by Naomi Kellman ’25
10th grade dean Erica Hezi joined the TLS Kehilah in January 2023, and she has quickly become an essential part of the community. However, there is still much that students and faculty do not know about her. Hezi began her journey as a Hebrew school teacher, and she fell in love with working with students.
“I knew I wanted to work with kids,” Hezi said. “I decided that school counseling, helping students achieve their dreams, learn to accept themselves, and grow and discover their passions was the way I wanted to go.”
She then entered a school counseling program and was a school counselor in upstate New York, until she worked at Ardsley. Hezi worked at Ardsley until retiring two years ago. She then moved on to a community-based organization where she helped children apply to college who were the first to do so in their families. Wanting to get back to her roots, Hezi saw the opening at TLS for an interim 10th grade dean and found it the perfect opportunity to work with students again in a counseling setting.
“Those first few days, I felt the warmth of the Leffell community and was honored by how open the students were to me,” Hezi said. “The faculty was extremely warm, welcoming and supportive too.”
Hezi was blown away by the extreme generosity and kindness of the community as she was navigating those first few days.
“Everyone kept coming in saying ‘If there’s anything you need, please let us know,” Hezi said. “We’re so happy you’re here.’”
Another reason why Hezi feels so at home at TLS is because she very much identifies with the guiding principles of the school.
“The Jewish values that we try to instill here are very much the guiding principles of my life, like Tikkun Olam, Gemilut Chasadim, and Chesed,” Hezi said. “To be in a school which teaches those principles and lives by those principles is very exciting.”
Stepping into the role of the sophomore dean, Hezi plans to make sure that the sophomore class feels like a community. It is very important to Hezi that students feel supported by the faculty and their fellow students.
“My goal is for every student to feel comfortable coming in and seeing me and not feeling judged, even if it’s just to hang out and share a little bit about themselves,” Hezi said. “You don’t have to have a problem to come in and see the dean. I really love working with students because you are who you are and each one of you is a little masterpiece in the making. I love to infuse hope in my students.”
Now, four months later, Hezi reflects about the highlights of her TLS experience so far.
“My favorite part has been working directly with the students and getting to know them on a personal level,” Hezi said. “What I hope they take away from working with me is that I strive to be a warm and non-judgemental mentor for them.”
This week, Hezi joined her 84 sophomores on their trip to Washington, DC.
“The trip was a great bonding opportunity for the grade,” Hezi said. “Seeing new friendships form was extremely gratifying. The chesed focus of the trip opened our eyes to ways that we can meaningfully contribute to the greater good.”