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From The Voice of Her Students: In Memory of Mrs. Chaya Newman

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Daniella Lejtman, Bruriah Graduation Class of 2010

For a period of 60 days a year, from Rosh Chodesh Elul until school would break for Sukkot, I distinctly recall how Mrs. Newman would stand in front of the ballroom and say “L’David Hashem, Ori V’Yishi.” I don’t need to explain how she said it; if you were there, you know. She stopped in all of the correct places. She felt what she was saying and that feeling, that experience, passed over to all 400 of us in the ballroom.

Her careful selection of teachers really embodied the message she espoused: love. The teachers at Bruriah truly loved their students, and the relationships that I and my peers have with the teachers is emblematic of the fact that her dream became a reality. The role models in my community are Bruriah graduates. Teachers in seminaries are Bruriah graduates. Lawyers, doctors, nurses, OTs, PTs, speech therapists, teachers, psychologists, genetic counselors, accountants, businesswomen are Bruriah graduates. Shomrei Torah U’Mitzvos, girls and women who are sincerely dedicated to the Almighty are Bruriah graduates. Bruriah graduates. Just the title evokes a certain aura, a certain air that is unique. And I believe that it is all due to Mrs. Newman. Much hakaras hatov to the woman who built up Klal Yisrael, one Bruriah girl at a time.

Nomi Mermelstein, Bruriah Graduation Class of 2010

Bruriah has always been in my family. My mother went to Bruriah and was G.O. president and my Zaidy, Rabbi Wasserman, taught there for many years, making Mrs. Newman a common household name while I was growing up. And then finally it came, my Bruriah interview with Mrs. Newman. I thought I would be nervous, but when I walked in Mrs. Newman knew exactly who I was and I could feel her welcoming me into school with open arms.

As a Bruriah student, I was always excited to see Mrs. Newman around the hallways and to visit her in her office. To this day I still say “L’David Hashem(Tehillim 27) exactly how Mrs. Newman would punctuate the perek. I remember that at first all it meant to me was spending more time at davening so we could say it together, but once I paid attention to how Mrs. Newman was breaking up the perek, its meaning changed for me. I learned to say the perek with feeling and emotion. I know that every time I say “L’David Hashem” I will think of Mrs. Newman.

Hannah Dreyfus, Bruriah Graduation Class of 2010

The first day of high school is hard enough once. I had to do it twice. In 10th grade, I transferred to Bruriah High School. A boarding student hailing from Connecticut, away from home all over again, my hands shook as I approached the maroon front doors to begin my second first-day. I played it cool, but I did not feel cool. I wore a green-polka dot t-shirt, and my straight, summer-blonde hair hung in a long side ponytail over my shoulder—but no one knew how long I spent the night before, sifting through different outfit options.

When I returned to my classroom after lunch on that first miserable day, there was a small package sitting inconspicuously on my desk. Stapled to the side was a hand-written note. Timorously, I picked it up, thinking there must have been a mistake. But there was no mistake. The package was addressed to me. Inside was a doughnut from Dunkin-Donuts—cheerful pink frosting and white sprinkles blinking up at me. I still remember the colors. And the note, in a warm, cursive scrawl read: “First day’s are hard. I hope you’re doing ok. Just a little something to brighten your day. Please drop by my office later to tell me how your day went.” Signed, Mrs. Newman.

They do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. The mantra, the vision, with which Mrs. Newman ran her school. The conviction that formed my high school experience, and altered the course of my life. I am the confident, motivated, dedicated young woman, committed to her Judaism, inspired to continue inspiring the Jewish future (Mrs. Newman’s mantra ever playing through my mind), because of my years spent at Bruriah. Mrs. Newman was a builder. A dreamer. A doer. I am who I am because of the school she built, with a vision as clear as the sky on this crisp September day, as we all take the moment to remember.

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A Sarah Schenirer of our times, Mrs. Chaya Newman was a trailblazer in the field of women’s Jewish education. She inspired and guided thousands of students and fellow educators with the careful curriculum she created, and example she set. She had the rare gift of bringing out the best in her students, commanding respect while remaining as loving and accessible as a grandmother.

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