Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thank you for 25 years; I am just beginning!



Last week Lakeside Congregation honored me for 25 years as their Educational Director.  Lital was one years old when I started and both both boys, Jonathan now 23 and Ethan 19 were born during my tenure.  It was a beautiful evening and I am honored and humbled by all the accolades.  I love my work and am passionate about Jewish education at my congregation, at OSRUI and with my work in ARJE (Association of Reform Jewish Educators, formerly NATE).  
My family from left, my sister, Wendy Shanker,Arthur, Jonathan, my Dad, Jerry Michaels, Lital, me, Ethan and my mom, Marian


My children grew up at Lakeside and had to attend many t'filot, all had B'nai Mitzvah there and were confirmed as well.  A highlight of the evening was a great skit, written by my faculty, (mainly Debbie Harris) which highlighted Jewish women throughout Jewish history.  Sarah, Hannah Senesh and Emma Lazarus to name just a few. They raided my costume closet, which is almost as large as my "regular" clothes closet and Ethan was the MC and Lital and Jonathan were the women through the ages.  Jonathan was a great sport and they were all very funny.  Video to be posted later.  
Members of the Chicago Association of Reform Educators (CHARGE)

Another highlight of the evening was celebrating with many colleagues. There is over 200 years of Jewish experience in this particular group of Jewish educators and many people joined us later, sent regards and I thank all of them for being with me on this special night.  


There was also a very funny top 10 reasons to Work for Vanessa which included allusions to  tidiness of my office and surprise announcements before Religious school on Sunday mornings. My faculty work hard to make our school a community where students learn and are proud of their Jewish identity.  I could not do my job without them.  

25 years is a long time.  I usually joke that I was hired right out of high school but the truth is that I have learned much over the years.  I have deep ties in the community and love that he some of my first students now have children in my school.  Nothing speaks louder of Jewish continuity than that.  

Recently I was asked as part of a professional evaluation what I was most proud of in regards to my job.  I answered that I believe I am most proud of the relationships I have created over the years. Seeing families in the community and having the ability to ask about their children, grandchildren or going to weddings of students from our Religious school makes me feel proud and really just fantastic. 

I always encourage students to come back and check in with me.  Over the years I have written 100’s of recommendations for students and for my staff for everything including working at OSRUI to applying to Rabbinical school.  This is my real success and this is what I am most proud of that students and families come back to see me, check in with Lakeside and stay a part of the community.  I am not sure this can be measured. On to the next 25 years.  
My students are my garden!  
(Photographs by Benji Sagarin)