A Mechaneches’ Mechaneches: Mrs. Chaya Newman a”h


candle-small4It is with great sadness that we report the passing last night of Mrs. Chaya Newman a”h, the longtime principal of Bruriah High School in Elizabeth, NJ.

Mrs. Newman, a veteran mechaneches, served as menaheles of Bruriah for 37 years, earning the respect of teacher and student alike for her wisdom, her caring and sensitivity, and her devotion to one and all. Mrs. Newman also served as the Director of the National Conference of Yeshiva Principals for Women for Torah Umesorah.

When Mrs. Newman was hired as principal of Bruriah, it was a community school of some fifty students. Thirty seven years later, upon her retirement, Mrs. Newman left a thriving school boasting four hundred students with a reputation for the highest academic levels and incredible accomplishments in engendering true Torah growth in its students.

Mrs. Newman was born in Eretz Yisroel and was seven and a half years old when her parents moved to Baltimore, where her father learned at Yeshiva Ner Yisroel. Mrs. Newman attended Bais Yaakov in Baltimore and then Bais Yaakov High School and Seminary in Williamsburg under Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan.

Rebbetzin Kaplan had a profound impact on Mrs. Newman, as did Mrs. Felice Blau, now principal of BYA Elementary School, who at the time, as a single girl, served as a mentor to the Bais Yaakov girls, inviting them for Shabbos and helping them out with anything they needed.

Mrs. Newsman attended Brooklyn College, where her undergraduate major was Mathematics. As an adult, she received a Masters in Psychology and Family Therapy from LIU. She later had a small family therapy practice.

After her marriage, Mrs. Newman and her husband lived in Cleveland, where four other couples – including Rav Avrohom Chaim Levin, rosh yeshiva of Telshe Chicago, and his rebbetzin – began the kollel there. Mrs. Newman taught at the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland.

After five years, the Newmans left Cleveland and chose to do something daring and courageous by moving their young family to Mexico to help start a yeshiva there. Mrs. Newman taught while raising her children and trying to acclimate to the new environment and language.

In Mexico, Mrs. Newman taught a class of three children. She would relate that one student was brilliant, one had learning difficulties, and one was average, presenting a tremendous challenge. By the time the Newmans moved back to the United States, her children were fluent in Spanish.

After moving to Brooklyn, Mrs. Newman taught at Yeshiva of Flatbush, ran the school’s summer camp program, and was Head of the Teacher’s Council at the school.

Ultimately, Mrs. Newman’s sister, who was principal of TAG in Far Rockaway, recommended to Rav Pinchos Mordechai Teitz, rov of the Elizabeth community, that he hire Mrs. Newman at Bruriah.

Mrs. Newman would speak in glowing terms about Rav Teitz, who built up the Elizabeth community, which was originally comprised of a group of refugees from Europe whom he drew close to Yiddishkeit.

At the interview for the job in Bruriah, Rav Teitz asked Mrs. Newman theoretical questions in order to see how she would respond. He asked, “What would you do if a girl applied to the school but she didn’t come from such a religious home?” She answered, “Absolutely accept them! That’s what we’re here for. To help build people up!” At the end of the interview, Rav Teitz told Mrs. Newman that he was impressed by her answers.

Mrs. Newman was a master mechaneches. She famously said that if a student doesn’t know how to read, we teach her how to read. If a student doesn’t know math, we teach her math. Yet, if a student doesn’t know how to behave, we punish! Mrs. Newman preferred to actually teach the child how to behave, just like one teaches any other subject.

Mrs. Newman never raised her voice in all her years as principal. Any student who wanted to speak to her about anything had the opportunity to do so.

Bruriah is known to be on a high scholastic level, because anything Mrs. Newman always wished she had learnt, she implemented in the curriculum, including in-depth study of halachos applicable to the students. Mrs. Newman always said that if a girl graduates twelfth grade as the same girl she was when she entered ninth grade, she has failed. It was all about growth with Mrs. Neuman. She would tell parents with great sincerity and care, “If you don’t want your daughter to change and grow, this school isn’t for you!”

Because Rav Teitz was very involved in saving Russian Jewry, Mrs. Newman visited Russia as well, being mekareiv Yidden there. In subsequent years, Mrs. Newman and students from Bruriah took other trips to places such as England, Scotland, Holland, France, Italy and Greece, where the girls learned so much about the history of the Jewish communities there.

Upon her retirement from Bruriah, Mrs. Newman became the Director of the National Conference of Yeshiva Principals for Women for Torah Umesorah. Mrs. Newman trained dozens and dozens of teachers, sharing her timeless wisdom, insights and techniques on classroom management, discipline, and more. Mrs. Newman led mini-conventions for teachers and helped create a learning curriculum for teaching about onaas devorim, among other things. Mrs. Newman directed a fellowship for mechanchos, a two-year course to train people to become principals and assistant principals. She gave tens and tens of workshops for teachers in schools around the country on many topics. In addition, Mrs. Newman started a Motzoei Shabbos program in Brooklyn for tenth and eleventh graders called “Inspiration and Pizza Night,” which served as an opportunity for girls to get plugged in to ruchniyus.

Mrs. Newman would say that people mitsakenly assume that mussar and inspiration are the same. Mussar is mussar, she would say, while inspiration touches the heart. Mussar programs for students, she felt, were counterproductive, because mussaring students doesn’t “draw them in” if mussar is the only approach. Mrs. Newman was very creative and forward thinking in her chinuch mentality, inspiring thousands of students to raise their levels of ruchniyus and avodas Hashem.

Mrs. Newman was a mechaneches’ mechaneches, whose greatest joy was seeing her young charges making strides in the studies and the relationship with the Borei Olam. Her loss is a palpable one, particularly in the world of chinuch habanos.

Mrs. Newman is survived by her husband, Dr. Avigdor Newman; her siblings, Mrs. Nechama Frand, Mrs. Judy Kohn and Mrs. Sara Nadav; and her children, Rav Eliyahu Newman, Rav Dovid Newman, Rav Yehuda Newman, Rav Yaakov Newman and Mrs. Shulamis Pikus.

The levaya will be held today, at 11:30 a.m., at at Shomrei Hadas Chapels, located at 3803 14th Avenue in Boro Park, Brooklyn.

Yehi zichrah boruch.

{Andy Heller-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. I think her Father Z”L (Harav Blumakratz) was part of the Hanhala’s of Yeshivas Ner Yisrael.Her Husband shilta was also a rebbe in Telz yeshiva

  2. What a tremendous loss, I was fortunate to have known her as a Bruriah student and was lucky to have had such a forward thinking principal. She is one of the reasons why I am frum today- she was a true dugma Chaya….

  3. I was so saddened to hear of Mrs. Newman’s passing.She was my principal 30+ years ago. It was just days ago that my HS age daughter came home saying she was taking a personal finance course. My response was that it was very much something Bruriah would have offered. Mrs. Newman a”h was such a visionary. I look back on my HS education as beyond excellent – it was life changing and enhancing. She was a true Aishes Chayil and a fantastic role model for me.

  4. Mrs. Newman was an enormous part of my life as I was growing up as a teen, a very proud student at Bruriah. She put up with all our zany high school mishagas, and never made us ever feel foolish for being who we were. The door to her office was always open and she loved it when we plowed in with all our stories. Her petirah is a tremendous loss for me, and I’m sure I speak for all who knew her.

  5. Chaya Newman was a very very special woman. She was generous with her time and loved her students. She taught them not only Torah, but Torah Im Derech Eretz. She was an inspiration to all who knew her, It is no wonder that her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are all leading a Torah life. Shamayim is lucky to have her
    We will miss you

  6. There could never possibly be an estimate of just how many alumni Mrs. Newman has, but as a former Bruriah girl, I dare say the number of students, ‘aineklach’/ children of her students, and overall Jewish families that Mrs. Newman has affected, rival that of our most illustrious Roshei Yeshiva. She transformed generations of Jewish families, all the while transforming the education of Bnot Yisrael, and shaping the many other institutions that modeled themselves after her. ?? ???, ??? ????, ????.

  7. we feel the loss among our midst it is tremendous as i type this with tears streaming my eyes the whole world benefited from here she is the reason why many are frum to this day having the zchus of many
    she has been sick for the last 8 years but no one other than family knew about it because bubby said why should i make other people sad and heartbroken
    in the short 75 years that bubby was down here she accomplished the amount of a 120 year old
    may she be a melitzas yeshora for all of us
    Sincerely’ with tears as i type

  8. I was zoche to be a student of Mrs. Newman’s a”h over 25 years ago. Her grace, dignity, warmth, wit and devotion to her students has impacted so many lives. She was a superior role model, professional educator, Aishes Chayil, and class act all in one. She was able to reach girls from diverse backgrounds and instill Torah values, excellence in education and promote personal growth through example and inspiration. She will be greatly missed, but her impression will live on within all who knew her.

  9. As the Menahel of Beis Yaacov Johannesburg South Africa, I consulted frequently with Mrs Newman.Her advice was always practical and extremely insightful and spot on. WHAT A LOSS FOR THE OLAM HACHINUCH