Naomi Prawer Kadar, Ph.D.
Naomi Prawer Kadar, Ph.D., (1949-2010) was an inspiring educator and scholar. With radiant energy, Naomi exuded a love for the beauty of Yiddish language and culture.
To the many students she taught, being in the classroom with Naomi was a tremendous gift. Her classroom became a second home where they were inspired, challenged and encouraged to reconnect to their heritage. Each student who walked through her door entered a sacred space, filled with new words and worlds, beautiful songs, rich stories, engaging activities and complex discussions; each lesson was vibrant and unique. With endless enthusiasm, even during her struggle with cancer, she touched the lives of hundreds of students of all ages.
The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Naomi understood the importance of Jewish and Yiddish culture from a very early age. After graduating from The City College of New York, she decided to begin a life in Israel, where she married and started her family. In the early 1970s, she received a teaching certificate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Naomi spent her years in Israel teaching English as a Second Language to a spectrum of students from all backgrounds – from the academically challenged to the high-achieving. When her family returned to the United States, Naomi refocused her language instruction on Yiddish, and later became the National Director for the Workmen's Circle (Arbeter Ring) Schools. She devoted herself to creating new schools, developing curricula, and training teachers, ensuring that her beloved Yiddish language and yidishkayt would be cherished by future generations.
Despite her extensive professional obligations, she always found time to teach and to build relationships with students. She held teaching positions in academic institutions such as Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. During the summers, Naomi taught at various summer programs including the Uriel Weinreich Program for Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture at Columbia University/YIVO, the Free University of Brussels Summer Program and the Tel Aviv University Summer Program where she was one of the first teachers involved..
Naomi's passion for the Yiddish language and culture culminated in her Ph.D. in Yiddish Literature from Columbia University. Her research focused on American Yiddish Children's Magazines from 1917 to 1950.
As a scholar of Yiddish children's literature, Naomi presented her work at conferences including the Association for Jewish Studies. She was a member of the Yiddish Committee of the Modern Language Association and a frequent contributor to the online Mendele Review: Yiddish Language and Literature. Months before Naomi passed away, she published an article in Afn Shvel. Throughout her battle with cancer, she remained committed to language education and Yiddish cultural literacy.
During the same period, Naomi continued to produce rigorous scholarship in her academic life, while conceiving, founding and creating a brand-new online ESL education program, BrainPOP ESL.
Naomi continues to make an impact posthumously with this most recent creation. BrainPOP ESL allows students to access and learn the English language in an entertaining way, bringing the joys of Naomi's classroom to students around the world. Naomi's love of language shines in the eyes of every student who laughs as he or she learns and delights in new understanding.
Her support of Yiddish language and culture never flagged, and Naomi lived every day of her life true to her ideals. She was fiercely devoted to what she cared about most deeply: family, tradition, education, memory, love of Israel and yidishkayt.
On February 23, 2010, the world lost an extraordinary educator. Humble and understated in her ways, Naomi continues to influence and inspire students and colleagues throughout the world in ways she never imagined; Naomi's legacy will live on in the hearts of many for generations to come.
The Naomi Foundation was established in memory of Naomi Prawer Kadar, Ph.D. z"l.