Sarah entered her first classroom as a Jewish educator in 1978, when she was a senior at Oberlin College. To supplement her work-study job in the cafeteria, she took a job in a nearby synagogue, teaching eighth grade in Sunday school. She soon discovered that this teaching job meant so much more than enhanced income; it connected her as a young adult to a Jewish community she had not imagined being a part of and helped strengthen her Jewish identity. Sunday mornings off campus with five challenging eighth-grade boys turned out to be an unexpectedly meaningful and enjoyable experience.
The seeds of Sarah’s deep love for the Jewish people and for Hebrew were planted in her childhood. Her Brooklyn grandparents were immigrants from Eastern Europe and Orthodox (her grandfather was a rabbi), and Sarah fondly recalls her visits with them and encounters with their Judaism and Yiddishkeit. Her beloved parents, Sandie and Irv, instilled in her and her sister, Rachel, a love for Judaism, the Jewish people, and Israel.
Because of her late father’s work as an academic, the family had many opportunities for international travel. Wherever they went, they always found their way to a local synagogue or Jewish site to connect to the Jewish community. Sarah visited Israel for the first time when she was six years old, and though very young, understood that Israel was a special place.
She returned to Israel in college for a junior-year abroad and was thrilled to apply her classroom study of Hebrew to learning how to speak. This was the year when Hebrew came alive for her in an integrated and very joyful way. Upon her arrival in Jerusalem in July, she studied in an ulpan (immersive Hebrew class); there she met another student who was also falling in love with the Hebrew language — a young man from New York, who would become her husband three years later, and, 12 years after that, our rabbi. Needless to say, that year in Israel changed Sarah’s life forever.
Fast forward, Rabbi Gluck served six years as the assistant and then associate rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Westfield. Sarah was in graduate school at the time and also taught Hebrew in the religious school. Then, in 1986, Arnie was invited to work in Israel. The young couple sold their house, packed their bags, and took their 18-month-old baby, Ellie, to Haifa, where a two-year stint at the Leo Baeck Education Center lasted for five years.
Sarah says that moving to Israel was like coming home. Israel is where she and Arnie had met and begun to grow together as Jews, as Hebraists, and as teachers, each in their own way. During their time in Haifa, Sarah worked for an English-language political journal and created a business as an editor for Israeli academics writing in English. And it was in Israel that they welcomed their second child, Shira.
In 1991, the family returned to New Jersey to come to Temple Beth-El. Sarah soon began volunteering on Sunday mornings teaching Hebrew to adults. She fondly recalls sitting on the floor in a small room in the old temple building (where the TBE café is now), studying liturgy and beginning Hebrew with several groups. In 1997, after working as a Hebrew teacher in other educational settings, Sarah joined the staff at Temple Beth-El as a teacher in our religious school. In 2000, she became the director of Hebrew education, and in 2008, education co-director, together with her colleague, Lisa Friedman.
“Jewish learning at Temple Beth-El emphasizes both the cognitive and affective modes of learning,” Sarah shared. “Our staff is committed to a shared vision of what all our students — children and adults alike — will learn, take into their hearts, and integrate into their lives. The essence of this sacred work is in helping every one of our learners to grow as a good, kind, and loving Jewish person.”
From the very start, Sarah has been dedicated to helping children and adults experience the joys of Jewish learning and find deep meaning in Jewish tradition. She has shared her love of Hebrew with so many, from TBE’s very young to adults who have discovered the sweetness of the alef-bet later in life.
Over 25 years, in guiding TBE’s midweek Hebrew program, facilitating our beloved seventh-grade family tallit workshop, working with b’nei mitzvah families, and nurturing a broad range of adult learning opportunities, Sarah has interacted with members of our TBE family in a gentle, affirming, and empowering way, creating opportunities for learners of all ages to experience the sacred and rejoice in celebrating Jewish rituals, holidays, and lifecycle events.
It comes as no surprise that the Association of Reform Jewish Educators awarded Sarah its Distinguished Educator Honor at its annual conference on March 1, 2022.
We at Temple Beth-El acknowledge and are deeply grateful for Sarah’s extraordinary contributions to our religious school and lifelong learning programs.
As important, we are grateful for her compassion and fierce determination to be a force for good that have inspired all of us to practice g’milut chasadim, acts of loving-kindness, and be better Jews.