The Spark That Lit My Future
Eight years ago, an amazing teacher named Michal Almalem lit a flame deep inside me that that is still burning brightly in my life today. She was my teacher, my bat mitzvah tutor and my friend, and now I know, my inspiration. The ways she influences me even today are too numerous to list here. Suffice it to say, she is an extraordinary teacher.
She teaches with such dedication, inspiration and with such an interactive style. But she does more than teach the material, she makes you love the subject and content. She gives up her own time for the benefit of others, whether it is enlightening them through learning, doing chesed (acts of kindness), or by simply inspiring others through her bright smile.
What seems like a very short seven years ago, I was ready to prepare for my bat mitzvah. Being a traditional Jewish girl, I did not plan to go up to the Torah to receive an aliyah like most of my friends. I wanted to do something different, something meaningful to me. I chose to study Pirkei Avot, a part of Mishnah that is traditionally studied in the summer, because my bat mitzvah was in August. I had my idea; I just needed a teacher.
I wanted someone extraordinary to teach me this book and these meaningful ideas, but I wanted to learn them through a different and creative lens. Morah Almalem was the obvious choice. She is not only a teacher but a talented artist. We met and she immediately sparked a match inside of me. I discovered my love for Jewish learning, responding to her passion. Together, we deeply learned a few tractates from the book and created a painting that conveyed the ideas we learned. To this day, that painting hangs on my bedroom wall. And its meaning grows deeper to me every time I look at it.
That little spark Morah Almalem lit inside me has turned into a burning flame. I am following in her footsteps, studying Jewish education at Yeshiva University. I realize I have so much to learn about teaching. But what Morah Almalem taught me above all, is that the job of the Jewish educator is not just to convey information, but to light the flames of Jewish souls. This is the one lesson that I learned from her that inspires me every day. It is the lesson that I will carry with me as a teacher, a wife, a mother and a Jewish adult.