Retiring of a leader

by | Apr 7, 2014 | Other News

On Saturday, Feb. 22, Temple Israel celebrated Education Shabbat and the leadership of Kathryn Morton, who will retire this summer after 16 years as director of the synagogue’s Sunday school. She has touched many lives with her passion for teaching, her endless creativity, and her vast patience.

Many of Morton’s current and former students demonstrated what they have learned from her over the years. Students sang the song she created listing the books in the Hebrew Bible.

“My greatest happiness that day was seeing my kids reciting the books of the Hebrew Bible and leading prayers with such skill and confidence,” says Morton.

Susan Eilberg, vice president of fundraising, and teen aides Katie Ponack, Saderiah Wright, and Haley Bosher led the Torah service. Morton chanted the Haftarah, showing her students that not only can she teach them to chant, but that she can also do it with skill and ease.

Jordan Goldman sang the Ashrei prayer for the first time and Miriam Blake sang Morton’s favorite Debbie Friedman song, “Lechi Lach,” bringing tears to her eyes and those of many congregants.

Eli Bilderback, a student and friend of Morton’s, shared favorite memories that he and other students had of her. He emphasized that she always found a way to motivate children to learn, even if it was clearing the hall to let his classmates run down the steps to get a bagel. He said he and his classmates enjoyed successful B’nai mitzvot due to her motivation and creativity.

Morton spoke and compared her job of teaching to planting little seeds and eventually seeing a desert in full bloom.

Teachers and others who have worked with Morton presented her with gifts. The first was a Mizrach, a beautiful ritual item and consciousness-raiser to always keep Jerusalem in one’s mind. Usually hung on the eastern wall of one’s home, the gift to Morton was made of glass and in the shape of a pyramid. The second gift, made from the ingenuity of art teacher “Crafty” Kravitz and the Sunday school children, was a book of the seven days of creation, complete with illustrations from the students.

Future B’nai mitzvot students Jordan Goldman, Lauren Moscovitz and Noah Alperin led the Musaf portion. All of the children were invited to the Bimah to say the Aleinu. At the service’s conclusion, people of all ages who had studied with Morton were invited to join in Adon Olam.

After the service, congregants enjoyed a Kiddush luncheon prepared by the Temple Israel Sisterhood in honor of Morton and participated in Israeli dancing, led by Reuven and Judy Rohn.

“It was so gratifying to see children, teens and adults all coming up to the pulpit to laud our retiring educational director, Kathryn Morton,” Rabbi Michael Panitz says. “An educator’s fondest wish is to reach out and touch both today and tomorrow. At this Shabbat, we were able to reassure Kathryn that she has done precisely that.”

by Shannon Ponack