Community Blog Reflections on Two Decades at Hebrew College
Marilyn Jaye (above, left, singing with Zamir Chorale of Boston, in 2007) retired this spring after 19 years at Hebrew College. She started as an assistant in the Masters of Jewish Education program, was involved in the creation of the Rabbinical School and several cantorial programs, set up the Office of Financial Aid, served as registrar and director of financial aid, as well as an ad-hoc bursar, and retired as registar. Below is an excerpt of a farewell note she sent to faculty and staff.
Arriving on Erev Rosh Hashanah 2001—one week after 9/11—my first day was spent trying to get an office and a desk. Hebrew College on Hawes Street in Brookline was an adventure. An old mansion converted to a college, the campus was both stately and ridiculous. The entryway was marble with a grand staircase and pipes from the house’s pipe organ. I walked those stairs daily to my office, which was really the sitting room in front of what was once an elegant bedroom in the old mansion.
The bedroom was the dean’s office and I shared a front sitting room with three other people—Shira Persky, Melissa Roiter and Scott Sokol. Shira had the corner, with the view of both the door to the office and the outside lawn area; Melissa had the fireplace; and Scott and I had the other side of the room, where the file cabinets and two desks fit nicely, but there was only enough room for one chair. Scott and I had to work out a schedule for who would use the office since we couldn’t both sit there at once! Lest you think this was the strangest office set up, the Prodzor office was in the servants’ quarters, which had its own back entry and staircase, as well as a claw-footed bathtub that held filing cabinets.
The school barely had internet service, let alone intranet. To share reports “electronically,” I went from office to office with my trusty floppy disc. Most of what we did was done by hand on paper with carbon copies. I know we sometimes think of our current Newton Centre parking lot as small, but Hawes Street had only 20 parking spaces, so we all parked on the local streets. We had to schedule our class times so students, faculty, and staff had time to run outside every two hours to move their cars before Brookline police came to ticket.
The move to the Newton Centre campus meant lots of planning and packing. We were organized into “brigades,” each having a specific mission of sorting through something or packing it up or tossing it. We ran yard sales and classes at the same time. We closed the old building in early November 2001, and we didn’t know until just after Thanksgiving if we would get an occupancy permit from the City of Newton for the new campus. Working from home then did not mean working online. Instead, I took home 10 big boxes of Harvey Shapiro’s papers so I could sort them into some sort of logical filing system. I wish I had a picture to share of what my living room looked like! It was a good thing Thanksgiving wasn’t at my house that year!
Of course, the new building also proved interesting. At our first official opening event, when all the donors were standing in the lobby outside the President’s office, looking out the windows at the courtyard and the library, a gasp came from the crowd. As the library lights were turned on, the reflection of 22 crosses floated in the windows of the new building. The study desks that ran the length of the building had shelves at the top and, in the warm soft glow of the night lighting, they stood out as crosses. Not the best look for a Jewish school. That is why those desks now have a lovely piece of frosted glass on the side of each desk—no more crosses!
The building had other interesting features including no storage space. We stored our archived files—anything older than one year—in a storage facility in Worcester. It took two to five days to get anything from them. Plus, you had to hope what you asked for was what they sent. On the plus side, we were able to stop doing everything by hand as we now had WiFi and software! Slowly but surely Hebrew College entered the 21st century.
During my teenage years I had a recurring dream in which I was some sort of school administrator. I could never identify the school or position. I never understood what that dream meant and I never aimed for that sort of career. I just took each opportunity that came my way and went with the flow. Before coming to Hebrew College, I worked in insurance, real estate, first-aid medical supplies, banking, and manufacturing. I taught CPR, I ran my own data-entry business, I worked in MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program and as managing editor for The MIT Report, and I did copy editing and layout for High Tech Magazine.
Then I arrived at Hebrew College, and the memory of that early dream became very vivid. I knew I was finally where I should be. The years since have been fulfilling, challenging, trying, triumphant, happy, and sad. I’ve weathered a major move, a major layoff, and lots of program and degree changes, and worked with three presidents and at least six CFOs. Multitasking and putting out fires has been part and parcel of my life here. But it has been wonderful! I have loved taking care of “my kids”—the students who, when I started here, were almost all older than I was. (How and when exactly did that change?) Sharing chocolate and tissues in my office; listening to their struggles and successes; and watching them succeed, graduate, and move on has all been very gratifying.
There have been many ups and downs over the years both at the college and within my own life. I want to mention how grateful I am for the community here that supported me during the loss of my father, the loss of both of my in-laws, and my husband’s death in 2018. I could not believe just how many people came to Larry’s funeral—so many staff, faculty, and students. It seemed to me that they closed Hebrew College so that day so everyone could attend.
I have loved working at Hebrew College, but I feel I really need to move on and take some time to enjoy life. I do not know yet exactly where I am going or what I will be doing, but I am looking forward to writing this next chapter. I leave here without guilt because I am leaving you in the fine, caring, and very capable hands of Bob Gielow and Marcia Spellman, who have taken on my roles at Hebrew College. Remember to treasure them both—they work really hard—and always have the students’ and school’s best interests at heart. I also thank Laurena Rosenberg, Deb Ron, and Tanya and Artie McCann, who have come to the table many times to assist and support our students and me, as well as just to laugh or cry together. Yes, there are many others I should be thanking as well, but I won’t list each name—this isn’t an award show after all, and this message has certainly gone on long enough. Instead, to you all, I offer my deep gratitude for your friendship, advice, caring, and support over the years. I wish for each of you the ability to find joy in the little miracles here for the seeing each day. And I pray that God holds us all in the palm of His hand and grants us all health and peace.
Please join us for Marilyn Jaye’s Retirement Celebration on Tuesday, August 18, at 4:30 p.m. via Zoom. Please bring a beverage to help us toast Marilyn.