Forty-two years can bring about a lot of changes to an institution, but one thing that has remained constant at Community Day School has been the spirited and supportive presence of Tzippy Mazer.
Now, Mazer, who serves CDS as head of Hebrew and Jewish studies and head of lower school, has announced that she will be retiring in 2020.
It’s been an amazing run.
She is beloved by administrators, teachers and students alike, and the feeling is mutual.
“It is very bittersweet,” said Mazer, who is planning to spend more time with her family when she retires. “I look forward to coming to school. I love the kids. They’re wonderful. They have something new to offer you every single day. And the teachers are like a family to me. But just like with everything in life, there comes a point where change is good. It’s a new adventure and we will see where it leads.”
Mazer was born in Russia, moved with her family to Israel, then emigrated to Pittsburgh when she was in fifth grade. Her fluency in Russian, Hebrew and English, and her degrees in elementary and special education, provided a solid foundation for her career in the classroom.
She came to CDS in 1976 after teaching for two years at Hillel Academy. CDS had just opened its doors in 1972, at the old Hebrew Institute building at the corner of Forbes and Denniston avenues in Squirrel Hill.
When Mazer came to see the school, she knew that was where she wanted to be.
“It was new, it was different, it gave me different opportunities,” she recalled. “It was an opportunity to work with different age kids, and to be on a kind of building block, because we weren’t sure which direction the school was going in yet. It was a community school. It was small. At that point, when I came to observe it, it only went up to fourth grade, and it was adding one grade at a time.”
She joined the school as a teacher, but took on more and more responsibilities as the years progressed.
“It was Tzippy who approached me and asked me to agree to be considered as an applicant for the head of school position at CDS,” recalled Munro. “I asked her then if she would agree to be my partner as head of Hebrew and Jewish studies if I were to be selected as the next head of school. Knowing that Tzippy’s attention to detail, organizational skills, and long tenure at the school would be complementary in areas I felt were not areas of strength for me, I felt more confident about taking on the headship of Community Day School. At the onset of the 2004-2005 academic year, my first act as head of school was to appoint her as head of Hebrew and Jewish studies.”
In 2014, Mazer took on the position of head of lower school as well. Having so many responsibilities at CDS was not daunting for Mazer because of her committed and supportive staff.
“Enjoying the people you work with makes it a labor of love,” she said.
For 27 years, she has “mentored” CDS teacher Nancy Glick.
“When any teacher appears at her door, Tzippy drops whatever she is doing and gives you her undivided attention,” Glick said. “She knows how to listen and give the best guidance, from helping a student, to effective advice on how to interact with each family in the way that is most effective for the child and the parents. All this Tzippy does with acceptance and an open heart and unflagging energy.”
Through her four decades at CDS, Mazer has witnessed lots of changes, improvements, and growth at the school.
“My first year here, we celebrated the fifth-year anniversary of the school,” she recalled. “Our big celebration at the time was the fathers cooking a spaghetti dinner for everyone. So, we’ve come a long way since then.”
Although CDS has been “always great,” according to Mazer, “throughout the years, the big plus of the school is it always looked for ways to get better and better and better, to look at best practices, and look at the kids, and see what our students need, and really work with the teachers and train the teachers to give students what they need, realizing it’s not one size fits all.”
The school administration has also been willing to change along with a changing world, she said.
“The students we have now are not the same as the students that I had when I started, when computers were unheard of —they were these dinosaurs in a room,” Mazer noted. “These kids are used to being in a very fast-moving world where every single thing is at their fingertips. They can get any bit of information.
Recognizing that, you recognize what they need to learn is how to apply skills. And the best way is not by sitting and lecturing them, but by letting them experience and discover on their own. And that’s been the beauty of the school. We really do take the direction where we encourage our kids to be who they are.”
Highlights of her time at CDS include its popular biennial Hebrew song and dance festival, Zimriah, and the annual eighth grade trip to Israel, for which she regularly serves as chaperone.
“Another highlight is when former students are coming here to look at the school for their children, and then are bringing them here,” Mazer said. “We have several families, and it’s really funny to look at these parents who are all together, and say, ‘ Do you remember when you were in my class?’”
While it is not common for anyone these days to spend almost their entire working career at the same place, Mazer never felt the need to make a move.
“I think I got everything that I needed by being here,” she said. “It gave me personal growth. I was able to do things that I really enjoyed. I looked forward to coming to work every day. I like to keep very busy, and I think I can honestly say that I never, ever, ever get bored because there is always something unique and something that is happening. It’s home.”
Mazer will be transitioning to part-time next semester, before retiring after the end of the 2019-’20 academic year. She will maintain her duties as head of Hebrew and Jewish studies while the school conducts a search for her replacement. Andrea Erven-Victoria, the co-director of the Early Childhood Program at CDS, will take over as head of lower school.
“Tzippy will still be around part-time,” noted Erven-Victoria. “I feel fortunate to have her as a mentor, and know that I can always turn to that support and wisdom. Knowing that I am going to be supported makes me feel more confident. I’m so excited about being at this school and being part of the amazing team they’ve built.” pjc
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at