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Poster Commentary
"Great teachers enable students to find their own questions in the text."Nechama Leibowitz
Poster design:Ofra Amit


Commentary by Erica Brown

In her commentary on the Book of Genesis Nechama Leibowitz writes, "Surely even one light illumines far more than itself, and one spark is sufficient to penetrate the thickest darkness.” Through her teaching, Nechama (as she was affectionately called by her students) was a light that illumined far more than herself.

She received her doctorate in Germany and moved to Israel from Berlin in 1930, where she taught Bible at both Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. But her influence as a master educator was most felt beyond the walls of the Academy.

Nechama taught thousands of people throughout Israel as a contributor on Voice of Israel radio and by disseminating through the mail her legendary gilyonot – worksheets with questions on the weekly Torah portion. Ultimately, it was not answers she was seeking but better questions. Great teachers enable students to find their own question in the text. She believed there was no better way to own a spiritual inheritance than by asking questions of the text and adding one’s own voice to the enduring conversation of commentary.

A short woman with a quick wit, broad smile, and jaunty beret, Nechama paced in her interactive classroom, pausing to share stories about taxi drivers and everyday life in Israel that shed light on Torah teachings. When she died, Nechama had no children of her own to say Kaddish. Instead, thousands of her students – her spiritual children – stood at her funeral and recited it. She asked that only one word be put on her tombstone: Morah. Teacher.

Erica Brown is a writer and Jewish educator. She is a faculty member at the Wexner Foundation, a former Jerusalem Fellow, a Covenant Award winner, and an Avi Chai Fellow. Her latest book is Take Your Soul to Work.