Centennial Growing Up Together at Prozdor
One morning in 1987, 29 years after his graduation from Hebrew College Prozdor, Bob Feingold `58 decided it was time to plan a Prozdor Alumni Reunion.
“When 1988 came along, I got nostalgic. I realized I needed to reconnect with Hebrew College more, to remember why I am where I am,” he said. “I was thinking, our experience really motivated us to become integral to the Jewish community, and I bet some of these people would be interested in getting together again.”
So Feingold called his classmates Paul Gilman z”l and Ruth Pearlman Smith, and they called other classmates. And in November 1988, more than 50 Prozdor alums returned to Hebrew College from around the world, including three who had made aliyah to Israel. One of their teachers, Professor Arnie Band, also flew in to celebrate.
“This was 30 years since many of us had seen each other, and it was almost as if we’d been in the class the day before,” Feingold said. “We found that everyone was significantly involved in his or her Jewish community. Everybody was either president of their temple, president of their sisterhood, president of Hadassah, Hebrew school teachers or principals, rabbis, or lay leaders. Everyone became incredibly involved. You could count on it.”
Like many of his classmates, Feingold, a dentist, has been committed to Jewish life since returning to Boston from the Air Force in 1967. A graduate of Tufts University and Tufts Dental School, he served as vice president and campaign chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Framingham; as an executive committee member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC); and as a member of the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) Young Leadership Cabinet and a UJA delegate to Israel. He was also a volunteer dentist on a kibbutz near Lebanon, amongst other volunteer and leadership roles.
This commitment to Jewish life, Feingold said, was forged during the long afternoon, evening, and weekend hours that he and his peers spent at Hebrew College. The teens converged on Hawes Street in Brookline from different neighborhoods, synagogues, and middle and high schools, leaving their neighborhood friends and Hebrew Schools and choosing to prioritize their Jewish education. Many also attended Camp Yavneh, then a Hebrew-speaking camp, during the summer.
Feingold started Prozdor at age 13, after attending Hebrew school at Temple Emeth in South Brookline, then a relatively young synagogue. He came with a handful of other students and said his teachers at Prozdor taught him lessons that lasted a lifetime, including how to be a serious student.
“Going to Prozdor was an intense educational experience and a deep bonding experience between the students, and to Judaism,” he said. “We had all made the same decision, we had all decided to leave our neighborhood Hebrew schools, to leave our friends; we were growing up together.”
Feingold said his reunion reminded him of the importance of Hebrew College in his life. So he stayed actively involved for over 20 years. He served as an assistant secretary and vice chair of the Hebrew College Board of Directors, as well as chair of the Alumni Capital Campaign of the Hebrew College Fund Development Committee from 1989 to 1994. He led the drive to raise funds for the Herrick Road dining hall, and he and his ex-wife named two Prozdor offices in the Herrick Road building. He was also involved in the solicitation of several major gifts. In 1995, he received a certificate honoring him for his dedication to Hebrew College. He remains connected from his current home in Florida, where he moved five years ago—and even befriended a fellow Prozdor alum whom he met at his new temple there.
“Today, when I talk to my fellow Prozdor alums—some are here in Florida, some have passed on—the bond is automatic, whether we were close friends back then or not,” said Feingold. “The years I spent at Hebrew College and the years I spent at Camp Yavneh were seminal experiences in my life.”
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