I do not recall ever meeting Sarit Malca Azran in person, but based on the things I have heard about her over the last few days, in the wake of her shocking and tragic death, this young woman was a special person. She was a beloved wife, mother of two girls aged 8 and 5 and a teacher at Herzliah High School, who got high marks from all of her students.
On Saturday, November 15, Sarit, only 41, went to the hospital suffering from severe stomach pain. Her condition continued to deteriorate and three days later she passed away.
My heart goes out to her family, friends, students and colleagues. They are all naturally devastated. Why do things like this happen? How could they?
Social services agency Ometz has been in the school offering grief counselling. A Twitter hash tag #Herzstrong has been used to show how everyone will get through this experience together.
A native Israeli, Sarit taught Hebrew and Jewish history and was noted for the work she did between the school and its sister city for a program called Gesher Chai which linked her school with those in Beer Sheva. "Sarit encouraged our family to participate in Gesher Chai earlier this year," said Natalie Celemencki Lang. "We hosted a 16 year old boy from Beer Sheva. She assured me it would be a life changing experience for our family, and we would learn about Israel, where no one in our family has ever gone. She was right! We loved the experience. G-d bless her and may her family know how much she was loved by everyone she touched."
Here is a video with Sarit from only a few months ago. It shows her passion
Student Ronel Bouzaglo was so close with Malca that he gave one of the eulogies at her funeral. "Whether you were close with her or not, Morah Malca managed to create a relationship with every single student who walked through her classroom door," he said. "She also had this special way of making every student feel like they were her favorite. She was the teacher that every student felt comfortable enough to go to, to speak about anything. She just had a special way with her students that was one of a kind. The amount of people in this room right now says it all.
"Morah Malca formed bonds with her students that can never be broken. Even though she is no longer with us, the bonds she forged will never vanish. Her legacy in this school goes far beyond Judaic studies. Whether dedicating all of her time and energy into the fashion show, Gesher Chai or keeping kids who got sent out of class, hidden from the administration, Morah Malca was truly a genuinely loving person. No one will ever forget her contagious smile, her loving personality or her dedication to Herzliah. Many of us have not fully been to able rap our minds around the fact that she is no longer with us, however not a single Herzliah soul will ever forget the name Morah Malca. Her name and positive attitude will live on for years to come."
Ronel considers himself fortunate to have had the privilege to get to know Malca well over the last few years. "Because she had taught my older siblings, I felt I already knew her even before we actually met," he said. "It was just this past Friday that I was chatting with her over Facebook about the finale of a TV show that we both love so much that is coming up. We spoke about it every day at school, anticipating how Sons of Anarchy was going to end. She then asked me how our Washington grad trip went and how she was extremely upset that she wasn’t able to join us. All the Secondary V students were equally upset, knowing that our favorite teacher will not be sharing these special memories with us."
How special was she? Ronel tells this story. " Several years ago, there was a group of 8th graders in Morah Malca’s class who were having difficulties understanding the material for their test," he said. "The day before their test, Morah Malca wasn’t going to let her students walk into class the unprepared. So she took matters into her own hands. She invited all of the 8th graders to her house the night before to tutor them and to ensure that they all passed with flying colors. She even offered them candy and snacks to make the study session as enjoyable as possible. One student described the smile on her face as she handed back the tests to her students with nothing but passing grades. This truly shows us the type of woman Morah Malca was inside and outside of the classroom."
Jeremy Levett, a bright and charismatic student at Herzliah whom I know, shared with me how all of his classmates are coping. "She was by far one of the most outgoing and inspiring teachers," he said. "She made all students feel like they had someone to talk to and was a source of inspiration for us all.
"Students have been taking this hard," he continued. "There has been a lot of emotion in the school. The administration has handled things well and took care of the situation in a very professional manner. She touched each and every student in the school in their own special way."
On the Paperman and Sons website, tributes are pouring in. "Sarit started her teaching career at Herzliah when I was vice principal," writes Vera Center. "Her enthusiasm and dedication to her students were admirable. She will surely be missed by many."
"A rare gem!" wrote some parents of former students. " How fortunate for us as parents to have had Sarit plant seeds of wisdom in our children. How rare in any field it is to have someone perform a function with a smile, expertise, and care so much as to go beyond their mere job description."
Wrote Sandra & Moise Moghrabi: "As is much of the community, we are still in utter shock about the untimely passing of beautiful Sarit z'l. She had a direct and positive impact on each and every person she met, myself included."
"I had the pleasure of doing my teaching degree with Sarit many years ago," said Melissa Margles. "She was warm, caring, kind and fun. It is clear that she was the same way with her students who were so very lucky to have had her as a teacher and mentor for some."
Amiel Bender, the Chazzan Sheini at Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Congregation and formerly Youth Director at Beth Ora Congregation, expressed what a terrible loss for the UTT/Herzliah family and the Jewish educational profession of Montreal at large has suffered. "Sarit lit up the room with her enthusiasm and energy and enhanced the lives of so many of our youth with her knowledge and empathy," he said. "Her smile was contagious and her actions sincere. Whenever she came to work at Beth Ora with the Herzliah kids she was a pleasure to work with."