OCTOBER 4, 2018 – Adele Lubarsky grew up in Chelsea, and still spends most of her days there as principal of the Hooks Elementary School. She has lived with her husband, Mark Lubarsky, in Peabody for 40 years, and is the president of Temple Ner Tamid there. Adele and Mark have two sons, Lee and Eric. Lee and his wife, Lauren, live in New York with sons Max and Drew. Eric lives in Lynn.
Could you tell us about your upbringing and where you grew up?
I grew up in Chelsea in a very close-knit family. My aunt and uncle and their three children lived on the first floor; my parents, sister, and I on the second. My grandparents lived on the same street. To this day, friends are amazed at the closeness I have with my cousins. We support one another during celebrations and challenges.
When did you first become interested in Judaism, and how big an influence was it during your early years?
My dad was a kosher butcher in Malden and later Medford. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, although she was often seen in my dad’s store during the holidays. My family was observant. We had a kosher home. My dad attended Shabbat morning services and my sister and I attended junior congregation services at the Chelsea Hebrew School. I remember my grandfather chanting the haftarah on Yom Kippur afternoon, and how he practiced and practiced for weeks. Hebrew School and the Chelsea YWHA were important growing up. I graduated from Chelsea High School and from Prozdor [a program for Jewish teens at Hebrew College]. I still joke with friends how we took a cab back to Chelsea from Brookline and always hoped the driver would take the Chelsea crew home before the Malden crew. The Chelsea Y was where we met with friends and did lots of socializing. My experiences at Prozdor and Camp Yavneh led me to a career as a religious school teacher. My first religious school teaching job was at Temple B’nai Israel in Beachmont [Revere] when I was a senior in high school. After college, I taught at the former Temple Beth El in Swampscott for three years, and later taught at Temple Ner Tamid in Peabody.
You’re an educator. Can you talk about your jobs and career? What job do you have now, and why did you want to go into education?
Besides religious school, I taught third grade for many years in Chelsea. When I graduated college, there were no teaching positions available, and so I was hired as a paraprofessional in a bilingual [Spanish] classroom. This position led to my own classroom. In 1999, I took a position as an assistant principal in Chelsea. I have held my current position as the principal of the Hooks Elementary School in Chelsea since 2004. I went into education and have remained in education because I knew I could make a difference in the lives of children. I wanted to give back to Chelsea for all the wonderful experiences I had as a child. When people ask me how many children I have, I proudly say 545.
You lead a large school in Chelsea. What kind of support do inner-city kids need to succeed in school, and in life?
The current population in Chelsea is very different than it was when I was growing up. Chelsea was and still is a melting pot. English is the second language of the majority of my students. Many of their parents do not speak English. We support the students by encouraging them to do their best. We have high expectations for all and accept no excuses. Some students have a trauma history; others are brought up by a single parent working one or two jobs. However, all of the students and their families value education. Several years ago, a former student came to me and thanked me for inspiring her to continue her education. I was her first teacher in the United States. She graduated from Boston University, earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
You’ve volunteered at Jewish groups over the years. What do you get out of volunteering?
Volunteering has been something that my parents instilled in me. Most of my volunteering has been at Temple Ner Tamid. When my sons were in USY, I spent many hours cooking for events, helping plan events, housing USYers, and driving back and forth to basketball games or conventions. Volunteering gives me satisfaction. I have been involved in many other committees at Temple Ner Tamid.
You’re the president of Temple Ner Tamid. How long have you held that post and what are your goals as president?
I am currently serving my third year as president of Temple Ner Tamid. As I told the congregation during Yom Kippur, I took a third year because of the TNT members. They believe in the future of TNT, and have demonstrated that belief in both actions and financial support. I am excited about the reopening of our religious school. Rabbi [Richard] Perlman and I have the same goals: build a strong community. Our children are our future and we need to provide a warm, nurturing environment for our children to not only receive a religious education, but to become energized and excited about their Jewish lives.
What’s the future of Conservative Judaism?
I am hopeful that Conservative Judaism is on the rise. At Temple Ner Tamid, we are welcoming more young families to our congregation. I listen to my son in New York as he tells me about the 700 families belonging to his Conservative Shul. Is Conservative Judaism as strong as it was? I am not sure. However, I believe there are many folks who are engaging in Conservative congregations.
What motivates you to make a difference in other people’s lives?
Feeling satisfaction motivates me. I strive to make a difference in at least one child’s life every day. My parents instilled in me to care for others, and always love what you do. As both a principal and president, I love what I do.
How important is Judaism in your life, and what do you like most about the religion?
Judaism is very important to me. Last year, my mother transitioned from independent living to the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home. She was firm in her wish that any facility she moved to had not only a kosher dining option, but also a Jewish community. I cannot say enough about the care and Yiddishkeit she received at the nursing home. She attended services, welcomed Shabbat, attended Passover Seders, and celebrated the holidays. She passed away this past Passover. My faith was tested. However, my TNT community supported me.
I love the Jewish holidays and host Rosh Hashanah, break the fast, and the Passover Seders. I have such fond memories of family being together during the holidays. I will always remember the Seders at my grandparents’ house on Bloomingdale Street in Chelsea, as there were 18 of us sitting around the table as my grandfather led the Seder. And who could ever forget my father preparing the potatoes, by hand, for the latkes on Chanukah?