The Levi Yitzchak Library Honors a Young Man Who Died Too Soon
Lisa Hawk ’93S has a labor of love in her life: The Levi Yitzchak Library, located on Long Island in Cedarhurst, NY, and serving the Five Towns and surrounding communities. The library, which opened six years ago, is a memorial in honor of Levi Yitzchak Wolowik, a”h, who passed away at the age of nine. Hawk, a mother of six children ranging in age from 6 to 22 who are also voracious readers, first conceived of opening a Jewish library about eight years ago. With the encouragement of her family, Hawk and the Wolowik family worked together to create the library as a living memorial to a young boy who is remembered for living “a life of learning, growing, giving and sharing.”
The library currently houses 6,000 titles and almost 14,000 books for children and adults; to date, it has loaned out over 155,000 books, and its collection covers a wide range of topics including biographies, children’s books, Israel, the Holocaust, novels and kosher cookbooks. The library also offers a roster of educational programs for all ages. It reflects Hawk’s career as an educator with a dual love of reading and the Jewish faith, all of which were nourished by growing up on Staten Island in an observant household and attending Stern College for Women.
“I went to Shulamith School for Girls in Brooklyn for the elementary grades and then went on to the Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva High School for Girls,” she explained. “A group of us decided to apply to Stern College for early admissions, and I really enjoyed being able to continue my Judaic studies there. After my year in Israel, I returned to Stern College to complete my degree in education. I also became very involved in student activities, serving as vice president of Student Council.”
After graduating, Hawk continued her education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, pursuing a graduate degree in special education, and then went on to teach first-, second- and third-grade classes for CAHAL (Communities Acting to Heighten Awareness and Learning), a yeshiva-based program of self-contained classes for children with learning differences, and Shulamith School for Girls in Long Island. “As a teacher, I was always on the lookout for books that I could share with my students, and this is what prompted me to start the Levi Yitzchak Family Center & Library: so that there would be a source of books that would illustrate lessons and engage people in learning based on the values of our faith.”
The library presents programming for every age group, from “Tiny Treasures” (birth to 24 months, with activities like puppets and movement to music) to “Time Out” (for adults, with book discussions and parenting advice). The library space itself is organized into four “creative centers” that focus on reading, writing, using multimedia, and activities to stimulate inventive thinking, “all designed to stimulate imaginative thinking,” Hawk observed.
As with all labors of love, gathering the resources to keep it up and running presents an ongoing challenge, but the community has embraced these efforts, and the library has become a fixture in Five Towns. “The library is primarily funded through private donations, with additional support also coming from grants and events,” she explained. “As with many organizations, fundraising can be challenging at times, and limited by space and funding from doing so much of what we’d like to do.”
But in the end the effort is really worth it. “Over the past seven years, we have seen the library being used by so many people in the community for a variety reasons,” she noted. “The value of what the library has to offer, as seen by the library’s daily use, drives us to keep going. We all pull together to make sure that the library will be here for many years to come. My great hope is that it becomes a model for other vibrant Jewish communities.”