After two tours of duty, it’s back home to Israel

Jaclyn Kellner, Deputy Editor-In-Chief

Every year the first week of her Bechina Yerushalmi class, Mrs. Sabo taught Shmuel Aleph,  to give her students a connection to the Haftorah they would hear on Rosh Hashanah. What might each character be thinking and feeling, and what halachic and ethical lessons are extracted from the story?     Students looking back on Mrs. Sabo’s years at Shalhevet said this was typical of her approach to teaching Tanach.

“I never had a chance to learn Tanach in such depth until I joined her class,” said junior Hadar Azrad, a Bechina student. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot of different things in her class that I can carry on for the rest of my life. I’m going to miss her a lot.”

This summer, Mrs. Anat Sabo, her husband, Gemarah teacher Rabbi Ofer Sabo, and their family are moving back home to Modi’in, Israel, after coming to Los Angeles twice to teach at Shalhevet for a total of nine years.

During that time, they wove themselves into the fabric of Shalhevet in various ways. Two of their older children graduated from the high school in the early 2000s, and their youngest two, Avital and Shmulek, attended the high school as well. An older son, Rabbi Meir Sabo, taught in the middle school for three years, ending just a year ago when the lower schools closed.

The first time around, the Sabos were here for five years and for some of them, Rabbi Sabo was Rosh Yeshiva. The Sabos first came to Shalhevet in 1998 and moved back to Israel in 2003. When they returned in 2007. Rabbi Sabo taught Gemarah while Mrs. Sabo taught Tanach — her favorite subject, she says — and some Hebrew along the way.

But this time, it seems, they are leaving for good.

“We’re happy to be going home,” Mrs. Sabo said in an interview. “We hope to see all of you in Israel.”

Rabbi Sabo, who was a captain and chaplain in an IDF tank unit,  taught Gemara using an idiosyncratic method of writing notes on the board. He explained it through questions and answers, connecting lines and arrows and other symbols, all in Hebrew.

Then he would explain his notes, making sure the class understood all  the concepts before reading out the Gemarah itself. He also used hand motions and funny examples to explain “the situation.”

“When I had his class in sophomore year, he distributed a lot of fun and knowledge,” said junior Michael Silver .

Outside the classroom, Rabbi Sabo spent countless hours planning and fundraising for the senior Poland-Israel trip. This year for the first time at Shalhevet, thanks to Rabbi Sabo’s fundraising, everyone who wanted to attend the trip could and the one person who stayed back didn’t do so for financial reasons.

“He was a beast at fundraising. I’m still worried about where he got the money,” senior Rachel Lesel said. “I was glad I could experience Shalhevet’s Poland-Israel trip with all my classmates.”

Along with teaching Navi to almost every freshman class, Mrs. Sabo taught the Tanach, Tefillah and Mishnah portions of the Bechina Yerushalmi course to seniors and juniors. Bechina Yerushalmi, or Jerusalem Examination, is similar to an AP course. It lasts two years for two classes a day, and culminates in a seven-hour, all-Hebrew standardized test on Tanach, Hebrew literature, Mishnah and Tefillah along with Hebrew writing and comprehension skills.

In Israel next year, Mrs. Sabo will work at an all-girls high school teaching English to students with learning disabilities — her specialty, she said.

Mrs. Sabo says her favorite part about working at Shalhevet has been the community.

“There is a good connection between teachers and students and I feel that students can always come to a teacher to ask a question or get advice or anything,” Mrs. Sabo said in an interview. “I think this is really unique and the people are really welcoming. They really treat people who are really different in a really nice way.”

Her students feel her love of the Shalhevet community and appreciate her warmth and hospitality.

“She’s such an amazing woman, with the biggest heart,” said freshman Maya Ben-Shushan. “I’m going to miss her so much next year.

“I feel so at home when I talk to her and it’s just a part of her charm–just the spirit she brings in, she’s honest about what she feels and she makes everyone feel important. I kind of look at her as the mom in Shalhevet, she takes in anyone whenever they need, no question.”

Her love of Israel was always obvious. Freshman Melissa Ohana remembers when Mrs. Sabo took a break from Tanach to teach the class about her homeland, and at various goodbye events this month both she and Rabbi Sabo invited all of their students to visit them in Israel.

Though she is leaving the Shalhevet Community, Mrs. Sabo said she cares deeply about it and hopes the school continues to grow.

“The Jewish community in L.A. needs a school like Shalhevet and I really hope that the future will be good for the school and finally it will reach stability, because it was really shaking in the past few years, ” Mrs. Sabo said.

“I wish everyone good luck—the ones who are leaving and staying. Shalhevet is really special to me. I spent the last nine years here I want to see it thriving.”