Martin Paul (son), Gabriela (granddaughter-in-law), Bea Paul, Lee King (daughter), and Shani King (grandson).

HONORABLE MENSCHION: Bea Paul

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HONORABLE MENSCHION: Bea Paul

Martin Paul (son), Gabriela (granddaughter-in-law), Bea Paul, Lee King (daughter), and Shani King (grandson).

Bea Paul grew up in Revere, and married Stanley Paul in 1948. She became a preschool teacher in Revere, and had two children, Lee and Martin. In 1964, the family moved to Marblehead.

Bea taught preschool at the Jewish Community Center in Lynn in the 1960s, and when the new JCC opened in Marblehead in the early 1970s, she became its preschool director, where she helped build the program over 27 years. Bea’s grandson, Shani, is a vice dean at Rutgers Law School, and she has two great-grandchildren: Soraya and Matias.

 

How was it growing up in Revere?

I grew up on Shirley Ave. My parents, Max and Esther Silverman, both came from Russia. My father Max was a stitcher in a clothing factory – he went to Roxbury every day by streetcar. My mother was a homemaker. I had two siblings, Ted and Mildred – both of whom have passed away. Shirley Ave. was a community. People were very close, you knew everybody, and everybody knew you. It was very Jewish – there were three kosher butchers on Shirley Ave., two bakeries, and a couple of delis. There was the Jewish Community Center – it was small.

Even today, my friends and I still talk about Revere, we still talk about the people. It’s something that’s always with you. It’s your base. When World War II ended, we went to Revere Beach – I was with my mother and my aunt – and all the sailors from the war were there. Everyone said this is the end of the wars, no more war. But it was only dreaming.

How did you meet your husband?

My husband, Stanley, came home from the service – I knew his family before the war. I saw him walking down Shirley Ave. in his sailor suit from the Navy and that was the end of me – I saw him and fell in love and nothing else mattered. We were married when I was 17. My husband was a very talented guy. He was a salesman, and worked as a manager of Kappy’s Liquors – he did that for over 20 years. He was 72 when he died.

You have two college degrees?

Yes. I have a degree from the Harvard Extension School and a master’s from Tufts in child study. It took me 12 years to get my undergrad degree from Harvard. I had to take two classes at a time, but I schlepped there every week. I graduated in 1972. It was a wonderful experience. We had the Harvard professors and the quality of education was excellent.

How did you get into teaching preschool?

My first job was in a nursery school in Revere, called Tots Eden. And then I worked at the JCC on Market Street in Lynn. I loved the old JCC in Lynn, and I cried when we left. It was comfortable, it wasn’t pretty – you had to make your own prettiness. It was special. And then after we moved to Marblehead, I became the director of the program. When we opened the building there were six classrooms, three upstairs and three downstairs. There were 15 children in the classroom at a time, and the kids ranged from 3-5.

You decided in the late 1970s to open an infant-toddler day care program?

Yes, and it was the first one to open at a JCC in the country. We started with one room and now it’s a full-blown program. At the time, mothers were going back to work and there was a real need for this program. It was received with mixed reviews because some people didn’t believe that mothers should go to work. But we also believed that mothers who didn’t go to work also needed some time for themselves. We saw it as a need for all mothers and the program grew. I also started a toddler program – the mother-toddler program – that was just an enrichment program for mothers of the toddlers.

There was such a need for the infant-toddler program. We had fabulous feedback from the parents – and they wanted to extend the time. Eventually we went from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. I had a very close relationship with the parents. We had a fabulous parent committee for both the infant toddlers and the preschool. It was such a positive relationship.

Bea, with her late husband, Stanley Paul.
What did you love most about teaching?

Kids are very special. They have their own world, and we don’t always see that world they’re living in. I think I learned a lot from kids. I remember one child who was absolutely brilliant – he was five years old, he could come in with a map and show me how to get to California, but he couldn’t hang up his coat. Then one time a teacher came in and said that a boy was hysterical and that she didn’t know what to do with him. So, I asked him to tell me what was wrong and he said, ‘I don’t want to eat latkes.’ I learned to respect the children and the parents – that’s a tough order for some teachers. You have to respect the kid who is not listening because the child may be a very special child.

I knew every child and we had 200 kids a year, so over the years I met hundreds and hundreds of kids and their parents. They needed then exactly what kids need today – a stable, loving relationship with their parents and their teachers to grow. They need a good solid education. You have to have the stability, the comfort, the understanding, there has to be all of that. Bringing them outdoors is very important. They need to run, they have to jump, they need exercise. I remember that Duck Duck Goose was a big game, because they learned to take turns. Also tossing a ball, just plain running around, on a slide, interacting with other kids – outdoors – helps build trust.

What was your expectation of the kids when they turned 5 and went on to kindergarten?

I wanted them to be able to dress themselves, go to the bathroom themselves, take turns with one another, eat at a table – some kids had come in and had never sat at a table before. I wanted them to have good manners, a level of independence, a level of respect for one another. We had Shabbat every Friday, and we recited the Hebrew prayers. And I remember one time a woman whose son was in the program, and who was not Jewish, told me she that brought her son once to church to pray, and the boy began to say, “Baruch Ata Adonai.”

Is there any advice you can pass along to parents about their kids?

Respect your child. Don’t impose your idea of where they should be – accept them for who they are. You have to help a child develop respect by being respectful. A child knows when they’re not liked, they know when they’re treated poorly, and then they react. Kids are very perceptive, they may not be able to explain it, but they are very tuned to it.

You also taught at Salem State for 10 years?

I taught early childhood administration and one of the things that I would say to the students was, ‘what do you think the teachers want and what do you think the parents want?’ I said, ‘what’s the main thing? It’s respect. The parents want respect, and the teachers want respect.’ That’s the biggie. Just having respect for the child – a child knows that as well.

I loved teaching at Salem State. I got a lot of satisfaction meeting young people going into the field and I also supervised student teachers there. I liked the fact that I had an influence on the next generation of early childhood teachers.

You had a bat mitzvah when you were 80?

Yes, I was bat mitzvahed when I was 80. It was a goal. We didn’t have bat mitzvahs in my day and I always thought if I reach 80, I’ll get bat mitzvahed. I was proud that I did it. I had to read Torah and it was good. I was satisfied that I did it.  Θ

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