I’m not sure my Rabbi would approve of this honor. You see, my Rabbi, I’ll just refer to him as Reb Avram, is a very humble man. As a matter of fact, he probably doesn’t think that he has done anything so extraordinary. In fact, all that Reb Avram has done is provide sweet and delicious Torah education to young children for over half a century. Imagine – today there are gray bearded men who were taught by Reb Avram fifty years ago and this very morning, Reb Avram was still teaching, still caring, still reaching out to that ‘pintele Yid’ – that divine spark within each child that sometimes only he can see.
Reb Avram, you see is a different kind of teacher who believes that every child can learn. When I first arrived at the Yeshiva, I needed some remedial tutoring. Reb Avram spent his lunch hours catching me up. When I advanced to higher grades, he would always pass me in the hallways and offer his words of encouragement along with his radiant smile. When I began to teach, he was a primary role model. He offered practical, sage advice along with hand written teaching materials that he had created and perfected over the years. Need a Halachic decision? A blessing for a sick child or expectant mother? Want to hear a practical and meaningful gem of Torah about this week’s Parsha? Reb Avram has always been there – just a phone call or a visit with him lifts the spirit and the soul.
How unfortunate that some people can go through their entire schooling never once being inspired or uplifted by a gifted and generous teacher. I am eternally grateful that I have an ongoing relationship with a true mentor, this Baal Mesorah – a Rebbe in the finest sense of the word. Reb Avram epitomizes the words of Pirkei Avos that teach “Asay L’cha Rav V’histalek Min Hasafek.” Indeed, when you are privileged to encounter a walking Sefer Torah in your life, your doubts dissipate and your priorities reorganize.
Over the years, I have insisted that my own children be taught by Reb Avram so that they too form a precious bond with him. Indeed, hardly a week goes by that one of our family members doesn’t speak to our Rabbi and he treats each of us as though we are his only child. Nothing stops him from giving of himself and from helping so many others; not his advanced age, not aches and pains, nor the icy New York winters. His kinderlach need him today just as they have for over the past fifty years. And so they shall with the blessings of Hashem, for many healthy years to come.
I once asked Reb Avram about his grading system. It seems that he likes to give mostly Alefs – (‘A’s) to his students. It took many years of study and a Masters degree in Education until I thought I understood why Reb Avram graded so high. “It must be that you’re using those ‘A’s as positive reinforcement, to encourage effort in each child,” I said rather proudly as though I had finally understood my Rebbe’s methodology. “Oh no,” answered Reb Avram with a twinkle in his eye. “I don’t grade according to achievement, nor do I grade based on effort.” “How then do you determine who deserves an ‘A’?” I asked this kind, gentle and wonderful man, who cares so deeply about every child, and believes that each one can learn and that it is he who must motivate them to succeed. “Oh,” he said, “I just grade according to the child’s potential.”