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Still On Fire

Margie Pensak

They found their calling more than half a century ago, and despite the usual life challenges of the intervening years, they’re still at it when most are long retired. A school secretary in Baltimore, a mechaneches in Manchester, a dairy manager in Antwerp, a hospital administrator in Brooklyn, and a longtime chazzan in Manhattan are just a sampling of those energetic people who never lost their enthusiasm for and dedication to a job they probably never imagined would endure for over five decades.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

In half a century a lot can change in a high school, but one thing has always been dependable at Baltimore’s Talmudical Academy: Mrs. Reva Gold would always be in the office, taking care of “her boys” — from plying them with coffee and snacks to proofreading their essays Riiiing! It’s 11:15 a.m., and Mrs. Reva Gold, the indefatigable secretary at Baltimore’s Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim Talmudical Academy, gives me a knowing look. “That’s the recess bell,” she warns in her Southern drawl. “It’s going to get mobbed in here!” Seconds later, several talmidim pile into her office. “Hi, Mrs. Gold! Can I have a Band-Aid?” “Mrs. Gold, is anyone leaving now? I need a ride home.” “Mrs. Gold, can I please use the phone?” “Good morning, Mrs. Gold! Can I have a cup for coffee?” The organized and efficiently run office that serves a middle school and high school suddenly morphs into a friendly, inviting, and warm teenage oasis, as it has for close to half a century. This is just one opportunity for which the students have earned the privilege of using the menahel’s Keurig coffeemaker in the adjoining office. This spunky, stylish native Baltimorean worked for the city’s Department of Education and for the Air Force before landing her job as the middle/high school secretary at TA. That was back in 1966, when the Vietnam War was in full swing and a gallon of gas cost 32 cents. The current school campus had not yet been purchased, and the 60 or so talmidim were learning in Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation. Shortly after, the yeshivah moved to its present campus. “When we moved to this campus, I was the first person here. The dorming boys were lined up to get rooms, but this was all new to them, and to me as well. But I stayed to make sure everything ran smoothly… and stayed, and stayed, and stayed, and it has been the happiest time of my life.”

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