The Funeral

Shelly's Place
Memories of Shelly
Virtual Art Galley
Shelly's Life and Family
Dear Friends

Aron Kaufman, Shelly's first grade teacher for Hebrew and Judaic Studies

It is with a mixture of grief, sadness, tears and pain that I stand before you today. My name is Aron Kaufman. At the Hebrew Day School, where I teach Hebrew and Judaic studies, I’m known as Moreh Aharon.

For a little over a year, I’ve had the honor and privilege of teaching Shelly Volk. Yet at this very sad time, I am also filled with a sense of joy that I have had the opportunity to teach Shelly Volk. The courageous student whose zest for learning and creative energy provided inspiration to all of those around her.

I will always remember the beautiful way Shelly could express herself through art and music. I can recall the masterpieces, the many masterpieces that she created. One of them I recall was one that she created last Purim -- I can remember that as if it happened yesterday. Her vision of King Ahashveros, full of the most vibrant colors and exceptional details, adorning the hallway of our school for all to admire. Her warm and resonant voice, singing the songs of the Jewish holidays and chanting our daily t’filot. As one of my 2nd graders put it so well, even if we’re feeling sad, we can be happy that we’ve gotten to know Shelly.

This past Monday morning at our school, we celebrated Shelly’s life in a deeply moving memorial ceremony. Led by our principal, Sheva Locke’s soothing voice and guitar, the children entered a holy place, a place in which their souls forever mingled with a bright spark, a shining star we know as our beloved Shelly. The parents, teachers and children witnessed and participated in this extraordinary outpouring of love, shared memories, and heartfelt emotions as we celebrated the soul and spirit of Shelly Volk.

The children recalled her picking flowers in our playground. She loved flowers. Her love of Winnie the Pooh, and her gorgeous artwork that all admired. They read condolence letters they had written and illustrated, to Maia, Ruti and Howard Volk. A new Israeli student in our 2nd grade class shared how Shelly had taught her to speak English when she had first came to school. And when she came to Hebrew Day School she didn’t speak a word of English. Of course when she shared that, she shared it all in English. A 5th grader recited a poem expressing his deep sorrow, teary eyed. A 2nd grader spontaneously led the entire school in a song taught by Hannah Hemermesh, last year’s music teacher, recalling the words of the Torah: “Etz Hayim He Hamahazikim Ba” -- “It is a tree of life to all who cling to it”

So when I speak to you about Shelly today, I speak not only for myself, but for our entire Hebrew Day School community: our parents, our current principal Sheva Locke, past principals Noami Blumenberg and Marlene Gittleman, our school Psychologist Dr. Andrea Hansel, past school psychologists, past and present faculty, past and present parents, past and present students. The entire community has galvanized so support the Volk family during this time of crisis.

Most of all, I am the voice of all the teachers and students who have had the pleasure of knowing Shelly. Especially for all the students who for the past 2 months have been writing cards to Shelly on a daily basis, letting her know that she has been in our thoughts and prayers, as she began new treatments that took her out of the classroom. When Ruti told me how much Shelly enjoyed having the cards read to her, I thought it might be a nice idea to make a cassette tape of our daily t’filot which she loved so much, so that Shelly could her the children’s voices. Ruti showed me how much Shelly had enjoyed the tape that we had prepared for her, when I visited Shelly at home.

The children were gratified to hear that while Shelly was still very sick, she loved receiving the cards and the tape. We continued making her cards as part of our daily prayer ritual, our daily t’filot, and sent her another tape of Chanukah songs that she enjoyed.

Our 2nd graders will always remember their precious friend. I know that I most certainly will. She made a huge impression on me from the beginning of 1st grade, with her sparkling eyes, her radiant smile and her very spunky personality. Shelly was never afraid to speak her mind. When she felt wronged by any one of her peers, she would never hesitate to assert herself. I remember in the beginning of 1st grade, one of Shelly’s classmates took her marker when she wasn’t looking. And boy, did Shelly get mad. She was one tough cookie. I know I wouldn’t have taken her on if I was a 1st grader in Kitah Aleph.

I admired her assertiveness, while at the same time, I tried to help her learn to control her occasional flare-ups and help her learn to work out peer conflicts in a direct but cooperative way. By the end of 1st grade, Shelly had made wonderful progress socially, learning to solve social disputes amicably. I’d like to add that one of Shelly’s last drawings in her Hebrew journal, that she illustrated this past year in 2nd grade, was a picture of herself and a classmate working out a problem.

Shelly was an excellent student who loved learning Hebrew. She thrived in the Hebrew immersion environment. Her reading skills were outstanding as well as her writing skills. She was the type of student that consistently showed her best effort. Her courage during the past year has inspired all of those around her.

Her knowledge of Hebrew was a wonderful resource in the classroom. She was able to help her peers understand my instructions, when they needed extra help.

When Shelly was diagnosed with a brain tumor, we were all in a state of shock. But Shelly continued to come to the classroom every day with the same eagerness to learn. Ruti helped make this happen in a very big way. Right from the very beginning when Shelly was diagnosed, Ruti made it absolutely clear to all of Shelly’s teachers that we were to treat her no differently than any other child in the classroom. Ruti knew that what Shelly needed most of all was keeping to the regular routine at school. She loved coming to school. She loved learning. Consequently Shelly was able to spend every single moment at HDS focused on what she loved to do the best -- learn.

Ruti’s insistence that Shelly be treated in the same way as her peers was literally the glue that kept our class together. The children knew that Shelly was accountable for her behavior even though she was battling this illness. More importantly, Shelly knew it.

Sometimes it was hard for me to stay true to Ruti’s insistence that Shelly be treated as the others. I remember one time something tickled Shelly’s funnybone and she literally could not stop laughing, causing a little bit of a disruption. Actually all the children started laughing probably for about 25 minutes. Later one of the children detected (correctly I must add) that I applied a different set of standards for Shelly in that situation. I was so happy to see Shelly with the giggles, that I did not have the heart to redirect her, even though she had disrupted the lesson. The child cried out in dismay, “Moreh Aharon, how come Shelly doesn’t get a time out? That’s not fair. We would get a time out if we couldn’t stop laughing.” After conversing with Mom, that child came to realize that life really isn’t fair when you are 6 years old, living with a brain tumor. And I say “living with a brain tumor” because Shelly was always living, every moment.

Shelly has taught me many things during my relatively brief time as her teacher. She taught me to persevere, to never give up. She taught me the true meaning of courage. But most of all Shelly has taught me about the precious gift we have -- the gift of life. I would like to end by honoring Shelly’s memory, her love of singing, her love of t’filot, by singing a nigun, a wordless melody that we chant every day as part of our morning prayers in kitah bet. Please join me if you feel comfortable doing so.

Audio file of this eulogy

Image Loading...

Go to another eulogy by:

The Funeral
Shelly's Place

Created by Ruti Volk
Last updated 7-22-99