Holy Blossom Farewell
Reflection from Brenda Baskind
My family and I arrived in Toronto from South Africa in 1987. I thought that, since we were from an English-speaking Commonwealth country, there wouldn’t be much culture shock. Was I wrong! For example, when Lorraine Sandler, the supervisor of Holy Blossom at the time, offered me a teaching position, I innocently told her I would have to ask my husband. She was shocked and laughed, “I am offering you the job – not your husband!” This was my introduction to life at Holy Blossom. A place that has been an integral part of my life since then.
Not only were there cultural differences, but I was surprised to find that Canadian and South African English had less in common than I’d thought. When I started my job in Kita Bet I was in for many such surprises. My first experience was when a three-year-old girl kept telling me that she “needed to go”. Since there was nowhere to go, I finally asked her “Where do you want to go?” My co-teacher, Debbie explained that she wanted to go to the washroom. I took her to the washroom and waited outside the stall as she “went”. I kept checking in, “Are you done yet? Are you done yet?” An exasperated little voice answered, “did you hear the plop?”. “No”, I replied. “Then I am not done!”.
Lorraine Sandler was my supervisor, mentor and friend. I learnt a lot from her lot about children and parents and how to treat people. She is a kind and generous person, and she understands the meaning of the true Jewish spirit. She was supportive and expected a lot from her staff, but she gave a lot as well. Lorraine stood behind us and supported us, and we felt safe under her guidance. I remember when an irate father, who hadn’t paid his fees was having words with Lorraine. He threatened her by telling her that he is a lawyer. Without missing a beat, Lorraine calmly said, “Your mother must be very proud of you.”
Under Lorraine’s guidance, Holy Blossom had a reputation of being the most sought-after day school in the city. I remember how parents lined up outside at 5 am to get a place for their child to attend our school. It was a first come first served basis in those days and everyone wanted to have their child at this prestigious school.
When Lorraine retired after 18 years of service, she handed over the reins to Pam Hamovitch. Pam is the epitome of a lady – compassionate, organized and softly-spoken. She came to us with a wealth of experience and also have been our colleague as a teacher for many years. Pam is a very different person to Lorraine but equally qualified to lead our team. She carried on Lorraine’s good work with compassion and dignity. The school flourished under her leadership and we were all thrilled to have her as our new supervisor.
Life for me could not have been happier.
Over the years, teachers came and went, but there were (and are) a core of us who were completely dedicated to Holy Blossom. I worked with many different women over my 33 years. Each one an excellent teacher in her own right and from each one I learnt something of value.
Together we celebrated personal Simchas – welcoming new babies and celebrating engagements and weddings. We also comforted each other during sad times – when we lost loved ones, we shared and comforted each other as well. One of our beloved co-teachers and a dear friend of mine, lost her life to cancer while working with us. We planted a tree in her honour at the school as she was such a big part of our lives for so many years.
Having been part of the Holy Blossom community for over 30 years, I’ve seen many kids come and go. Sometimes, I hear about their successes as an adolescent, or adult. Just recently I watched an ex-student (my co-teachers son) get married. Many ex-students, once parents themselves, bring their children back to Holy Blossom so that they can also experience the nurturing attention.
The Holy Blossom family extends beyond teacher, parents and kids. We have had wonderful janitors over the years and I always felt I could ask for anything and they were there for us. They all remain in my memory bank. We also had security guards over the years who took care of us and became part of my life. I enjoyed chatting with office staff when I arrived early in the morning. I also formed a friendship with a lady who worked in the gift store whose great-granddaughter was in my class a few years later.
Of course, my main love was with the children and parents – many of whom became friends.
But then COVID-19 came and, in March 2020, everything closed down and we had no time to say goodbye. No time to give hugs and say thank you. I decided to retire this year – ending a happy and fulfilling period of my life. Since I can’t come in to say my farewells, I thought I’d share some of my memories and life experiences over my 33 years at Holy Blossom.
I want to wish Wendy a successful and wonderful time at Holy Blossom. I only spent a few months with her, and she proved to be a skilled, supportive and experienced supervisor. I know that she will lead Holy Blossom through this difficult time with grace and compassion.
Holy Blossom will always be an important and memorable chapter of my life and one that I will always treasure.
I wish the whole Holy Blossom family a Shana Tova and all the best.