A Tribute to Dr. Aviva Weisbord

A little more than three weeks ago, we lost a treasured friend, prolific speaker, and community advocate. Rebbetzin Dr. Aviva Weisbord A’H was all that and more to her staff at SHEMESH, a program of the Associated. Here are some thoughts and insights that they shared as they recalled their beloved Executive Director, Aviva.   

The Giant Aviva  

Aviva’s greatness was unique
About her it is hard to speak 
Thinking of someone so very tall 
Makes me feel very, very small  
Aviva had so many G-d given gifts
Intellect, ability, and a heart so big
She used it all for the One Above 
To spread His name and His love 
I have talents and strength of my own 
My job is to use my every bone 
All of it for the One Above 
To spread His name and His love 
No, “Aviva” I will never be 
But I can be the best me! 

 Michal Tessler  

Aviva’s door was always open, and she was always ready to shmooz. She was always interested in my children and what was up with them giving thoughtful advice when asked and comforting words when needed. Team Shemesh enjoyed painting pottery, breaking out – well not breaking out – from a breakout room, lively discussion, warm chatter, and a grand laugh now and again. Aviva constantly joked with me about my wanting to take another class or workshop. Aviva accepted me for who I am, understood and accepted that I was on a journey to understand myself better and encouraged me on my way. For me Aviva was like a hug. I somehow always felt wrapped in her strength and warmth.  

Lovingly written by Debbie Logue 

Aviva was a wonderful director, mentor and friend. Her tireless commitment to providing support for children with learning differences was obvious during every encounter I had with her. Our staff shares ideas, thoughts and best practices in our monthly meetings, and it is always a collaborative effort. This is because of the tone that Aviva set from day one. She valued the opinions of her staff and she never made a decision without consulting us. In addition, Aviva would always remember to thank us personally either through a phone call or email. She once sent me an email that said, “I continue to be so grateful to be connected to you.” I know I am even more grateful to have been connected to her.  

Eileen Norris 

Working with Dr. Weisbord was one of the highlights of these last couple of years since I began working for SHEMESH. Everyone felt that she was their friend and knowing that everyone else felt that way didn’t make her friendship feel any less special. I’ll always remember one time when it seemed that it would be helpful if Dr. Weisbord spoke to someone about sponsoring a SHEMESH program. I can’t remember exactly the way she looked or what she said but I was surprised to see that Dr. Weisbord wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of such a conversation. When it became clear that she should indeed contact the potential donor, however, Dr. Weisbord did not hesitate at all and simply went about making the phone call. It was then that I realized that Dr. Weisbord did all that she did because she just wanted to use her extraordinary abilities to do whatever the people depending on her needed, even when it wasn’t easy for her at all. She made everything she did look so effortless; you might have thought it was easy. 

Chumi Millman 

While I was the new person at SHEMESH, I did not know Aviva as well as our other colleagues.  All of my encounters with her were extremely pleasant. Whenever I sought Aviva out for advice, she was always willing to assist with a smile and made me feel comfortable, which exemplified her great character. She always took the time to get to know about me and my family and as a newer staff member that helped to ease the transition with my position at Shemesh. I will miss Aviva’s wonderful advice and positive attitude!! 

Susan Garfinkel  

Aviva Weisbord A”H was the most considerate, fair, and caring boss. She always looked out for me, making sure I felt fulfilled professionally, and insisted I put my family before work when the need arose. Her daughter Dvora Meira, who I grew up with, has told me over the past number of years, how proud her mother was of my professional accomplishments.  Aviva was brilliant, yet so down to earth, always providing solutions to problems and thinking out of the box to do so. She was professional, yet exuded a calm, happy, and relaxed persona.  I looked up to Aviva as a mother figure and she gave all of us guidance, both professionally and personally. Aviva created such a warm atmosphere among our Shemesh team members; in her nurturing manner, she helped mold our team into a family, and now an integral part of our family is gone.  I have lost a mentor and a friend, and I honestly don’t know how her void will ever be filled.   

Sarah Ottensoser 

As its leader, Aviva helped SHEMESH become the successful program it is for our children who learn differently. Aviva was my colleague and director for ten years. In both roles, she was extraordinarily wise, supportive and caring.  Her sense of humor made us smile in our staff meetings. She encouraged and welcomed us to share our thoughts, questions and suggestions with her and with each other. We learned from her experiences and knowledge, yet she was also eager to learn from us. Aviva fully understood our roles and competencies. We had her full trust, and this trust made SHEMESH a close-knit team working toward the same goals for children in our community. Aviva allowed each of us to use and develop our own expertise. She gave us the freedom to teach our students as we saw best, and I am so grateful for this. She knew we were devoted to our students, their skills, their successes and their happiness. It was always comforting and reassuring to know that whatever the issue, Aviva would go to bat for us when we needed. She was sincerely interested in us, professionally and personally. She wanted us to be happy and feel good about the work we were doing. She praised us for the good we were doing in the community, yet always was interested in what more we could do for the children. Aviva knew about our families, the successes and challenges. Her heart was always in the right place. I will miss Aviva dearly as a wonderful colleague and leader, and most importantly, a caring friend.  

Eileen Himmelrich  

In reading everyone else’s tributes here and in other publications, I wondered, ‘How is it possible that one person accomplished all this?’ and ‘How is it possible that one person was all these things to all these people?’ Then I remembered that Aviva had a clock in her office that her children gave her. Each number on the clock was replaced with the word “NOW”. If ever you wanted to know the time, it was “NOW”. I think that’s the answer to the questions above. When something needed to get done, or a person needed to be called, Aviva did it “NOW”. She exemplified the quote from Hillel in Pirkei Avos, “Im Lo Achshav, Eimatai?” translated as, “If not NOW, then when?”. It’s a lesson we could all take to heart.  

Fayge Friedman 

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