My son Elie went to Yeshivat Noam for high school. In Israel, with so many public religious secondary schools to choose from, you have the luxury of looking for a school that matches your child’s personality. Each of our five children went to different secondary schools. Elie and Yeshivat Noam were the best fit.
I can summarize Noam’s strength by saying that the school is geared to promote the emotional intelligence of its students, and the truth is that I believe that all schools should do likewise. I became even more convinced of this a while back through a remarkable exchange of e-mails. In one of my sentimental moods (I have a tendency for these), I decided to send a note to Bill Dillingham, a professor of mine in the mid-1980s at Emory University. In my first substantive e-mail communication with him, I recalled the following: “I remember very well one day in class when you said something like: ‘Imagine that one day you wake up and you realize that you are no longer young.’ . . . I assumed that you yourself had recently had such a day and I appreciated the deep feeling that was expressed.” Coincidentally, at the time I was also in contact with Barbara McCaskill, a fellow Emory English graduate student and now a tenured professor specializing in African American literature at the University of Georgia. I mentioned to Barbara that I had contacted our old professor, and she wrote back to me with one memory: “I most remember him digressing once from a Melville piece, I think, to wax eloquently about how one day you wake up and you are no longer young. I think he was talking to himself as well as the class that day: he seemed so wistful.”
I was astounded to read Barbara’s note. After almost three decades, what was the strongest recollection we both had from our doctoral-level classes in nineteenth-century American literature with Professor Dillingham? A single identical memory stemming from an emotional connection that was made between teacher and student.
My son Elie spent six years at a school where the emotional connection between teacher and student is at the forefront of the school’s educational vision. I believe that what most of Elie’s teachers regularly asked themselves concerning my son was, “What is Elie feeling?” Elie was encouraged to dig deep inside himself and figure out who he is as a human being. When he looks back on his high school career, Elie will be blessed not just with one or two recollections of emotional connection with his teachers but with dozens and dozens of these. I am sure that there can be no better preparation for his life ahead.
Teddy Weinberger, Ph.D., is Director of Development for a consulting company called Meaningful. He made aliyah with his family in 1997 from Miami, where he was an assistant professor of religious studies. Teddy and his wife, Sarah Jane Ross, have five children.