This Friday evening we will honor Rachel Wood for her 25+ years of B’nai Mitzvah tutoring as well as being our SKIP coordinator since the program’s inception about 30 years ago. Rachel has tutored hundreds of children over the years.
When I first came to Congregation Etz Chaim twenty-one years ago Rachel was our B’nai Mitzvah tutor as well as a Hebrew teacher in the younger grades. She developed a language lab for children who needed alternative ways of learning Hebrew. I learned all about some equipment that I had never seen before because it was so new. A number of years ago, Rachel and I met and decided that it would be good for the B’nai Mitzvah students to have her as their sixth-grade teacher so she could prepare them for their tutoring experience. This change has worked well as the children now come into the tutoring with the basic knowledge she was looking for them to have.
In my mind, Rachel is at her best when she works with children with special needs. Last summer my great nephew Tommy became a Bar Mitzvah in our sanctuary. When Tommy was in second grade, his parents asked me if I thought Tommy would be able to become a Bar Mitzvah at the synagogue. I said to them, "Of course." I knew this would not be easy because Tommy is autistic and has a very different learning style from other children. Rachel worked her magic and I must say that the Bar Mitzvah was one of the highlights of my days at Etz Chaim. I’m not sure anyone else could have gotten Tommy to be as successful as he was. Even his public school teachers were amazed.
I feel very blessed to have Rachel as part of our staff at Etz Chaim and look forward to continue working with her. I hope you will all come and help us celebrate her many accomplishments.