A Farewell to Tami Kruger
If you were asked to name your favorite institution in Beit Shemesh, a well-run, warm, vibrant, essential, cozy, home away from home that is full of books and activity and used by all sectors of the community, would you hesitate before saying “the Benjamin Children’s Library”? When great people leave a place, their contributions are remembered. So maybe we should be glad, in a way, that the Krugers are moving to Zichron Yaakov so as to give us, as a community, an opportunity to stop and express our appreciation for all Tami has done for us.
A standing room only crowd gathered on June 6th in the auditorium at Matnas Meyerhoff to pay tribute to Tami and the library. The tribute, to which the whole community was invited, was thoughtfully organized by the library staff and volunteers, led by Bibsi Zukerbrot.
The room was decorated with posters from library-run carnivals made by teenage volunteers from Partnership 2000. Jody Stein, chairman of the library’s non-profit organization, was master of ceremonies, and started the evening off by pointing out the reference to this evening in Yirmiyahu 32: “Thus says the L-rd; just as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them...Men shall buy fields for money and subscribe books, and seal them , and take witnesses in the land of Binyamin.” This was followed by a short film made by Karen Feldman and Allen Krasna that contained wishes from friends, Matnas and library staff, and scenes from the library, showing off its inclusive atmosphere, hard-working staff and active patrons. Jody then proceeded to call on, one by one, those who represented various aspects of the history and day-to-day running of the library.
First, the political side. Mayor Daniel Vaknin told us how the library was originally a few shelves in the first Shaalei Torah office near his house, but everyone knew that would not be enough. After it outgrew its first two locations, Tami asked for a room in the soon to be opened matnas, and, as the mayor said, the matnas opened “besiman hasifria”, with the library as its heart. About Tami, he said that he recognized right away from the look in her eyes that she was a dynamo and would follow through. The mayor presented Tami with a framed certificate and a gift.
Next, the customers. Gila Mula, along with Esther Damoza, and Amarech Biru, three girls who frequent the library, read a letter emphasizing the important role of the library as a welcoming learning center, which helps kids who might not otherwise be able or willing to do their homework. Gila told the story of a friend who had been considered a weak student, until she started to go to the library and do her homework. Now she is studying at a very good school. The girls presented Tami a large framed collage of letters from the other kids.
After that, the family. Eliyahu, the great man behind the great woman, told us more about the history of the project and the origins of the library as a memorial for Benjamin. Much appreciation must go to Eliyahu, who made supper and drove the kids to friends and chugim for the ten or so years that Tami was in the library at all hours. Jody next called up “the kids who don’t like the library”, Yehudit, Hillel, Shulamit, and Neta Kruger, who performed a song to the tune of Kan Noladti (I was born here), which showed appreciation for their mother’s time-consuming but important work; a speech was given by Neta, the youngest daughter, who grew up running around the library. We also found out that the Kruger kids got one big chupar for all this: the new books destined to the library went through their house and their hands first.
Then, the wider world. Brenda Ganot of Partnership 2000 presented Tami with a framed certificate and a gift in appreciation of the volunteering opportunities and warm atmosphere the library provides for teenagers, Otzma program participants, and adults visiting from overseas.
Next, the volunteers. Shifra Friedman, representing the Gift Subcommittee of the tribute planning crew, showed the collection of appropriate gifts they had assembled for Tami. She was joined by Sandy Cash and Efrat Flamm who read a special children’s book they had written and published, illustrated by Janet Zwebner and Eitan Waxman, telling the story of the library. You should have been there!
Finally, it was Tami’s turn to speak. Tami emphasized that the accomplishment of the library could never have been the work of just one person, and how every individual in the room was a chapter in the library. So many people of all ages and talents and backgrounds contributed and continue to contribute in large and small ways of their time and creativity in the building and maintenance of the library. Tami stressed that all this is possible because of the special community we have in Beit Shemesh. Each week, about 25 people give between 2 and 15 hours of their time to the exacting work of running the library, adding to the special atmosphere and supporting the efforts of the library’s dedicated core professional staff. Local professionals also volunteer their services, deepening the library’s ability to give the best possible service in all areas.
Tami mentioned how Benjamin’s contemporaries, who are now around 21, were the first generation of the library, and how it has been a privilege to be part of their education and that of the succeeding generations. Tami hopes the library will continue to grow, and will become part of a chain of city libraries.
The crowd in attendance was a testimony to the library’s special place in our city’s cultural landscape. In addition to library patrons, staff, including librarian Miri Sela, and volunteers, many other community members instrumental in the library’s existence came to wish Tami and her family well, including Shalom Lerner, Deputy Mayor, Tzvi Wolicki, former city councilman, Hod Gedanken, director of the Beit Shemesh Matnas system, Rav Rahamim Nissim, director of Shaalei Torah, Meir Malka, director of Keren Shemesh, Education department and Matnas staff. Tami received flowers from Avivit Oren, director of the Meyerhoff Matnas, who worked closely with Tami over the years and now actively fosters joint activities between the library and the Matnas.
Tremendous credit and admiration is due Tami, who has remained the stable visionary throughout the years, cheerfully and intelligently working and leading other workers with the goal in mind; never giving up through various ups and downs, remaining patient and gradually building a team of multi-talented staff who care. The Krugers have provided our community with the opportunity to build a vital institution about which we can all be proud, and be part of, to great mutual advantage. We tearfully wish them happiness and success in their new home and new challenges - including that of finding space to hang up all the certificates of appreciation - and hope they won’t miss us or the library too much.
At least we get to keep the library, and that is a lot.
(With apologies to all those not mentioned.)
Photographs (except the drawing) courtesy of Yaakov BenDavid . Tami as depicted in this article.
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