Since Sinai, the student-teacher relationship in Judaism has been considered as sacred as the relationship between parent and child. In recognition of this, the Agency for Jewish Learning this past Sunday paid tribute to 19 special teachers from all across the geographical and denominational map of Pittsburgh.
The program opened with a d’var Torah from guest speaker Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, in which he, in relation to this week’s Parsha, spoke of how progress occurs only in short, staccato blasts and not in one long, sustained effort.
This lesson was echoed throughout the main part of the presentation as one by one, individuals, the vast majority not rabbis, were called up, embraced and vigorously applauded in recognition of their many years of steadfast dedication to teaching the next generation of Jews.
“I was very touched that I was the one person in our entire synagogue who was recognized. And to be recognized in front of your fellow educators is the greatest honor a teacher can receive,” said Marc Schermer, teacher of fifth- and sixth-graders at Adat Shalom.
“I am especially grateful to the AJL for providing the resources that make it possible for the laity to shape beliefs and attitudes to help us do what we do,” Schermer, who works in the insurance industry by day, added.
Zipora Gur, director of advanced education at the AJL, well knows the value of helping teachers move students forward.
“It is very important to recognize teachers who give their lives to their students,” she said. “Our job is to make them better teachers, so that they can help their students to succeed. That’s what makes this so beautiful.”
Honoree Jacob Naveh, who was born in Haifa, in addition to being a renowned musician, has taught Hebrew and chanting to over one thousand b’nai mitzvah students at Temple Emanuel of the South Hills over the past 40 years.
“I have seen generations both here and at Beth El [where he has also taught for 20 years]. Students grow up and have me teach their children.”
“This is a nice reward,” he said, “but the real milestone is getting a thank you note from a student.”
(Derek Kwait can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)