BJE Chicago’s 2019 Rambam Award Recipient
Introduction for Dr. Anne Lidsky
Delivered by Linda Sonin on 11/10/11
Lately, I’ve been reading The Book of Gutsy Women by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. I picked it up because I was intrigued by the term “Gutsy” and was eager to see who qualified. The common thread is that each woman had a passion and a particular vision of what was needed to make the world better, sometimes locally, sometimes globally. They summoned their faith, their strength, and their talents to make a difference.
By the end of the first section, I realized that Dr. Anne Lidsky should have been on their list!
Faith, Strength, Talent
- Anne has worked tirelessly to create a school culture at Temple Jeremiah where each child is welcomed, surrounded by love and acceptance.
- Through word and deed, she communicates her expectations to her students that each soul is to be treated with derech eretz, kindness and respect. Promoting emotional, spiritual, and physical safety is one of the hallmarks of the school Anne has led at Jeremiah for the last 39 years.
- Anne warmly greets every child and family member as they come into the synagogue for school. She hugs people freely; she listens intently.
- With each of her faculty members, she develops genuine, caring relationships and fosters community among them. The majority of teachers who come to Jeremiah stay for a long time.
- She is an integral part of the larger Temple Jeremiah community, teaching and listening, laughing and sharing, she seems to know them all. You can see members of all ages flooding into the building on a Sunday morning and returning the warmth that so clearly emanates from deep in Anne’s soul.
Faith, Strength, Talent
- Anne is a leader among leaders in the community.
- A sought-after mentor and advisor; colleague, friend, and confident for new educators and seasoned professionals alike, Anne rarely turns down an opportunity to help. She has led Jewish professional groups including The Chicago Association of Reform Jewish Educators, served on numerous search committees and leadership councils, and regularly contributes to professional learning opportunities throughout the community.
- She is held in such high esteem that when educational leaders are together and she speaks, the room quiets and everyone listens intently, knowing they can learn from her wisdom.
- It’s impossible to speak about Anne’s many significant contributions to, and passion for, Jewish education without speaking of her time at OSRUI, the flagship camp of the Reform Movement located in Oconomowoc, WI.
- Anne herself is a lifelong learner. You can read about her extensive academic and professional accomplishments in today’s program.
Faith, Strength, Talent
In religious schools across the country, when teachers take attendance, students often say Ani Po, I’m here. Whenever called upon, Dr. Anne Lidsky says Hineni, Here I am. Hineni is much more than physical presence, it is deep spiritual readiness. In this week’s Torah portion, Abraham uses the word hineni three times, first responding to God, next to Isaac, and third to an angel. Like Abraham, Anne is fully present, to her Judaism, to all of Temple Jeremiah’s children, and to a deep spiritual life for herself, her beloved family, congregation and community. This afternoon, we honor Anne with the Rambam Award. Rambam, or Maimonides, was a 12th century philosopher, Torah scholar, physician, astronomer, and world traveler – a renaissance man before the advent of the Renaissance. He writes, in The Guide for the Perplexed, that God’s presence is shown through love and loving-kindness, not in abstract thought or potential, but through action. Ann brings all whom she teaches, mentors and works with closer to Judaism through her loving spirit and her everyday actions which are imbued with the spirit of loving- kindness.
It is my pleasure to invite Dr. Anne Lidsky to the podium to accept this award.
BJE Chicago’s 2019 Rambam Award Recipient
Dr. Anne Lidsky
(Thank you, Linda, for such kind words. You are such a dear friend.)
I have a fond memory to share with all of you: I was 10 years old, helping my little sister with her spelling words on those long, narrow sheets of lined paper. My mom stepped near us, stroked my cheek and declared: “Annie Girl, one day you are going to be such a good teacher.” She certainly knew before I recognized it myself, woe those many years ago, that Education, and more specifically, Jewish Education would be my calling. It is indeed an honor to receive the Rambam Award and I accept it with deep gratitude and humility, for this community is fortunate to have many devoted, hard-working Educators who could be standing in my place. To my Educator Colleagues, I wish we could all be up here together. I pay tribute to you, my friends.
Thank you to the Board of Jewish Education for bestowing this award, and Mazel tov to Marianne and Michael and Toby. This honor is so much more delightful as I share it with such passionate, committed individuals.
With only a few precious moments to address you, I carefully thought about what to say, and realized that my first priority was to recognize the people here this afternoon. We don’t grow professionally or personally in isolation, but rather we are nurtured by family, friends, and colleagues. My husband Jerry and our children, Alisa and Jeff, Leorah and Aaron, my siblings and their extended families – all feel such unabashed pride right now, yet so often, they are my inspiration. Having my daughters made me a better person and ultimately a better teacher as they taught me the real meaning of loving children. Thank you. My treasured grandchildren – Noah, Jordyn, Orly, Ari and Jonah – you have made me a wiser and more sensitive Educator, teaching me the essence of blessing and gratitude. I adore you.
Temple Jeremiah – my synagogue home for almost 40 years. There my life centers around a supportive staff team, my amazing teachers, lay leaders, and congregants one can only dream of working with – Annie, Debbie, thank you Rabbi Rachel, Danny, and Cantors Amy, Susie, and most profoundly, Rabbi Paul Cohen. A simple thank you does not do justice for all you have given me.
I learned very early that our tradition teaches, a person’s student is as one’s very own child. It’s so true. From the innocent pre-schoolers at Jeremiah to the spirited Confirmation class, they touch my heart and make me laugh and I, in turn, want to reach their souls. As Jewish Educators, we have remarkable windows of opportunity to make every child feel valued and essential to the group. The pressure of grades in public school, competitiveness, disappointment and sometimes thoughtless behavior that our children experience outside of the synagogue, make it all the more important that we establish a caring community where derech eretz and menchlichkite, kedushah, and God are guiding forces in their lives and ours.
If as Rashi says, for the sake of kindness, the world exists, then we, Educators and community leaders need to model that. In a warm embracing climate, we are creating joyous Jewish memories for our children. And by showing genuine concern and love for each student, we can focus on the child’s self-esteem and well being.
Over the years, I have learned that no matter what field we are in – the world of business, medicine, or the world of social service, we can most profoundly impact lives by being patient and thoughtful, placing more importance on being kind rather than right, and showing gentleness in our daily encounters. This is what we strive to teach from the very beginning, creating I-Thou relationships with one another.
Our children discover the imperfections of the world all too quickly. They know it needs repair, but where does one start? If we as educators can help them absorb the true meaning of Hillel: In a place where no one behaves like a decent human being, strive to be that mensch, If we can help our children absorb that, then we have accomplished something extraordinarily powerful with our time on this earth. I believe that it is the most important work that we can do.
So much of the future of Judaism depends on our abilities to create proud, passionate, sensitive Jews. We’ve been taught that we all have a spark of sanctity, a spark of the Divine in us; it’s the essence of our soul, of who we are and how each of us can make this world a better place. May our collective enthusiasm and love for our Judaism be truly contagious to our students and their families and those we encounter along our paths. We are all so blessed and I am grateful, not only for this wonderful honor, but also for the past few minutes of perhaps a true I-Thou moment with all of you. Thank you for being here.