In half a century a lot can change in a high school, but one thing has always been dependable at Baltimore’s Talmudical Academy: Mrs. Reva Gold would always be in the office, taking care of “her boys” — from plying them with coffee and snacks to proofreading their essays
Riiiing! It’s 11:15 a.m., and Mrs. Reva Gold, the indefatigable secretary at Baltimore’s Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim Talmudical Academy, gives me a knowing look. “That’s the recess bell,” she warns in her Southern drawl. “It’s going to get mobbed in here!”
Seconds later, several talmidim pile into her office. “Hi, Mrs. Gold! Can I have a Band-Aid?” “Mrs. Gold, is anyone leaving now? I need a ride home.” “Mrs. Gold, can I please use the phone?” “Good morning, Mrs. Gold! Can I have a cup for coffee?” The organized and efficiently run middle- and high school office suddenly morphs into a friendly, inviting, and warm teenage oasis, as it has for close to half a century. This is just one opportunity for which the students have earned the privilege of using the menahel’s Keurig coffeemaker in the adjoining office.
This spunky, stylish native Baltimorean worked for the city’s Department of Education and for the Air Force before landing her job as the middle/high school secretary at TA. That was back in 1966, when the Vietnam War was in full swing and a gallon of gas cost 32 cents. The current school campus had not yet been purchased, and the 60 or so talmidim were learning in Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation.
Shortly after, the yeshivah moved to its present campus.
“When we moved to this campus, I was the first person here. The dorming boys were lined up to get rooms, but this was all new to them, and to me as well. But I stayed to make sure everything ran smoothly… and stayed, and stayed, and stayed, and it has been the happiest time of my life.”
Mrs. Gold is contemplating retiring in July, her 50th anniversary at TA, while the yeshivah is in the midst of a capital campaign for its expanded 11½-acre campus as the milestone approaches.
Although administrators and staff members have come and gone in that half-century, Mrs. Gold maintains that “Everything is the same; nothing has changed. The same intercom system is used to speak to teachers in their classrooms. True, I have a computer now and although some of the high-tech stuff I can do, like answer e-mails, I love to do everything the old fashioned way. I’d rather write a note to a teacher and have it delivered, so I can be sure they get it.”
What makes this great-grandmother stay at the same job for 50 years? “I love the children; I love to help them out. I just feel good with them, that’s all,” responds the four-foot-eight petite flaming redhead with a bun in the back. “I like to take care of the boys and make them happy… I’m not a disciplinarian at all; I’m not strict with my own children. I let the boys get away with murder.”
Mrs. Gold is not only the students’ surrogate mother, she is their bubby, friend, psychologist, nurse, and pharmacist — nurturing them as she provides a sensitive touch for everything from Tylenol and Band-Aids (and pretzels, if need be) to a confidante’s ear. She knows the 150 high schoolers by name, and where most of the approximately 40 dormers are from.
After her hip surgery over a year ago, Mrs. Gold cut down on her hours. She used to get to work at six a.m. and officially stay until the end of the school day at four, although she’d often be found after hours as well. Mrs. Gold used to take her work home with her, especially when she had to get the report cards out (this was before they were computer-generated). “I come in early to do a lot of my paperwork, because when the kids are here for recess and all that, you can’t do anything,” explains Mrs. Gold, who now opens the office at seven a.m. and leaves at 1.
The seniors that I schmoozed with in Mrs. Gold’s office told me it’s the little things that Mrs. Gold does on a day-to-day basis, on top of her professional responsibilities, that endear her to “her boys” —everything from plying them with hot coffee, snacks, and hand cream — all of which she insists on paying for out of pocket, even though the school would reimburse her — to helping them fill out driver learner permit forms and proofreading their essays before they submit them. When students come to her upset about not getting good marks, she tells them the main thing is that they are trying; they feel better after talking to her.
“She calls them ‘my boys’,” notes Rabbi Yisroel Fuchs, menahel of the high school. “Over the years, she has had an effect on the boys, sometimes even more powerful than their rebbeim and teachers… She’s a mussar to all of us, showing what it means to be dedicated; she’s loyal to the bone, still buying coffee for the last 50 years, out of her pocket.”
Rabbi Menachem Gold (no relation), TA’s former high school English principal who worked with Mrs. Gold from 1987 through 1997, told how Mrs. Gold volunteered to proctor the SATs on a Sunday in 1986. That day, there was a terrible ice storm; the test was postponed and a sign was posted on the school door to announce this. Meanwhile, a mother who was dropping off her son for the test got out of the car and fell and broke her leg. She sued TA, the SAT testing service, and Mrs. Gold, since she was the one supervising. During the trial, Mrs. Gold was badgered by a very tough, aggressive lawyer. She looked at him squarely in the eyes and said, “I just do this for my boys at the TA.”
The warm feelings that the almost-octogenarian has for the talmidim and the TA staff are mutual. You can tell by looking at the several plaques, cards, and gifts that grace her office and the dedicated “TA wall” in her house, from the yearly birthday party they throw for her, and the trip to Israel that she and her husband, Henry a”h, were given in commemoration of her 25th anniversary at TA.
“I always say, when I die, I want everything they gave me packed up and put in my casket,” she says. “Money, I’ll never have; but, I have a lot of nachas from this place. I’m going to ask if I can volunteer at TA after I retire. It’s my family.”
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