a matching grant that supported the creation of the Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network, which now includes 29 existing and aspiring mikva’ot from across the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel, and Australia.

Judy and Josh know the power of mikveh first-hand, having immersed when they became empty nesters, and having accompanied Kiley – their now-daughter-in-law – to the mikveh when she became a Jew. Judy says, “Though Kiley and Jon were living in Seattle, I was so grateful they wanted to come here to immerse. We really wanted to guarantee she’d have a spiritual and meaningful experience, and that her parents would feel welcome. Mayyim Hayyim is that place!”

Join us for a fun and festive evening of storytelling and live music. RSVP or donate here.

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