Sep 24, 2007 — Some came to read favorite pieces of literature – John Donne’s sonnet, Death Be Not Proud, the George Herbert poem, Life – some came to read tehilim (Psalms). Some held back tears; others gave vent to their emotions. They all came to reflect on the life of Dr. Lana Schwebel, a dear friend, colleague and spirited teacher who died on July 7, following an automobile accident while touring the shores of Lake Baikal in southern Siberia.
The student-organized, open-microphone memorial on September 17 was attended by people from across the Yeshiva University (YU) community including YU President Richard M. Joel, and Dr. Karen Bacon, the Dr. Monique C. Katz Dean at YU’s Stern College for Women (SCW).
President Joel spoke about the reflective nature of Unetaneh Tokef (a prayer recited on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). “Even though man is like a withering flower, a passing dream, in order to be those things one has to first be a flower, there has to first be a dream. Lana was our flower – she was full of dreams and hopes,” said President Joel.
“Some people are able to live in either the world of ideas or the world of reality, but few people can be equally comfortable in both. Lana was one of those people,” said Dean Bacon.
Perhaps the most moving tributes came from her students – those whose lives she influenced at the very time when people yearn for a teacher to help them find their own voices and their own paths through life.
Shira Margulies spoke about how she could finally share her passion for Harry Potter with a teacher. Dr. Schwebel taught Latin to Ms. Margulies and they studied it together. When Ms. Margulies found out that Harry Potter was available in a Latin translation she told Dr. Schwebel, who said “I know isn’t that cool, I have a copy!”
Shira Schwartz (SCW’08), who organized the memorial, closed with a reading from Dr. Schwebel’s own
Tanakh – a discussion of the relationship between Elijah and Elisha his student.
Formerly an assistant professor of religion and literature at the Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School, Dr. Schwebel had been an assistant professor of English at SCW since 2006.
Ann Peters, a colleague of Dr. Schwebel’s in the English Department, said of her late friend and fellow teacher: “She was not only an expert on literature, but on dance, theater, New York restaurants, modern art, China, obscure Russian orthodox religious practices—really, there seemed to be nothing she hadn’t explored. Yet, she never passed on information in a way that made you feel she was showing off. Her teaching came out of a generous need to communicate.”
Dr. Schwebel, who held a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA from Barnard, taught Survey of English Literature, Love and War in Medieval Romance, Elementary Latin, Women in Medieval Literature and Masterpieces of World Literature.
Students have created a blog where they and others share thoughts about Dr. Schwebel and the impact her death has had on them – drlanaschwebel.blogspot.com.
She is survived by her parents, Philip and Lilly Schwebel, and her sisters Elizabeth Wind (and Shalom) and Pamela Swickley (and Gary).
Founded in 1886, Yeshiva University brings together the heritage of Western civilization and the ancient traditions of Jewish law and life. More than 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students study at YU’s four New York City campuses: the Wilf Campus, Israel Henry Beren Campus, Brookdale Center, and Jack and Pearl Resnick Campus. YU’s three undergraduate schools –– Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women, and Sy Syms School of Business ––– offer a unique dual program comprised of Jewish studies and liberal arts courses. Its graduate and affiliate schools include Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. YU is ranked among the nation’s leading academic research institutions.