Schurr Retires from Teaching, Embarks on New Adventures

Dafna Schurr

Dafna Schurr

“The times they are a-changin,” Bob Dylan wrote in his popular folk song, and when it comes to Louisville’s Jewish education scene, that is certainly true.

Since 1981, Dafna Schurr has been in Louisville’s Jewish classrooms teaching children and adults of all ages. She taught fourth grade at The Temple. She started with kindergarteners and stayed with the students through middle school at Eliahu Academy. She taught at the Louisville Hebrew School and continued to teach there after it became Louisville Beit Sefer Yachad. She was the director and teacher of the Kehila middle school program.

She tutored b’nai mitzvah candidates and those who wanted to learn Hebrew and those who wanted to chant Torah. Through her long career, she taught many of the children who grew up in this community, and often their children as well. For a time, she even served as The J’s Children’s Department director and was instrumental in building and supervising Gannon, establishing after school services and programming for children, and, for many years worked at The J Summer Camp.

Although it wasn’t an easy decision, at 71, Schurr says the time has come to leave the classroom to pursue other opportunities. Of course, that doesn’t mean sitting still.

“I want to embrace life from a different angle,” she explained, and she’s eager to learn new things. She’s part of the master gardeners community and takes classes and workshops to enhance her skills. She wants to learn Spanish and polish her math skills. She’s also looking forward to doing some traveling and finding things she and her partner, Ed Cohen, can do together.

As a native Israeli, Schurr treasures that connection and often helps with programs that connect Louisville with Israel. She and Cohen chaired Louisville’s Israel at 60 celebration that involved a series of well-attended events, and she helped with several Yom HaAtzmaut celebrations.

An animal lover, she and her dog, Lola, provide support to people in stressful situations. They like to visit children in hospitals and seniors in homes. Schurr was certified to train therapy dogs in California and is training Lola now. Working with WAGS (Wonderful Animals Giving Support) to schedule their visits.

Schurr was born in Tel Aviv and the family then moved to Rehovot, but she spent most of her childhood in a small town in the Lower Galilee region, Kiryat Tivon, which she described as “a beautiful place overlooking the Jezreel Valley.”

When she came to the United States, she and her then-husband planned to stay in Houston for two years so he could pursue post-doctoral studies. Their situation changed and they stayed there for two more years before coming to Louisville.

“When I came to this community,” Schurr observed, “I was really embraced and welcomed by so many people. It really felt like home and the adjustment was very easy.” As an Israeli, she felt that the community treated her as an asset and showed “a lot of warmth and kindness,” she added.

Having earned her teaching certification from an Israeli seminary that was part of the University of Haifa, Schurr explained, “I felt like I was equipped with what the community needed” a Hebrew and Judaic teacher.

“I always cherished children and I always was very fortunate to be able to be part of their growing up,” she said. “It was very rewarding.”

The time available for children’s Jewish education is very limited, Schurr explained, and to take full advantage of it, Louisville’s Jewish schools are continually looking a different curricula and improving on what they do with the goal of providing children the solid base they need “to be active, knowledgeable members of the community.”

It’s been an interesting journey to see “how things have changed over the years,” she continued, as Louisville’s Jewish educators strive to “be more productive with less time” and to introduce technology into the classroom.

Teaching afforded Schurr the opportunity to learn from her colleagues and students. “I always thought if you’re open to students, open to children, observe them, try to be sensitive and see their needs, that you learn a lot about humanity generally.”

She based her teaching on the Hebrew phrase, “hanoch lana-ar l’fi darko, teach the youth by their ways, which means you have to be sensitive and realize that there are differences in the students in your class,” taking into account each student’s needs and style of learning.”

She treasures the relationships she has built over the years with her colleagues – teachers, administrators, parents and coworkers.

Schurr has three adult children, Barak Schurr and Hila Schurr, who live in the Los Angeles area, and Ori Schurr, who lives near Louisville. Her partner in life is Ed Cohen.


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