In 2011, an anonymous donor made a generous donation to Hebrew Day School to honor the memory of Herb Amster (z’’l).  Mr. Amster was an avid supporter of Jewish life in Ann Arbor.  He was one of the founders of the JCC and an esteemed leader in the local Jewish community.  The donation in his memory supports an award to honor the work of outstanding Hebrew and Judaic Studies teachers, and I am so pleased to share the news that this year’s recipient is Milka Eliav.

Morah Milka has taught every grade level at Hebrew Day School.  And whether she is working with our oldest students or our youngest, Milka’s teaching is characterized by her extraordinary energy, her passion for the Hebrew language and for Jewish tradition, and, above all else, a powerful and unmistakable love for young children.  To watch Milka teach is to observe an educator who pours warmth and compassion into all of her work; and it is to watch young children respond to those warm feelings by learning and thriving under Milka’s guidance.

I asked some of Milka’s students what it is like to have her as a teacher and the same themes came up again and again.  “She makes learning fun!” remarked one student.  “She takes care of me,” said another.  “She makes us laugh in class,” said a third.  These students described a classroom environment that I have seen in person many times—it is an engaging, exuberant space in which curiosity is encouraged and a love for learning is nurtured.

Milka’s co-teacher, Debbie Carbone, painted a similar picture in describing Milka’s work, “Milka brings enthusiasm, compassion, creativity and a genuine passion for teaching to the classroom. She creates a learning environment where speaking, learning and hearing Hebrew is exciting and not at all intimidating. Our students are proud of their heritage and knowledgeable about Jewish traditions, holidays and values from her effective instruction. She is an amazing colleague, a team player and a great friend.”

Milka’s efforts on behalf of HDS extend beyond the classroom as well.  She is a mentor to other teachers and, as the director of our Rosh Chodesh assemblies, puts together programming that we—students, teachers, and parents—enjoy together as a community.

In all of these ways, Milka exemplifies qualities that we know would have made Mr. Amster proud. The dedication, passion, and creativity that she brings to HDS are reminiscent of the traits that he brought to our community. We are so grateful to the generous donor who made it possible to honor both of these individuals, to Mr. Amster for his commitment to our community and his leadership in the past, and to Milka for the talent and love she brings to the classroom each day.

Mazel tov Morah Milka and mazel tov HDS!