Look at Who Made You

by Emilia Diamant

Sheila Goldberg

David Sherman

Fran Niberg

Todd Markley

Rachael Bregman

David Wolfman

These are only six of many Jewish educators who shaped me during my formative years. They taught me at Sunday School, in youth group, in my Hebrew High School program, as Principals, and as mentors. They are people who I see now at URJ Biennials, when I go to Shabbat services at my home congregation, or as they post on Facebook. I may be in touch with them regularly or rarely, by email or through my parents. What ties them all together is that I would not be who I am today without them.

When I struggled with my mother over attending weekday classes (yes it’s true, it happens to everyone), David Sherman would welcome me into the room and make chanting V’ahavtah challenging but interesting. Fran engaged me in thoughtful discussions about why Vashti was a hero for Jewish people everywhere. Todd taught me how to connect Torah text to Star Wars. Rachael Bregman helped me understand that all you need to create holy space is a candle, close friends, and a good Jewish question. Rabbi Wolfman taught me that the fact that I cry in public is a beautiful thing. And Sheila was my first Religious School Principal—the one I look to for guidance in the most challenging of moments.

I remember their names, their faces, and I remember what they taught me. I suspect I will always remember these things about them because they mattered to me. Sure, I remember the people who taught me in my secular schools as well, but what we are able to do in religious schools, in these supplementary settings, is go deeper—not just teach a text or an equation, but help to mold well rounded, wonderful Jewish human beings. We can talk about what’s happening at home or on the news, we can share pieces of personal information to help build relationships, we can talk about the tough stuff head on instead of skirting around the issue.

And at Temple Beth Or, our teachers allow our students to take the lead. We are a grassroots organization in that way—our teachers walk in with lesson plans, but they know that if the students decide the conversation or the activity needs to go in another, more meaningful and important direction for them, that’s the way it will go.

Every week I am blessed to watch beautiful moments happen in classrooms. Stacey plays Hebrew bowling with her students, Morgan helps a 1st grader with an art project, Nancy and her students wrestle with Torah text, Kenny shares his experiences about becoming a bar mitzvah, students stand on the table with Janet, Kordell does dramatic reenactment of Bible stories. These moments enhance our students lives and getting to see them makes my life better.

I am blessed to be their teacher. I am blessed to work with the teachers at TBORS. I am blessed to watch beautiful teaching happen every week within these walls. We are blessed to have these amazing teachers and madrichim teach our children. And for that we can all say Amen.

Emilia Diamant is the Principal at Temple Beth Or Religious School in Raleigh, North Carolina, and is also a member of the RJ.org Editorial Board.  This was originally posted on her blog.

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