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Shelly’s Tales: Memoir of a Mensch

Special to the Journal

Sheldon Brown

My mother told me often, ‘Sheldon, get an education; no one can take it away from you.” She reinforced the importance of this goal by saving a nickel each week to give an insurance agent to pay for a policy that would ultimately be cashed for tuition monies for my sister and me to study at universities. My mother set herself as an example of striving for an education by enrolling at Chicago’s College of Jewish Studies where she and I graduated together, the first mother-son “team.”

Also I remember Mother arguing with the principal of the local Hebrew school, cajoling him into keeping me in school even though she couldn’t pay that month’s tuition. We were a poor family and my widowed mother sacrificed to provide for her children.

I passed mother’s education imperative onto my own family. All four of our children are products of the Cohen Hillel Academy, the Marblehead school system, and are college/university graduates. To support the education of our five grandchildren, my dear wife Fran and I have taken part in all of their scholastic, artistic and athletic achievements. We even travelled 3,000 miles to thrill at our granddaughter’s graduation from the fifth grade of a California Jewish day school. I wrote about her graduation in an article for the Jewish Journal, June 26, 1998.

From my upbringing, it should not come as a surprise that I chose teaching for my life-long career. My sister also became a teacher. In Shelly’s Tales, my new memoir, I discuss how I ascended the educational ladder leading to a PhD and my work experiences in the field of education, both Jewish and secular. The book brings out my various avocations, many important challenges, failures and successes over a lifetime. At times I am a harsh critic of myself.

The highlight of my professional career as an educator was my 48 years of teaching psychology and Holocaust studies at North Shore Community College, and documented in my book. I loved teaching my students and learning from them. I began writing my memoir when I retired from teaching in 2014 and recently completed Shelly’s Tales.

In addition to teaching, my most significant accomplishment at the College was to institute a semi-annual series of programs pertaining to tolerance and open to the public. Shelly’s Tales was a great learning experience for me to relive my past. And it’s my hope that the reader will learn something and possibly find guidance and inspiration. One reviewer of the book wrote: “Shelly’s Tales” should be read by young people who are looking for ideas on how to live a good life.”

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