A Leap of Faith and Todah Rabah!

Five years ago in 2013, at the end of June I found out there was the principal job position open at
TOLOLS. At that point in my career, having spent 25 years in both Jewish and secular education
at various grade levels, I was ready to take on a larger position. I had dreamed of being an
educator at a religious school, working with teachers, students, families, and other educators in
our community.


My wish came true, as one thing led to another, by mid-August I was hired as the principal of
Torah Lishmah Community. I remember telling someone close to me that I had so many new
people to meet and to get to know, and it was a bit overwhelming at first. Well, all of you made it
so easy. I was welcomed to TOLOLS with warm, encouraging, helpful and open arms. This
came from our families, our teachers, the professional staff at the Tree, and our children at the
school. Luckily, I only had one new teacher to hire as we started a new program called the Mini
Mensches. At our first staff meeting, I let our teachers show me the way. Having taught myself
for 25 years I knew best to have patience and learn the place where I was new and many others
had shaped before me. Of course I had areas I was eager to change, experiment and share my
own expertise. Yet, I knew it was best to get to know this new place, new people and learn the
culture of TOLOLS.


Looking back the past five years it seems that somehow it has been a match made in heaven. It is
hard to leave, but seems the right choice at this time. I am looking for a different type of work
schedule to meet my family needs, and our school is going through transition. It seems
appropriate to share some very special moments that stand out, as well as to thank everyone who
I have had the pleasure to work with.


A warm thank you to all the educators I have had the pleasure of working with at TLC. Each one
contributed something so special to our team over the years, and we always had each other’s
back. Our educators put our children first and are what make TLC so special. Each one
contributed something unique and we learned from each other. During the past five years we
added chugim (special interest time) to our Sundays, Hebrew Through Movement, Hebrew in
Harmony, special Tu Bishvat programming, A tashlich service, Friday night musical Shabbat
services, Israel Link Curriculum for 7th graders, a toddler, mishpacha, and Mini Mensch
program and also ga-ga. All of things were possible because of the openness and enthusiasm of
our teachers.


Thank you to our teachers:
**Lynn Berman, Carin Bendes, Julie Caplan, Avigayil Diamond, Ariella Herzberg, Anita
Kornblit. Toby Neufeld, Dalia Gal Shimon, Amit Shimshi, Alex Speck, Sharyn Stein, Randi
Weiss, Stephen Weiss, Ariella Wisenfeld**


Emily Broude and Briley Newell, both students at Carnegie Mellon University joined us often
as music specialists and brought camp spirit and joy to singing and movement with our students
and families.


Abigail Natelson, a student at the University of Pittsburgh was a reliable substitute and
chaperoned our students at J-Serve the past two years. She joined us often enough to get to know
all the students, and also taught Israeli dancing.


Another key and essential element of TLC has been our madrichim/teen helpers! One of my

favorite things as principal has been working with the teens, nurturing them, guiding them, and
watching them mature over the course of their years working. Our teachers and students
depended on them for many items such as craft set up and clean up, leading T’fillot (prayer),
Hebrew tutoring and support, Havdalah set up, clerical work and friendship with our students. Of
special note are Ben Eisenberg and Zach Spokeck who made end of year video montages each
year! Jessica Morris taught Israeli dance weekly during her senior year of high school, and
Hannah Shapiro helped her put that together into a dance performance for a Kabbalat Shabbat
dinner. Sarah Friedland, Francine Lilien, and Shoshie Weiner have all been so warm and
nurturing with our Mini Mensches, toddler and Mishpacha students. Peyton Klein helped in the
office and made sure everything was covered there. Gabe Weiner, Drew Klein, and Sammy
Nayhouse
with their strong Hebrew backgrounds taught new students to read Hebrew, and
supported others who needed a little extra help. Jonah Weiss became one of our most
enthusiastic supporters by personally selling more items than any student for every fundraiser,
and generally thinking about how he could help each time he was at school. I don’t think he
missed a day this past year. Channah Weiner kept our Sundays flowing smoothly, and we
utilized her for her excellent organizational skills. She reorganized the children’s library and put
labels on most of our books with the help of others. Isabella Mor was counted on for Tuesday
afternoons whether it be prepping an art project, hanging out during snack, or helping Janet with
office work.


Additionally, our madrichim strengthened their math and banking skills by counting up all of our
Tzedakah and learning to put the coins in the bank sleeves. They learned it is not as easy as it
looks! I hope the life lessons they learned as madrichim will stay with them always. Finally, one
of my greatest joys came my fourth and fifth year when the students I began with became our
madrichim. They loved coming back to TLC!


Thank you to our Madrichim:
**Ben Eisenberg, Sarah Friedland, Drew Klein, Peyton Klein, Francine Lilien, Isabella
Mor, Jessica Morris, Sammy Nayhouse, Hannah Shapiro, Zach Spodek, Channah Weiner,
Gabe Weiner, Shoshie Weiner, Jonah Weiss**


A special thank you to Rabbi Chuck for believing in my abilities on day one. He taught me so
much, and how to share joy, as well as Jewish learning and experiences with children. He was a
good listener and offered me appropriate advice and guidance as needed.


I enjoyed so much working with Rabbi Myers this past year. As an experienced educator, Rabbi
Myers became a mentor to me as well. He has enriched our school with our Makelah (choir),
special awards, and focus on refining our students Hebrew level and being intentional and
thoughtful in what we teach. Thank you Rabbi Myers for all of your support of our school and
families! I feel confident that under your leadership we will thrive in new areas as the Tree
explores future steps and new approaches to meet the needs of our families today.
A special thank you as well to Joel Goldstein, Alex Speck, Janet Mernagh, David Kurban, and
Augie Siriano for being a pleasure to work with on a daily basis. Augie and David were
instrumental in making sure every school day ran smoothly, from setting up snack, to preparing
the classrooms with heaters in the winter, and ensuring we always had what we needed.
Additionally, the Men’s Club provided our bagels every Sunday, made pancakes for pajama day,
and served us a delicious breakfast for the World Wide Wrap. Sisterhood supports all of our
school endeavors, and we are forever grateful for their support. This past year we enjoyed
working with them on the centerpieces for Rabbi Myer’s installation.


A final thank you must go to our immediate past president Michael Eisenberg who has

wholeheartedly supported TLC and my work. Michael has always been just a phone call or text
away for anything I needed, whether a quick question or a more involved discussion. Thank you
as well to the board of TOLOLS for your ongoing support. Best of luck to Sam Schachner and
the new board as they move forward in ever changing times at Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha.
As I conclude, I realize there is so much more I could share about the past five years. Much of it
I’ve written about in past Simcha Tree articles. It is challenging to sum it all up beyond my
many, many thank yous. It does seem clear to me, as my mother taught me, that in the end of day
we are put on this earth to do good, and contribute what we each can to make our world a better
place. As TLC principal I have had the opportunity to touch the lives of many people both within
and outside our community. I have had the joy of working with children of all ages, teens,
parents, teachers, congregants, colleagues, professional staff and volunteers in our building.
Thank you for embracing me and supporting me every step of the way. I could not ask for more,
and I pray our children will take their experiences from TLC into their lives and make our world
a better place.

 

Thank you for your continued support of our cherished students.

 

 

 

 

 

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