The co-founder of the Mazel Day School (2915 Brighton 6th Street) in Brighton Beach, Chani Okonov, received the Jewish Education Project Young Pioneers Award.
The award was given due to her connection with the day school and the work she’s done for a school that primarily serves the Russian-speaking Jewish community in Southern Brooklyn.
The Jewish Education Project praised Okonov on their site and wrote:
Under Chani’s leadership, the school has grown from just three children in 2002, to 14 classes and over 170 students today. Known for its warm environment and child-centered approach, MDS also maintains high standards in professionalism, academic achievement and engaging learning experiences.
Much of the school’s aim, Lubavitch news writes, is to reconnect Russian Jews with their religious past and help them preserve their cultural connections while assimilating into the larger American culture.
Okonov told Lubavitch news, “Russian Jews could be fully assimilated in less than one generation, unless their Jewish identity is revived.”
The article continues:
Creating a Jewish day school experience that would re-engage this demographic has been Okonov’s vision ever since. Together with her husband, Chabad emissary Rabbi Avermel Okonov, the couple established the school under the auspices of the F.R.E.E. organization (a grassroots institution founded by emigres from the Soviet Union).