Everyone who knew Rose Ruderman has their own stories to tell.
Her grandchildren remember the jars of coins she saved and handed to them, even though she had little money for herself. Her daughter-in-law, with a broad smile on her face, tells how Rose always made her feel as though she were one of her own.
Rose’s friends, neighbors, and fellow congregants took delight in her culinary skills, as she often awoke before sunrise to cook Shabbat dinner. They benefited from her affection, too: When she learned a member of the community needed help, she was there to lend a hand.
And Rose’s daughter recalls a mom who, through her words and actions, in times of joy and hardship, demonstrated that a rich life comes not through financial wealth, but through embracing Jewish values.
Thursday, June 6, marked the 11th anniversary of the Rose Ruderman Scholars Award, which was celebrated at the home of Rony and Sharon Shapiro, one of Rose’s granddaughters. Seven students from Boston-area Orthodox Jewish schools received awards not for academic excellence, nor extracurricular pursuits, but for simply being good people.
The recipients include pupils from fifth to 12th grade who exhibit the principles Rose embodied—and, by doing so, continue her cherished legacy. They are listed below along with descriptions provided by their schools.
Miriam Polter, Bais Yaakov: “Miriam has a smile and encouraging words for everyone, and her passion is doing for others.”
Eliezer Ehrenkranz, Maimonides School: “Eliezer is a true mensch and always careful about how he treats other people. He is a baal chessed (master of lovingkindness) in the truest sense, not only in his work with Yachad, but in his daily interactions with those fortunate enough to have Eliezer as part of their kehilla (community).”
Chananya Reidler, Mesivta: “Chananya is involved in many chesed (lovingkindness) initiatives. He teaches Mishna to elementary age boys in his free time, arranges the Mesivta slideshow for the annual Melave Malka and led the Mesivta choir at various events.”
Devorah Leah Posner, New England Hebrew Academy: “Devorah is a vivacious teenager who is an involved participant in activities of all sorts: academic, social and community related.”
Ness Epstein, Striar Hebrew Academy: “Ness is the quietest of heroes. She is never looking for attention but is always on the lookout to help others.”
Leah Weinreb, Torah Academy: “Leah was unanimously chosen for her sterling character, giving nature and her commitment to helping others.”
Yakov Sundel, Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael: “Yakov is a wonderful role model for fellow students at Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael. He is serious about his studies while also finding time to help others.”
As leaders from the day schools spoke about the boys and girls being honored, woven into each story were the traits that made Rose such a revered woman: kindness and compassion, integrity and inclusivity, respect and open-mindedness, the desire to improve the lives of others.
“That’s what my grandmother was all about,” Sharon said. “She was a very simple woman who didn’t have a lot of material things in her life. To remember her this way is really meaningful to us. We feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to bring life to these remarkable kids.”
The Rudermans, who have long championed Orthodox Jewish day school education, created a need-based scholarship endowment in Rose’s name in 1999. In partnership with CJP’s Initiative for Day School Excellence, the Ruderman Family Foundation established the $1,000 scholarship to be used toward these students’ future education.
“My grandmother was a very humble person. I think she would be very overwhelmed by this, and I hope she’d be proud,” Sharon Shapiro said. “She was somebody who would never want any kind of attention, someone who always worked for others. Honestly, she was never recognized for anything in her life; she was just there for those in need, a good person who helped a lot of people.”
Inside Rony and Sharon’s home, recipients and their families, along with representatives from all seven schools, gathered for an intimate ceremony. CJP President and CEO Rabbi Marc Baker attended, too, and as a passionate educator himself, offered some words of wisdom.
“More and more, education is preparing our kids to win a race that’s actually going nowhere. And if the Jewish community has anything to teach the world, it’s the fact that great education shouldn’t be a race to nowhere—it should be a journey to somewhere,” he said.
Looking around at the students, Rabbi Baker added, “That happens when we develop young people like all of you, who have merited winning this prize, who understand that knowledge is important and necessary, but it is not sufficient. When you couple knowledge with values, that’s when you really change the world.”