www.TheExaminerNews.com March 29 - April 4, 2011
Dania Greenberg, Private Tutor, Armonk
By Martin Wilbur
Dania Greenberg realizes children today don't always have the time or desire for religious instruction. With greater demands at school, an ever increasing emphasis on sports and all sorts of other activities, Hebrew School is one of the last place they care to be.
Instead of children going to class once, twice or even three times a week, Greenberg comes to them. For the past 21 years, the former public school and Southern Westchester BOCES teacher has devoted her time to tutoring children to not only get them prepared for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah, but on all aspects of Jewish culture and life.
Greenberg said between the sheer volume of kids' activities and that many families in the area have one parent who isn't Jewish, if it wasn't for private instruction most of her students would have no exposure to Judaism at all.
"Most of the people who are living here are very secular," said Greenberg, who has lived in Armonk for the past 30 years with her husband, Jerald. "The ones that I teach, many of them come from mixed families. They don't want anything shoved down their throat. I'm against that anyway. Most don't belong to a temple; it's so time consuming. The children are so over programmed they don't have time. So we try and find a time that's convenient for them."
Instruction, which is usually one on one, is not always limited to the children, she said. Often the entire family gets involved. When the parents and siblings participate, it makes the lessons a more enjoyable experience for everyone, she said. She also provides tutoring for adults.
"It's an issue for the child because they feel it's something mom and dad tells me I need to do, and they're not interested:" Greenberg said. "It's a family project."
Her cultural classes include cooking and learning about the history and holidays. Greenberg said she discourages families only looking for quick instruction during the last year before a child's Bar Mitzvah.
"To me, the most important part is they learn who they are and the traditions," she said." The preparation for the Bar Mitzvah, to me, it's an aside. It's the goal. I don't take people who just get ready for the Bar Mitzvah because I think you miss the whole thing. You need to know why I'm doing this. Who am I?
Greenberg characterizes herself as someone who is traditional, but not particularly observant. Born in Haifa, Israel and raised there until she was 12 years old, her parents escaped Nazi Germany before the onslaught of the Holocaust and settled in what would later become the State of Israel.
By the early 1950s, her father wanted to leave Israel after a rubber factory that he and some partners started was taken over by the government.
The family moved to upstate Fort Ticonderoga, a tiny town near the Vermont border because that was where Greenberg's father was able to get a salesman's job. Aside from the shock of leaving her home and settling in surroundings that was almost a polar opposite of what she was used to, hers was the only Jewish family for miles.
"It was very traumatic," Greenberg recalled. "It was so different. You know nothing, but you survive. You're young and you survive. You do what you have to do. You have no choice."
She graduated from Syracuse University, majoring in education, and earned her masters from Hunter College. Her first job out of school was as a third-grade teacher in the Wappingers Falls School District. She left after a few years when she got married and moved to Westchester and went on to teach at Southern Westchester BOCES.
Once Greenberg and her husband, who first lived in Thornwood before moving to Armonk, had the first of their two daughters, she remained home then helped JeraId when he started his computer business in the 1970s.
She fell into private instruction by accident. A friend of hers was approached to tutor a child, but didn't feel qualified so she asked Greenberg to take it on.
Although Greenberg enjoyed her time in the classroom during her years as a teacher, watching her students grow in one-on-one lessons has plenty of rewards.
"You almost become part of the family:" she said. "Some of the people I taught more than 20 years ago, I'm still in touch with today."