I have always had a passion for learning about and teaching Judaism. My earliest recollection of that role is when, at the age of eight, I taught my younger sister how to chant the Mah Nishtanah, the Four Questions, for Pesach. Years of private lessons in Hebrew, Jewish History and Jewish Ethics instilled in me a strong sense of identity and fierce pride in my heritage. A summer in Israel at the age of 16 ignited my Zionism, profoundly strengthened my sense of belonging and peoplehood, deepened my knowledge of Jewish and Israeli history, and jump-started my conversational Hebrew.
It was a surprise to no one but myself that I was attracted to Jewish studies classes early in my college career at the University of Chicago, and ended up in a special tutorial studies program that enabled me to create my own major, with a focus on East European Jewish studies, the Holocaust and Yiddish. I spent a summer in an intensive Yiddish language program at the YIVO Institute in New York, and wrote my thesis on Yiddish Holocaust literature. U of Chicago is also where I met my future husband, Elisha Klirs. Through Elisha's Orthodox family I was introduced to traditional Jewish practice, much of which I embraced and incorporated into my life. Immediately following my graduation from U. of C. in 1977, Elisha and I were married.