June 19, 2024
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Queens Yeshiva Dedicates Early Childhood Center in Memory of a Beloved Morah

On Wednesday, June 9, Yeshiva Tiferes Moshe in Kew Gardens formally dedicated their Early Childhood Center in memory of their longest-serving faculty member, Morah Lea Naiman Karpf. Morah Lea was the pilot of the YTM Pre-1A Hebrew faculty for 58 years, working almost up until her last days. She died just before Pesach 2020, early in the COVID pandemic.

According to her tribute biography, Morah Lea was born in the Bronx, after her parents immigrated from Hungary at the end of World War I. At age 14, her first job was teaching at a local Talmud Torah. When the founder of the Bais Yaakov network in America, Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan, opened a seminary in Williamsburg, Morah Lea enrolled. Later, in the late 1940s, Torah U’Mesorah recruited her to help form the new Hillel Academy in Pittsburgh.

After her wedding, she returned to New York and taught a preschool class at the West Side Institutional Synagogue. After her seven children were born, she was hired by YTM Principal Rabbi Arnold Levin, and she never left. For the first three decades, she partnered with Morah Alice Hertzberg, who ran the English program. The otherwise all-boys school did have a co-ed Pre-1A for 15 years until 1977.

At the event, some of her thousands of students from the preceding decades remembered their Pre-1A year. They reflected how she taught them the Hebrew alphabet, using the famous “Reishit Chochmah” workbook, one letter each week, culminating in a siddur party. At that party, each student would “randomly” open their new siddur to the page of Ashrei, find a sugar cube inside, and recite a rehearsed pasuk.

One Queens family would have been a three-generation Morah Lea family. A Dollman grandson is in Pre-1A this year. Their journal ad included a photo of the inside cover of the grandfather Yankee’s siddur he received at his own siddur party in 1967. Some recalled trekking from Queens to her Williamsburg home on Purim, while others treasure sukkah decorations still in use from back then, their saved copies of “Reishit Chochma,” the oak-tag Chanukah play candle crowns and the oak-tag mortarboard graduation hats with crepe-paper gowns.

Among the Naiman family attendees were many of Morah Lea’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including her eldest daughter, Goldie. She reminisced with some attendees about her mother calling her students her “kinderlach.” Morah Lea included them in her family simchas, with her well-established minhag of inviting these students to her children’s chupahs. Frisch Talmud teacher Rabbi Shalom Richter and his classmates remembered attending Goldie’s wedding as Pre-1A students almost a half-century ago. Several years ago, Richter and his wife, SAR Associate Hebrew Principal Morah Sarah Richter, invited their daughter Morah Miriam Shira’s first-grade students to her chuppah.

Rabbi Ahron Bookson, YTM assistant menahel, conducted the dedication ceremony, also recalling her devotion to her “kinderlach,” as well as her knack for remembering birthdays and anniversaries. Each year, each student wore a “Yom Huledet” crown on the special day.

He contrasted her strong dedication to her methods with an eagerness to try new things. There was her steadfast choice of baby blue cars, her favorite color, for her daily commutes from Williamsburg, and later from Monsey. At the same time, Bookson exclaimed, “she even tried sushi, thanks to me. I even have a picture to show for it.” In addition, her children and grandchildren kept ‘Bobbi’ boxes in their homes to store creative ideas that she could use in the classroom.

Bookson declared, “We’re not going to memorialize her legacy; we are going to attempt to emulate her impeccable legend.” As a dvar torah for the occasion, he described Yitzchak bringing his bride Rivka into his mother Sarah’s tent. “Rashi says three miracles that occurred in the tent during Sarah’s lifetime returned when they married; a candle remained lit from one Friday to the next, the cloud of the Schechina was in the sky above and the dough was fresh. Why her tent and not any other? Sarah left an impression that permeated the walls and was there for eternity. What we are doing tonight is just reminding everybody why the yeshiva has decided that this is going to be the Morah Lea Early Childhood Center. Her indelible impression is going to remain with us forever. We will always remember her, and we will perpetuate her legacy l’olam va’ed.”

For more memories about this beloved superstar Morah, go to https://www.kavodacharon.com/search?query=lea+karpf

By Judy Berger

 

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