Photo Credit: Leah Cohen Gaynes
A picture from one of the author’s yearbooks. The teachers are doing a skit. Left to right are Ze'ev Hartal, Moshe Hagai, Eli Cohen, and Yogev Tzuk.

“The true guardians of a community are the teachers.” (Talmud Yerushalmi, Haggigah 1:7)



I went to Hebrew Day School in Montreal from nursery to Grade 11 (high school in Montreal ends at Grade 11). United Talmud Torah Elementary School and Herzliah High School in Ville St. Laurent, both of which have, regrettably, recently become Muslim schools.

The school day was divided (pretty equally) between Hebrew and English subjects, with one hour for French thrown into the mix.

People talk about how difficult aliyah is, but when I came to Israel, ostensibly for a vacation that has now lasted over 40 years, I had little to no culture shock. I spoke Hebrew pretty fluently, I was familiar with Hebrew songs, I knew all the holidays – religious and national, and I was well-acquainted with the mindset of the people. Although to be perfectly honest, my Hebrew teachers had all been religious and the culture shock of secular Israel was a bit overwhelming, as was the slang.

I had also visited Israel three times in my childhood and adolescence when I was 8, 12, and 16. My mother had spent 13 years living in Israel, my parents met here, and my uncle, who lived with us for a bit, spoke Hebrew with my mother.

But I would never have felt so at home, or managed as well, or been so keen to stay, had I not spent my formative years surrounded by Israelis. Though Israel in the 1980s was a bit primitive in some ways, I was filled with idealism for the orange groves, and Israeli music, the tourist venues and holy sites that I celebrated every Yom Ha’Atzmaut at school. The transition was pretty seamless, in ways, at the time, I took for granted.

Most of my teachers returned to Israel, though I know not where they are. A few stayed in their adoptive country. Some, I assume, by virtue of my age, have probably passed on. But I owe them a great debt. For not only did they instill in me a love for Israel, and the language to be able to negotiate living here; not only did they lay the foundation for me to live a religious life, but they paved the way for me to eventually have a son who, like them, is instilling the love of Torah and Eretz Yisrael in his students, as an Israeli teacher, albeit not on shlichut. It saddens me that I can’t share that achievement of theirs with them. But I can share it with you.

And I am not the only one. I have several classmates who either made aliyah, became religious, or both, due to the influence and role modelling of these teachers, who left their homes and families for several years to fulfill the mission of inspiring and educating Jews abroad.

So I want to thank all my Israeli teachers from nursery to Grade 11: Mrs. Malca Shriner, Mrs. Esther Maggid, Geveret Ruth Roth, Geveret Rachel Shaul, Mar Shlomo Shimeon, Geveret Tova Shimeon, Geveret Anfanger, Mar Moshe Nagar, Mr. Motti Perl (a math teacher, but Israeli), Mar Gideon Bar Chama, Mar Shmuel Isaacson, Mar Yogev Tzuk, Mar Moshe Hagai, Mar Arieh Neve, Mar Ze’ev Hartal, Mar Avraham Fisher, Shai Kafri, and Sandy Honisberg, our Israeli gym teachers, and please forgive me if I’ve left anyone out. There were others like them in the school, inspiring other classes. They spoke to each other in Hebrew, sharing the humor and difficulties which were part and parcel of teaching Baby Boomer Canadians and, of course, referencing things only they could understand, while braving frigid, snow-banked winters they could never have imagined back home.

When they left Canada, they took a few of us with them and I, for one, and my progeny after me, will be forever grateful!

Yom Ha’Atzmaut Sameach!

Share this article on WhatsApp:

Previous articleOn Israel’s 76th Birthday: 7.427 Million Jews, 2.089 Million Arabs, Half a Million ‘Others’
Next articleSchumer, ‘Squad’ Members Praise Biden for Halting Weapons Aid to Israel
Rosally Saltsman's new book "100 Life Lessons I've Learned So You Don't Have To" is available for purchase in both hard cover and digital formats. Please contact Rosally at [email protected] to order a copy. You're sure to enjoy this humorous, insightful, poignant and instructional book.