Ilana Wilner, mastermind of school spirit, leaves for admissions post at YU


BP Photo by Liad Machmali

EVENTS: Ms. Wilner, who taught Judaic Studies in addition to leading Student Activities, has a degree from YU’s Graduate Program of Advanced Talmudic Studies (GPATS).

By Benjamin Gamson, Editor-in-Chief

Ms. Ilana Wilner, who brought energy and imagination to the events and celebrations and was also among the most learned female teachers of Judaic Studies, is working as Associate Director of Admissions at Yeshiva University in New York and has not returned this fall after six years at Shalhevet. 

Ms. Wilner arrived in the fall of 2015 and over the years taught a variety of Judaic Studies classes, including 12th-grade Talmud, ninth-grade Tanach, ninth-grade Tanach skills, 10th-grade Tanach and 11th-grade Talmud, along with various “mini-mester” senior seminars.

She also was faculty advisor to the Student Activities Committee, directing and often inventing events such as Color War, holiday celebrations, and Yom Haatzmaut.   

Last year during the pandemic, Ms. Wilner designed “March Madness” in place of Color War which gave students an opportunity to bond in-person while in the midst of hybrid learning. It was Ms. Wilner’s idea for the blue-and-white car parade for Yom Haatzmaut in May of 2020, when everyone was newly quarantined and learning over Zoom. 

She also invented and co-produced annual first-day-of-school songs and videos, where teachers dance in a music video with rewritten lyrics to entertain students on the first day back from summer vacation.

Over the years she grew especially close to the members of the Student Activities Committee, with whom she worked on these and other pep, holiday and ruach events.

She always had the best energy, and she felt like a friend to me honestly.

— Carin Arbib, SAC Co-chair

“She always had the best energy,” said senior Carin Arbib, a SAC Co-Chair this year,  “and she felt like a friend to me honestly. I would always talk to her, even throughout the day walking around school.”

Ms. Wilner earned a Master’s degree from GPATS, the Graduate Program of Advanced Talmudic Studies at Yeshiva University, YU’s most rigorous Torah study program for women and one that has been compared to rabbinical training.

Her Judaic Studies students said she was a role model for female students.

“Ms. Wilner was definitely a staple teacher at Shalhevet, not only with her roles in SAC but also her role as a teacher and kind of this figure for a lot of the women at Shalhevet to follow,” said senior Liad Machmali, who is also one of the SAC Co-Chairs this year.

I miss the students, I miss my coworkers. We did really good serious work there, but we had such a good time doing it.

— lana Wilner

Liad also said that Ms. Wilner was a very considerate teacher if you did not understand a concept.

“Ms. Wilner was constantly willing to review anything that students were even mildly confused about,” Liad said. “So if even one student said can we review this topic, she was always willing to go back and to go over it in more depth so that the student could understand better.”

Interviewed by phone Aug. 16 after she’d already moved to New York, Ms. Wilner said she already was missing everything about Shalhevet.  She said her favorite memory at Shalhevet was Color War 2019.

“We broke it out Saturday night at the schoolwide Shabbaton,” said Ms. Wilner. “The whole school is like arm-in-arm screaming, ‘We ready’, ‘we ready!’ And there was just this amazing vibe. 

“And then we broke out Color War. We had confetti cannons going crazy. This was Saturday night at the schoolwide Shabbaton, so can you imagine — like my two biggest events back to back.” 

Ms. Wilner said that she also enjoyed spending  small moments students both on and off campus. She said that prior to Covid, girls would come to her house to learn, hang out or bake challah on Thursday nights. 

“Or like just hanging out with everyone on the grass,” she said, “or the different people who just made their way in and out of the popcorn room.

“I miss the students, I miss my coworkers. We did really good serious work there, but we had such a good time doing it.”