By Deb Silverthorn
Annette Becker Wolk, of blessed memory, is being honored with the fulfillment of the 613th commandment, the writing of a Torah, in her memory.
More than 400 families across the country have participated in the campaign to bring Annette’s Torah, the books of Moses that Annette studied, taught and lived, to be housed on the Schultz Rosenberg Campus of Akiba Yavneh Academy,
“Annette, aleha hashalom, set the spiritual tone in our home. She set the spiritual tone, the ruach, at Akiba Yavneh. I was speechless when first approached about the Torah project, which is so meaningful to our family,” said Rabbi Howard Wolk, Annette’s husband of 44 years until her death in February 2020. “Annette’s smile was always authentic and her chayn, her sweetness and pleasantness, touched the lives of children and adults.
“Annette’s vast reservoir of wisdom and ruach permeated the Schultz Rosenberg campus and the previous Akiba campus for decades,” said Wolk. “She taught many but gave each student individual attention.”
Born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Esther and Sidney Becker, of blessed memory, Annette was the sister of Joel Becker and Linda Zurndorfer. She and Wolk, who met at an NCSY convention, had six children — Eli, Michal, Yonatan, Akiva, Gavi and Shimi — and 19 grandchildren.
A true eishet chayil, a woman of valor, Annette served as the rebbetzin of Shaare Tefilla for many years and was beloved as a teacher at Akiba Yavneh Academy, at Congregation Tiferet Israel and at Ann and Nate Levine Academy. Outside the classroom, Annette was an instructor of Israeli dance, of swimming, of b’not mitzvah girls and of women wanting to learn about modesty and relationships. She was a founder of the Chevra Kadisha, leader on community mission trips to Israel, official cheerleading captain of the Akiba Cougars, Yavneh Bulldogs and much more.
“Annette was everyone’s teacher and everyone’s friend. It was a blessing to have her in your life. She touched every corner of our community and of so many others,” said Karen Zucker, a longtime friend of Annette’s and co-chair of Annette’s Torah with her husband Michael, Ilana and Itzy Ribald, Richard and Terri Rohan, and Joshua and Lisa Rothstein.
Nine rabbis are also chairing the effort, as are 85 honorary chairs. “This is a very special opportunity to remember her through the writing of the Torah she loved so much,” added Zucker.
Rabbi Zerach Greenfield of Ginot Shomron, Israel, is the sofer, or scribe, who visited the Schultz Rosenberg Campus last month. He was a former roommate of Wolk’s; they attended each other’s weddings and have remained friends through the years.
“There are people in life who are the ‘center of the room’ in the very best way and that was Annette,” said Greenfield, who taught students how a Torah is written, allowed students to work with quill and ink to create for themselves the style of the writing and discussed the history of collection and restoration of Torahs from around the world. “She lived that way, always, and it’s an honor to carry on her love of Torah as the sofer for a Torah in her name.
“Akiba Yavneh’s students are good kids, they question and they’re interested,” said Greenfield. “They’re brought up with a kedusha that honors their teacher and our friend.”
Rabbi Greenfield’s team in Israel began working on the Torah last fall. It will be delivered at a celebration on Oct. 17.
“Education should be experiential. When you remember someone, through a tactical outlet, you create an unequaled lasting memory,” said Rabbi Yaakov Green, Akiba Yavneh Academy head of school. “Rabbi Greenfield was here the week of Shavuot, as we celebrated receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, making this special moment come alive in an exceptional way, on behalf of an exceptionally special woman.”
The writing of a Torah is most appropriate, said former student Madison Winton.
“Mrs. Wolk loved everything Jewish, studying, teaching and living being Jewish. She was amazing and she was happy all the time, all the time,” said the rising 11th grader at AYA. “She always made up songs to help us remember lessons and she always wanted us to love learning. With her as a teacher, always making whatever the subject interesting, you couldn’t help but want to learn more.
“Whether it was a classroom lesson or Israeli dancing or teaching us to take care of ourselves with a morning powerwalk, Mrs. Wolk smiled through it all,” said Madison.
To share in the Annette’s Torah gift, visit tinyurl.com/Annettes-Torah-Akiba-Yavneh or email Akiba Yavneh Academy Director of Development Marcy Kahn at firstname.lastname@example.org.