Tales of Nehama: Impressions of the Life and Teaching of Nehama Leibowitz

Tales of Nehama: Impressions of the Life and Teaching of Nehama Leibowitz

by Leah Abramowitz


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Tales of Nehama: Impressions of the Life and Teaching of Nehama Leibowitz by Leah Abramowitz

Who was Nehama Leibowitz? This question is thoroughly and lovingly explored in Tales of Nehama, by Lea Abramowitz. The result is a fascinating, in-depth exploration of a leading bible scholar, and renowned and revered teacher. Through hundreds of anecdotes and memories, told by Leibowitzs students, colleagues and friends, Tales of Nehama outlines Leibowitzs profound personal impact on thousands of people, and on Jewish learning and biblical criticism. Nehama Leibowitz had requested only one word to be inscribed on her tombstone: teacher. This comprehensive volume details her personal qualities that contributed to her outstanding success as an educator -- her devotion to people and acts of kindness, her modesty, her tolerance and openness to all, and her sense of humour. But Tales of Nehama goes further, to explore Leibowitzs teaching methods, in which actualisation and entertaining played a major role. From an intimate analysis of her character and beliefs -- her stand on feminism and Zionism, her views on Hareidim, the secular world, and on education -- to the central chapter, which recounts dozens of Tales of Nehama, concise, true stories that serve to outline the tremendous impact and inner workings of this great scholar, the book also comprises comprehensive sections exploring many aspects of her intellectual endeavours. These include her studies of the weekly Torah portions; an appraisal of her teaching methods; a review of her pedagogical approach; her commentaries on certain Psalms; her essay entitled "Active Learning in the Teaching of History"; an exchange of letters between Nehama Leibowitz and Professor Hugo Bergman, portraying a fascinating dialogue between two very brilliant and committed Jewish scholars; and a section exploring published articles that recognise Leibowitzs unique contribution to Jewish thought and study. The book not only answers the question Who was Nehama Leibowitz? but it also creates a vivid portrayal of a genius whose impact on Judaism was unparalleled, and will reverberate for generations to come.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789652292957
Publisher: Gefen Publishing House
Publication date: 01/28/2003
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Everyone and His Own ‘Nehama’: Kol Echad VehaNechama Shelo

Professor Nehama Leibowitz must have touched the lives of thousands of people in her lifetime. With a large number of them she had a very close relationship. Many of her students and friends felt that they had a special place in her heart, that she particularly wanted contact with them, and indeed Nehama was able to give everyone that feeling. Everyone had “his own Nehama.”
Dr. Avigdor Bonchek is one of these disciples who had a special relationship with Professor Leibowitz. Although he only met her in 1975, he became very close to her, visited her often, and used her as a sounding board for his studies in Rashi. These conversations led to his books on the commentaries of Rashi. Nehama was very proud of his work, and his book often appeared on her table. Here are his personal comments on “his Nehama”: “When I was growing up, I never had any heroes – people I wanted to emulate, who I thought were the tops … Somehow Nehama elicited that in me … maybe because I both respected her and liked her at the same time.
“She developed a special personal relationship with each and every one of us. She knew that I was a behaviorist psychologist, so she confided in me her fears. They were real fears, not just gimmicks to keep my attention, or get me to talk about things that interested me, but they were revealed, to the best of my knowledge, only to me.”
Rabbi Yochanan Freed, the director of the Torah Division of the Ministry of Education, was Nehama’s “rabbi”; that is, she regularly attended services at his synagogue in Tikvateinu after she moved to Romema and consulted him for halachic decisions. “I think she’s the most important teacher of Torah that has emerged in the last century,” he proclaims with conviction. “The scope of her influence, the way she opened parshanut to the masses, and her special method of teaching are unparalleled. Like Rabbi Pinchas Kehati, who in this generation made the Mishnah available to the layman, she brought Torah learning within the sphere of thousands who would never have broached the study otherwise.”
Nehama Ariel, wife of the Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi, and one of Nehama’s disciples, relates a story she heard coming back from Nehama’s funeral. At a ceremony at Bar Ilan, Nehama was asked to address the audience in the name of those being honored that day. Nehama began in her usual modest way, “I’m no public speaker; I’m only a teacher. Melamdim (teachers of little children), you know, are assured the World to Come. Do you know why? Because they’ve already experienced the opposite in this world!” After the laughter died out, Nehama added (almost to herself): “But I won’t get to the World to Come.” The audience stirred uncomfortably in their seats, until she continued. “And that’s because I’ve enjoyed every minute of my teaching.” And she meant it.
Frima Gurfinkle recalled how she first met Nehama as a student in the Foreign Students Program at the Hebrew University, a few months after she had made aliya from Russia. The first impression was of a powerful, somewhat fierce, and fearsome teacher, very demanding and harsh. “As I got to know her,” Frima relates, “I learned she was actually a very warm, caring, and gentle person.” She was very encouraging to the new immigrant and helped her advance in her studies with great personal input.
“I remember walking home with her along Rehov HaZvi one afternoon. Cars were shooting by in every direction, and it was really dangerous to stop and talk there. Yet she told me then, ‘My contribu- tion is not in the academic world, nor in the literary field, but only in that of teaching.’”
Indeed, she allowed only one word to be engraved on her tombstone: ‘Teacher’. According to Frima, hundreds of students had a similar special relationship with her, and each one was convinced that he alone was her favorite. “She was an outstanding personality, a marvelous teacher, and I use her as a model daily.”
For Dr. Ben Hollander, Nehama was also a model and really the reason why he changed his academic field. “I first met Nehama when I was a student at Machon Greenberg. I already had an M.A. in English literature and was sure I would continue and choose some specialty,” says Ben. But learning Torah with Nehama was such an impressive experience that he began taking courses in Bible and Jewish Thought.
“She actually gave me my start as her teaching assistant at the Hebrew University,” he continues. Today Dr. Hollander teaches at the Hebrew Union College and at the Beit Midrash of the Conservative Seminary as well. “My teaching is modeled on hers; I invariably quote from her sheurim and refer to her worksheets,” he says. “Nehama taught me to activate students and get them to ask questions. She used to say, ‘You can’t teach anyone anything; you can only help them discover the meaning for themselves.’ But she did have outstanding techniques to do that.”
One of her earliest pupils, Tzila Adler Perle, was a student nurse at Shaare Zedek Hospital in the days of Dr. Wallach and Sweister (Chief Nurse) Selma. “We worked seventeen-hour days then,” says Tzila. “Nehama knew that, and she offered us a lift in her taxi from her class at Terra Sancta. It made a big difference to us, because we didn’t have money for the bus fare.” Tzila remembers two features about Nehama. “She had a wonderful smile,” she says, “and I’ve always been impressed with her ability to present complex material in an interesting way. She had this gift of relating theoretical or philosophical issues to everyday life.”
Rachel Kosofsky used to take Nehama out for walks in the later years. “It was a real privilege, but when I’d say to her at the end of the walk, ‘Nehama, that was a pleasure,’ she would counter with a wry remark like, ‘I wish you greater pleasures than taking an old woman out for a walk!’” Anyone who’d ever been close with Nehama, continues Rachel, could never, thereafter, engage in the little falsities of life that are acceptable.
“She was so extremely honest, and it rubbed off on us all. I can never go into a supermarket anymore and taste some of the samples, if I know I’m not going to buy that product. She taught us that it’s considered a form of lying if you’re standing waiting for a bus, and you’re cold or it’s raining, so you go into a shop and the clerk comes up to you and says, ‘Can I help you?’ So you ask the price of some item, or request information on some merchandise. And all along you know you’re there only because you want to wait for the bus in a protected area. Well, after learning with Nehama, you just can’t do that anymore.”
Chaya Sara Benjamin first met Nehama as a student when she came to Israel to study Torah. She was in the process of becoming observant and wanted advice from Nehama about what she should study. Nehama agreed to meet her at the university cafeteria. The first thing Nehama did was say, “First get something to eat and we’ll sit over there and talk. If you’re going to study Torah you have to eat properly.” Chaya Sara eventually took her course in Exodus for overseas students in English and got bitten for life.
A distant relative of Nehama’s first met her as a student and later when she married into the family as a relative. “Nehama was always the same plain, simple person, a very good conversationalist, interested in everything, and very family minded.”
Dr. Barry Samson saw pictures of Nehama before he met her. “They weren’t very flattering, even when she was younger,” he says. “But to me she was a beautiful woman. Beauty shone from her face.” Barry continues, “When Nehama spoke words of Torah her mouth would inevitably turn up in a smile and her face would soften. “
No one knows a person as well as his butler. Nehama never had a butler, but her housekeeper and companion for many years was Tzipporah Ophri, who now lives in a settlement in the Shomron. “I first met Nehama in 1954 when I was a nurse at Shaare Zedek Hospital and her father was hospitalized. She needed someone to care for him when he came home and it just suited my family situation at the time to accept the position.” Tzipporah cared for the elderly Leibowitz until 1959 when he died, and then continued as Nehama’s housekeeper until 1974.
“She treated me as a daughter. I learned a great deal from her – especially how to relate to people. She was always patient with everyone, even stupid or annoying people. She never showed any difference towards them…. Whenever one of her students called, no matter what time of the day or night it was, even if she was in the middle of eating her meal, she’d always answer them. She’d never say, ‘Tell them to call later.’ Nehama was always very generous, maybe overly so. In some ways she was too naive. She trusted everyone.” Then after a moment’s thought Tzipporah adds, “There is nobody, absolutely nobody like her.”
Tzipporah’s replacement, Yehudit Barashi, started working for Nehama twenty-four years ago. She was both a neighbor and a housekeeper. “Nehama loved to help people, but always secretly. Sometimes she helped people she didn’t even know,” says her former neighbor. “Whatever you asked her on any subject, she knew the answer. I used to get advice from Nehama about my personal life – if I had a problem with the children, or something, she always knew what should be done. She was like a mother to me – I miss her a lot.”
“Sometimes in the middle of the night there’d be a ring at the door. It was Nehama, who often forgot her key and came to get her spare one from us.” Eleven years ago Yehudit and her family moved to Har Nof. “Nehama was so upset. She tried to convince us to stay. She even offered to pay the fee for contract retraction. But I continued to work for her even after I moved. She really worried about us. If someone came late she’d start telephoning or if I went to the dentist she wanted to hear all about it. If it was raining she’d say, ‘Never mind, don’t come today. You’ll get sick.’”
Dr. Zev Herzberg, another loyal student and colleague, gives an additional example of how Nehama was ever available to her public. Once when Zev and two other ‘faithfuls’ were sitting with Nehama preparing for a lesson, the doorbell rang. A couple came in. The man, who was obviously her student, told Nehama he wanted to introduce his fiancee. Nehama spoke very graciously with them, asked a number of questions, and wished them hearty congratulations. The couple beamed. She merely cautioned, “Next time please call and let me know you’re coming ahead of time.” “She was very sensitive to people’s feelings,” Zev sums up.
Asher Hadad, a school principal in Lod, met Nehama while he was an advanced student at Yeshivat Hesder Maaleh Adumim. He and several colleagues had the unique opportunity of participating in her class for yeshiva students at the Lifshitz Teachers’ Seminary. “I know she loved us and believed in us. She had a special rapport with our class,” says Asher. “She invested everything she had in preparing us for our future, as teachers in Tanach.”
“Later I studied at Touro College and we often had classes in her house,” continues the principal. “Nehama always received us warmly. She was very strict about two things: using correct grammar and style, and being on time. She didn’t want us to write down what she was saying in class; she wanted us to think and to understand. We actually got individual instruction in a class setting,” Asher recalls.
Her publisher at the Jewish Agency, Shmuel Borstein, is the scion of a famous Hasidic family. “I once showed Nehama a section in a book of halachah that was written by my great grandfather, the Avnei Nezer, which validated something she had written in her Studies. Years later she still remembered it, and even wanted to know how a Hasidic drasha (lecture) is built. I could see she appreciated Hasidic thinking, even though she claimed she didn’t know anything about it.” Shmuel continues, “She herself was from a learned Lithuanian background, but, as in other matters, she was actually very well versed in Hasidism. Pity she didn’t go into it more.”
“When Nehama was about to retire from her teaching position at the Tel Aviv University,” says Dr. Moshe Arend, “she suggested that I replace her. At first she continued to teach and I accompanied her. We traveled together by taxi and had many enlightening conversations.” For almost ten years, Dr. Arend worked with Nehama on two textbooks for the Open University on teaching Tanach. “We would meet very often and discussed at length every chapter,” he says. “I used to write a rough draft and she’d go over every word. Nehama was a tough taskmaster. Sometimes she would cross out everything that I had written. I didn’t always agree with her. But those meetings were extremely enjoyable and enriching. Moreover, many classrooms of students have used the book we produced and Nehama even corresponded with some of these students years afterwards.”
One of her oldest contacts, a colleague and good friend, is Professor Meir Weiss, who collaborated with her on some publications, especially their work (Chapters of Comfort and Redemption) on the seven haftarot that are read between the Ninth of Av and Rosh Chodesh Ellul. “Nehama was the classic teacher, ever patient, encouraging, and enlightening. Her students saw her love for the subject she was teaching and her love for them, and they responded in kind.” Professor Weiss, now in his nineties, speaks quietly and wistfully of his dear friend, “Personally I had a wonderful relationship with her for fifty years. We were very close. When she was working on the gilyonot and later on our essay she would show me what she’d written and I would write comments until we got to the final version. In the later years we used to visit each other. It was a relationship of platonic friendship of the purest kind. I cherish the books she gave me because of the fine dedication she wrote to me on the inside cover.”
An even longer standing relationship was held with another colleague, Dov Rapell of Kibbutz Yavneh. “Sixty years ago Nehama was already a famous teacher,” Dov declares. “At first I was a student at the Hebrew University and came to learn Torah from her. Later in 1941 I became principal of a Seminary for kibbutz women who studied at Beit Tzeirot Mizrachi and then I was her boss. For years, until the 1960s, wherever I was principal I always asked Nehama to teach there. She was much more experienced and older than I, so I was more a ‘talent agent of a star’ than her principal.”
Dr. Joseph Walk knew Nehama from his earliest years in Israel. He believes that Nehama’s ‘secret’ was her openness and willingness to share her feelings with others, and it was this that attracted people to her. “She always had some pet students,” he recalls, “but she could also be very critical and demanding of her protegees.” She used unconventional sources and commentaries in her teaching, even Christian theologists or Reform rabbis, although she was completely orthodox in her own religious practices, according to Walk. She often repeated, “Don’t be afraid to ask apikorsik (heretic) questions – that’s how you learn.”
Walk, who became a supervisor for the Ministry of Education and the principal of a teachers’ seminary, once asked her to write a short introduction to a workbook he put out on one of the books of the Bible. She hesitated and delayed, and finally after some probing explained why she was reluctant to do what her good friend wanted. “Everyone knows how close we are. If I write an introduction to your book, people will think I’m praising it only because we’re friends. You wouldn’t want that, right?” And she refused to add her comments.
Dr. Techiya Greenwald, a chemistry lecturer, once had a free hour when her regular class was canceled, so she decided to attend a class in Tanach taught by Dr. Ben Hollander. He was replacing Nehama but Techiya didn’t know that. She liked the class very much even though she’d never studied Tanach seriously, and decided to continue. One day her phone rang, “Hello, this is Nehama; I’d like to go over your last exam with you,” she heard. “Nehama? Nehama who?” Techiya asked in amazement. It turned out that Ben was teaching the class, but Nehama still reviewed all the written work.
Techiya met with Nehama and from that day became her permanent disciple. “I got such personal attention from the first moment,” says Techiya, still in wonder. “She encouraged me even though I’m not observant, and didn’t have the background the other students had. She invited me to her advanced class and later to study with her personally. She wanted to know her students intimately – so she got to know my children and their activities; my history and my interests … I often wondered, she’s so busy, how does she find time for someone like me who isn’t even from her world?”
Shmuel Hershkovitz is also amazed at how much Nehama managed to do in one day, in one lifetime. He first met her when he was a young teacher in Shafir and later attended her classes while on a sabbatical at Mercaz HaRav. “She gave me such a lot; I learned from her the love of Torah, integrity, and many, many teaching tricks. She used both the carrot and the stick approach. In later years I’d come to study Parshat Hashavuah with her on Friday afternoon. Where else could you find a dati woman sitting down to study on Friday afternoon!” On another plane, Shmuel mentions, “She always was appreciative of any small favor you’d do for her. Long afterwards, she’d still remember that I bought her a newspaper or set up the Shabbat clock.”
Yeduel (Doli) Basok is another second-generation student and teacher who studied with Nehama. “At her funeral I was thinking she must have taught thousands of teachers who followed in her footsteps. And these teachers have by now taught hundreds of thousands of students, each adding something of his own background and his own personality, but using Nehama’s method. For example, my mother studied with her, and then I did, and we’re passing on to my children some of what she taught.”
After the grave was filled up, Doli (and apparently several others there) did kriya (making a tear in one’s clothes), the way family members do as a sign of mourning. “I just felt it was something I had to do,” he says. “I feel indebted to her – the basis she gave me, the way to learn commentaries, no one else ever gave me that.”
Dr. Bryna Levi also feels a need to express her special relationship with Nehama. “As a Bible student I used to work in the library a lot. All the books I needed were always on her desk. We got to know each other. Over the years I’d go to her with specific questions. I was careful not to take up too much of her time, because I knew how precious it was to her. But she always treated me graciously and even thanked me for coming.”
Ariela Yedgeh, another veteran teacher who follows in Nehama’s footsteps, and her whole family, felt very close with Nehama Leibowitz. “Nehama was very involved in her students’ personal lives. Even though she was very exacting in her teaching, she was very bighearted in her personal relationships. She had a lot of psychological insight in both her learning and her contacts … she demonstrated both concern and sensitivity.”
Ariela recalls that Nehama never spoke gossip, but she did worry about those that weren’t married. “She would hint that it might be a good idea to invite this one or that one over at the same time.” On one occasion Ariela complimented Nehama on her life achievement in the field of Tanach: “What an accomplishment you’ve attained,” she said with admiration. “Ah, but I never had children,” Nehama answered with pain. Ariela understood then that Nehama felt she had missed something very basic in her life.
Shimon Ron of Givataim used to accompany Nehama on her rounds in Tel Aviv. “I’d take her from the University to the studio, where they taped her talks on the Bible for the blind. Then she’d give a sheur in a synagogue on Rehov Ben Yehuda. You couldn’t get a pin into the place when she gave her class. Sometimes we’d just meet in a cafe and talk. I had the privilege of being her friend,” he says with deep satisfaction.
Nehama once told Shimon something that surprised him. “You know I have a better rapport with you than with many people who pray three times a day daily, but who don’t understand what they’re saying. You aren’t dati but at least you know how to think!” Shimon continues: “Her talent and her knowledge were just outstanding. She had an endless source of knowledge, yet she was able to give it all over and would include everyone and everything in her classes. They weren’t really lectures; they were more like dialogues.”
Dr. Yehudah Eloni, who had the distinction of being Nehama’s student in Berlin when he was barely 7 years old (and she was perhaps 19 or 20), renewed his contact with her when she gave two guest lectures at Seminar Lewinsky in Tel Aviv, a teachers’ college where he taught history and served as a member of the board. “Her talks on Tanach were excellent. What impressed me and the students was her wide knowledge. Nehama had the rare combination of being erudite in three fields: Russian culture, German culture, and knowledge of Judaism (of which her knowledge was great). She merged these fields in an outstanding way.” Dr. Eloni also notes that in her approach to people she demonstrated chochmat chaim (common sense) and tolerance – a scarce commodity in our generation.
The students she taught at Meretz in Mevasseret have spread out all over Israel and are working as rabbis, community leaders, and teachers by now. During the three and a half years that she taught them, Nehama made a great impression on them all. Avraham Davidson, who teaches at the Midrasha in Pardes Hana, recalls the pleasant atmosphere that accompanied her classes, even though she was very demanding and pedantic. “She’d give us homework, to answer certain questions, usually from her gilyonot,” Avraham states. “She demanded that the answers be concise, no more than eight to ten words. Today I realize that short answers require deeper thinking. I use the same system with my students now.”
“I knew about Nehama for many years. Many people used to quote her or used her gilyonot for lessons,” says Rivka Davidowitz, who became a member of her closest circle. “Shortly after I met her I had the opportunity to take her to Mevasseret by car. She was giving a class on Yonah to the students in Meretz. I thought to myself, what do I have to do with this famous woman? Here she is in front of me. What will I say to her?” Now Rivka laughs at the memory. “She made herself so available to me during that ride, she was so human. It was as if we had known each other all our lives.”
“I went to a very good Jewish school in New York, and had the best Bible teachers,” declares Esther Gross, another close friend and student of Nehama’s. “Yet for me, until I met Nehama, Tanach was boring. She started me on a different way of learning Torah. She made it fascinating, exciting, a treat, an intellectual exercise…. I’m eternally grateful, because she opened up an entire new world for me.”
Rabbi Nachum Amsel, who started a girls’ school based on Nehama’s method, wrote a memorial article that he titled “Reflections on my Rebbe, Nehama ZT”L.” There he writes: “How can one describe such a complex yet simple human being? Of the many Rabbeim I have had the fortune to have, Nehama … was the most dynamic and personable, even until her final sheur…. Although I became her student as an adult in the final ‘era’ [of her seventy-six-year teaching career] … I feel privileged to have personally shared much with Nehama, which makes her loss more painful for me.”
Nachum also mentions her qualities as a master teacher. “Of all her characteristics, her greatest, in my opinion, was her sense of humor. The jokes and stories all related to a particular point in the sheur, and made us laugh, even when we had heard them more than once. Nehama was an entertainer as well as a master teacher. She taught me that entertainment is an important component of successful teaching…. I will deeply miss Nehama, more than can be conveyed in print … as my teacher, as my advisor, as my friend.”
A member of her closest circle who prefers to remain anonymous has a similiar feeling of loss. This follower first met Nehama when he was in charge of courses for teachers from abroad at the Jewish Agency ten years ago. He quickly became not only a loyal disciple and follower, but a close associate and “protector.” When Nehama was in the hospital several years ago, one of the women in her room who had seen him visiting frequently and noted the relationship between them told Nehama, “While you were sleeping your son came to visit and left you some books.” Nehama recounted that episode with genuss (deep satisfaction) – and the man involved loved it no less.
“The [parting] from Nehama is so painful,” says this friend with distress in his voice. “I didn’t realize how much it could hurt. It’s not only missing her presence, the inability to ask her a question or get some advice … She meant so much to me, to so many of us. She opened my eyes to Tanach.” There’s a picture of Nehama on the man’s side table at which he glances as he talks.
The same picture is on the wall of a veteran teacher. Devorah Tashama recalls how she first heard a sheur from Nehama, and it changed her life. “A friend of mine told me, ‘There’s a lesson by Nehama Leibowitz tonight. Let’s go.’ I’d heard about her but I never had attended any of her lectures. The class was held at the old Horev School, in a prefab hut, in winter. I felt like Hillel; I didn’t notice the cold or the rain coming in. Even though I was already an experienced teacher by then, I’d never heard anyone give a Tanach sheur like that. I was mesmerized. Ever since then I’d go wherever she gave a class.”
Devorah remembers Nehama not only as an outstanding teacher, but also as a person of integrity and modesty – a role model to emulate. “She lived like the old Yerushalmim, very simply; but if she needed to get something done, she did it.” Her niece twice removed, Miriam Shlossberg, expressed her own opinion of Nehama: “She was a living example of her principles.”
Professor Shmuel Adler had a special relationship with Nehama as her physician and as her student. “From the time I first met her I was overwhelmed by Nehama, and my impression only strengthened along the years. She was not only an extraordinary scholar, with vast secular and Torah knowledge, but also a humane individual whose personal ethics were even superior to her great intellect.”
Professor Adler referred to the synthesis that put harmony into her personality and explained her unique influence on so many. “To find a great mind like hers is a treasure in its own right, but to discover a full person on the human level is unprecedented. Her level of honesty, her deep concern for people, her incessant curiosity, her zest for life, made it a real privilege to know her.” The physician was her student for only three and a half years, but he considers them very valuable years. “I grew because of my contact with her. It was an enriching experience.”
Another person who spoke of Nehama as a role model is Dr. Moshe Shlomowitz, who treated her almost daily as a patient. “She was an important person for Yaffa, my wife, and me. She represented the ideals of religious Zionism – she embodied the complete person: very direct, very honest, but somehow also tamim (naive). Knowing her was an experience.”
Moshe, who emigrated from Australia, was often asked by Nehama about the Jewish community in Australia. “She was very interested in that diaspora, their views on Israel, and how it continued to survive as a dynamic Jewish community,” says Moshe. “She especially wanted to know why they don’t come on aliya.”
David Bar Yakov, a computer programmer from Neve Ilan, and his wife, Wendy, were other new immigrants who first met Nehama when she gave a class at the Absorption Center in Mevasseret. All her life Nehama had a special interest in olim chadashim (new immigrants). She went out of her way to make them feel comfortable and was genuinely concerned about their becoming acclimated, getting jobs, and integrating their children into the school system. She visited the Bar Yakovs in their home, first in the Mercaz Klita (Absorption Center) and then later at Neve Ilan. “Our children were duly impressed that we were her students,” says Wendy. “Nehama could teach high-level thinking to people with kita aleph (first grade) level of Hebrew.”
“She had a profound influence on our lives,” says Wendy “She’s the best teacher I ever had my whole life. I couldn’t image that someone like her existed. I’d been studying Judaica and Hebrew for years [day schools, Boston Hebrew College] and had a B.A. in Jewish education. No one warned me what a special personality she was.” David continues: “She challenged people, she made them rise above themselves. Even though she was herself so brilliant and so learned, she made it all available to everyone, no matter what their level.” Wendy takes up the theme: “I learned from her respect for students. She showed that everyone can learn from everyone. That’s a tremendous lesson.”
Bracha Ashual lived in a building behind Nehama for twenty-six years. “She was my neighbor, my friend, and my teacher,” says Bracha with nostalgia. “I miss her very much.” In the later years when Bracha and other ‘faithfuls’ would take Nehama for a walk, they’d walk around the corner and point in the direction of her house. “Can you tell which is your apartment?” Bracha would ask playfully. Nehama had very strong, three-phase electricity put in when her vision became dimmer, so the light from her house was always very prominent. Sometimes she’d be able to point out her apartment; sometimes not. “It’s there,” one of the women would say, “there where the great light’s shining!” “That’s what she was to me,” says Bracha sadly. “She was a bright beam of light that shone out for all to see.”

Table of Contents

1. Everyone and His Own Nehama
2. Beginnings
3. Gilyonot (Worksheets) and Publications
4. Teacher
5. Qualities and Convictions
6. Interpersonal Relationships
7. Tales of Nehama
8. Appendices
A. Studies in the Weekly Sidra Torah Department of WZO
a) Miketz
b) Acharei Mot
B. Post Nehama Studies of the Weekly Portion Keren Kayemet Religious Department Gilyonot
a) Vayeshev
b) Miketz
C. Nehama Leibowitz – Teacher of Torah by Gabriel Cohen
D. Torah Insights – Eliner Library, Jewish Agency. The Twelve Spies
E. Gilyonot – WZO Council for Torah Education. Pinehas
F. Tips on Methodology from the Teachings of Nehama Leibowitz. WZO Council for Torah Education
G. A Review of the Pedagogical Approach of Nehama Leibowitz. Jerry Tepperman
H. Psalms for Hadassah Publications
I. Active Learning in the Teaching of History Torah Education Network
J. Exchange of Letters with Professor Hugo Bergman
K. Articles Recognizing Nehama's Contribution
a) Torah Commentary (1951). Professor A.E. Simon
b) New Approach to Bible Study. Professor Cyril Domb
c) Scholar & Teacher. Rachel Salmon
d) In Memoriam. Moshe Sokolow

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