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

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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. Mrs. Newman shaped Bruriah into a top school known for its stellar academic reputation, the close relationships between teachers and students, and as a place where limudei kodesh and limudei chol were not in opposition but instead complement each other. She welcomed students from diverse backgrounds into Bruriah, and the school’s alumnae reflect this inclusiveness.

Mrs. Newman was able to think big, while maintaining her careful attention to detail, especially when it came to her students – she would notice, and compliment, even the smallest achievements. Sitting in the front row during production rehearsals, she would retie someone’s sash, note the lighting, and admire the set. Multiple times a week she spoke to the student body, through the morning announcements students grew to love. In particular, the month of Elul marked a unique practice of Mrs. Newman – she recited the perek of L’David daily with the entire student body, every line pronounced just so in a pattern that strikes a chord in the memory of every Bruriah student.

While she was known and loved by thousands, no one can paint a picture of what Mrs. Newman uniquely accomplished more accurately, more movingly, than the students whose lives she changed. After hearing of her passing, we asked students and alumnae to share how she changed their lives, and the stories came pouring in. The responses, sampled below, range from the general to the specific. All, however, pay tribute to a humbling truth about one person’s ability to alter the Jewish future.

Mrs. Newman was known for her aphorisms, each one containing a bite-size slice of riveting truth. One such aphorism, to which she dedicated her life was: when you educate a girl, you educate a family. Taking that to the next level, when you educate a family, you educate a future. May we be worthy to learn from Mrs. Newman’s example, continuing to build up the Jewish future in her memory and honor.

Student Testimonials:

Rochel Sokoloff, Bruriah Graduating Class of 1975

Mrs. Newman , a”h, came to Bruriah when I was in ninth grade. It was my first year at Bruriah, and hers as well. I had heard that she learned to drive over the summer preceding the school year in order to make the trip to Elizabeth from Flatbush. That single fact amazed me. I saw it as a sign of determination and the sheer will of dedication. I was right. Mrs. Newman set in motion a high school resplendent with fine teachers, both in Kodesh and Chol. Our Kodesh teachers, many of whom traveled in from Lakewood every day, inspired me and shaped my future in a myriad of ways.

Some fifteen years after graduation, I began my own career in chinuch habonos, first as a high school teacher, and today as Dean of Students in Tichon Meir Moshe in Far Rockaway. Mrs. Newman’s leadership continued to inspire me, as I participated in a number of Torah U’Mesorah workshops she ran. What a thrill for both students and principal to work together! Most recently, I was looking forward to participating in the Torah U’ Mesorah Principal’s Fellowship, which she headed. Alas, the Ribono Shel Olam decreed otherwise. I will however continue to inculcate in our students the wonderful lessons she taught me, both as a student and as an educator. Mrs. Newman, we will continue to walk in your footsteps and dedicate ourselves, as you did, to inspire our students to reach for the stars.

Malka (Witkin) Korbman, Bruriah Graduating Class of 1976

As a Bruriah alumnus from Mrs. Newman’s “earlier” days at Bruriah, (I was in the first 9th grade to be in the present main building which we had lovingly referred to as “the new building” at that time…) and as a sister, sister in law, aunt and mother to numerous Bruriah alumni – Mrs. Newman was not just “a principal” – she was a legacy. She hired amazing faculty who introduced us to Tanach, Historia, Halacha, and Hashkafah on a much higher level than we ever thought possible. These mechanchos were wonderful role models for us and helped to shape the way we and our daughters are building our own “batim ne’emanin b’Yisrael“.

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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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