May her memory be a blessing
Cheryl Aronson – in loving memory
Her passion found a chamber in that call, to open a loving, authentic and inviting door to our younger generations to not simply learn about Judaism and Israel, but to be Jewish and to experience Israel – in all their “intricate and splendid complexity.”
Cheryl Aronson’s sudden and untimely passing found anyone who knew or worked with her in utter shock — and I am no exception. Merely a week ago we shared a Zoom screen during Birthright Israel’s international education committee, a cohort of established and committed educators in which Cheryl was a long-standing and highly valued member. As always, Cheryl put forward her true personal and professional self so effortlessly: A resilient and attentive listener; a soft-spoken and kind speaker; a deeply thoughtful and sensitive educator and, above all, a woman whose pride in Judaism, commitment for the Jewish people and love for Israel where nothing short of contagious.
Cheryl had an ability to soar high in thought, yet always translate such thought into viable, practical and inspiring measures, whose ultimate goal was – as she recently put it – “to create a space to celebrate being a Jew.”
Indeed! Cheryl was and remains in my mind an embodiment of that aspiration, a role-model for the perpetual desire to transform Judaism into a celebration of moments that highlight each and all’s values, concepts, responsibility and shared accountability. Her passion found a chamber in that call, to open a loving, authentic and inviting door to our younger generations to not simply learn about Judaism and Israel, but to be Jewish and to experience Israel – in all their “intricate and splendid complexity.”
And when Cheryl spoke, we listened. We listened to a voice whose resonance was fueled by devotion, by a vision whose unwillingness to accept anything but the highest standards was nonetheless wrapped in kindness, patience, self-inspection and a willingness to go whatever distance needed to effect real, positive and lasting change.
Cheryl – whose last position was VP of Israel engagement at Hillel International – will truly be remembered as a member of Beit Hillel in my book: an educator, a teacher and a leader whose halacha has always powerfully resonated not due to stern discipline or dominating presence, but precisely due to her “humility and patience; and since [she] had always listened to the voices of Beit Shamai first, and often quoted their words prior to offering her own” (Eruvin 13b).
Farewell, dear friend, colleague and mentor. I salute you on behalf of the entire Taglit-Birthright Israel family and the hundreds of thousands who were impacted by your wisdom. Baruch Dayan HaEmet.
Gidi Mark is international CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel.