Tzav – 5783 – Honoring Our Teachers with our 10th Anniversary Education Awards

By: Susan Moger

The teachers of the Kehillat Chaverim: Rabbi Michele Sullum, recipient of the Kehillat Chaverim 10th Anniversary Award Golda Meier Award for Excellence in Teaching and Fred Nathan and Larry Tobin, recipients of the Kehillat Chaverim 10th Anniversary Maimonides Awards for Excellence in Teaching

Let’s begin our D’var Torah today since we all want to end on time of our High Tea, which I named our British Yiddish Kiddush. I have attended synagogue in London at the New London Synagogue on the famous, Abbey Road. They have a prayer to the King, as we have a prayer to our country so for today I will include G-d Bless King Charles III.

Today’s Torah reading Tzav continues the Torah’s instructions regarding korbanos (altar offerings). Where Parashat Vayikra focused on the altar aspect of the offerings, Parashat Tzav concentrates on the human aspect: which parts of each offering are given to the kohen, which parts of each offering are eaten by the bringer of the offering and his family and guests, and which offerings are not eaten at all.

Instructions are provided clearly and decisively. They are teachings to be followed. We, too, have teachings quite often as we attend our services at our Kehillah. We have members who clearly and decisively select scholarly courses of study for us covering different topics than our weekly dvar Torah. Aren’t we fortunate to have such a learned group of our teachers volunteering to give us such a fine selection of courses on an ongoing basis? When the Kehillat Chaverim 10th Anniversary Challenge was announced, Fred asked what the award was. I said it was to do a mitzvah, which is true. Today as we approach our 10th anniversary it is time to give awards to our teachers, who didn’t wait for the challenge. Each individually stepped up to offer an array of classes for us. They have tirelessly put together classes for us on different topics in Jewish history and studies, spending time preparing and customizing each class just for us. They also are great resources who answer our questions and provide additional information from their scholarly studies during our services. Everyone in the Kehillat does their part, but these individuals also bring their Jewish scholarship and are such a benefit to our Kehillah community and our services.

First let’s learn about Michele, our only current member who is a rabbi.

Education: BA in Philosophy (UCLA), MA in Education & MA in Hebrew Letters from the University of Judaism in LA, Ordination from JTSA in NYC. 

Work Experience: Chaplaincy at NYU Medical Center, Education Director at SAJ in NYC, Judaic Studies Director at Gesher JDS in NoVA, Education Director at Cong. Shearith Israel in Dallas, TX.

Classes Michele taught for KC: 

What’s God Got to Do With It? How and Why Halacha (Jewish Law) Developed.

The History of the 4 Jewish Movements

Kedoshim: Jewish Concepts of Holiness

High Holiday Class: Giving Forgiveness in Jewish Tradition

Pre-Passover Workshop: Hidden Messages of the Haggadah

Why did Michele  become a rabbi? Originally her plan was to obtain an MA in Jewish education. She decided to study for rabbinic ordination when she realized that her professional ambitions in Jewish education demanded learning and skills that an MA in Jewish Education couldn’t give her. In order to achieve her goal properly and well, she decided she needed a program of study that would enable her to become a deeply educated Jew as well as a spiritual leader. Her ultimate goal in becoming a Jewish educator was to change the Jewish educational paradigm so as to make elementary and teen Jewish learning experiences more engaging, challenging, spiritual, creative, & enriching because she believed that doing so would enable students to achieve much higher levels of understanding and proficiency in core Jewish subjects such as Hebrew, Tefillah, Torah, and Jewish rituals. At that point in time, the University of Judaism in L.A. (now the American Hebrew University) was offering a dual curriculum program which allowed students to work on an MA in education simultaneously with their first two years of rabbinical school – after which they would finish ordination studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in NYC. This program seemed ideal for Michele’s purpose, so she ended up becoming a rabbi in addition to a Jewish educator. Although American society tends to view the title “Rabbi” as superior to that of “Jewish Educator,” Michele believes that Jewish education has always been the heart and soul of Jewish life. Without a good Jewish education as its foundation, one’s Jewish identity can easily become a kind of perceived ethnic superiority – the very antithesis of the central Jewish belief that all of humankind was created in God’s image.

Next let’s learn about Fred.

Frederick Nathan, born in Brooklyn, N.Y., attended Jewish day elementary

and high schools. Received a B.A. from Yeshiva College and B.H.L. (Bachelors of

Hebrew Literature) from Teachers’ Institute of Yeshiva University. Spent half his

junior year in Israel at Hayim Greenberg Institute for Teachers in the Diaspora

where he met his wife Esther. Awarded a fellowship to NYU graduating with a M.A.

in Education. Awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Jewish Theological

Seminary in 2008.

Fred started teaching religious school at age 18 and at age 23 assumed his first

position as principal. He spent the next 46 years as head of Jewish Day Schools in a

number of communities in America, retiring at age 69 from his last position as head

of School at Ann and Nate Levine Academy in Dallas, TX.

He is married to Esther and the father of three and grandfather of six.

Fred integrated story telling in his lessons and began writing following his

retirement. He has published two fictional novels and is presently completing two

short stories based on Jewish history. He is a history buff and news junkie.

Now let’s learn about Larry Tobin

Larry received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in math from Purdue University. Larry then went on for a Juris Doctorate in law at Southwestern School of Law in Los Angeles.  Larry attended high school at the Skokie Yeshiva and Chicago Jewish Academy. Larry taught Sunday School for 3 years at two different synagogues and he taught  junior high and high school math and science for 8 years (4 years in public schools and 4 years in Jewish Day Schools).  He taught college math for 1 year at a Community College. When he completed junior high and high school teaching, he worked as an attorney for 26 years. Larry ran his own firm with 13 attorneys and a staff of more than 30 for 20 of those 26 years. He taught various law classes to staff attorneys and claims examiners during his attorney years. He also prepared a workers’ compensation manual for an insurance company teaching the subject nationally to its attorneys and claims examiners when he worked as an attorney for the insurance company

Isn’t it nice to learn more about our teachers? Today we express our appreciation for their contribution to our community. Their work is not done, of course, as we get ready to embark on our second decade. Let’s move on to the award ceremony, since we all want kiddush on time today.

I asked Michele for a copy of the KC logo. She asked what it was for and said its use should stay within the Kehillah. Well today she will learn what I did with it and, of course, we are within the Kehillah. I’d like to ask Joel Roffman, President of the Kehillat Chaverim, to present our teachers with their awards.

Joel Roffman then presented Rabbi Michele Sullum with the Kehillat Chaverim 10th Anniversary Golda Meir Award for Excellence in Teaching and presented Fred Nathan and Larry Tobin with the Kehillat Chaverim 10th Anniversary Maimonides Award for Excellence in Teaching.

All of us at the Kehillah thank all of our teachers for their contributions and the work you do to prepare and give us such wonderful educational opportunities.

Let us continue to pray for Peace in the Ukraine. Shabbat Shalom.

Teachings, Words From Our Members|