NAOMI PRAWER KADAR, PH.D. (1949 - 2010)
Naomi Prawer Kadar, Ph.D. (1949-2010) was an inspiring educator, a devoted scholar, and a true visionary. Through her captivating personality and radiant energy, Naomi successfully imparted the beauty of studying languages and cultures to countless students around the world. Born in New York, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, Naomi learned the importance of Jewish and Yiddish culture from an early age. Her parents valued their children’s education above all else, and instilled in Naomi an appreciation for the opportunities she received from her schooling.
After graduating from the City College of New York, Naomi married and started a family in Israel. In the early 1970s, she received a teaching certificate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She taught English as a Second Language to students from varied backgrounds and academic levels, empowering and encouraging each and every student to cultivate individual talents and unique perspectives. In the various programs in which she was involved, Naomi was appointed to supervise and mentor young teachers.
Naomi eventually returned to the United States with her family, where she focused her language instruction on Yiddish. She became the National Director for the Workmen’s Circle (Arbeter Ring) Schools, and she devoted herself to creating new schools, developing curricula, and training teachers to ensure the preservation of her beloved Yiddish language and yidishkayt for future generations. She went on to earn her doctorate in Yiddish Literature from Columbia University. Naomi’s research on American Yiddish children’s magazines from 1917 to 1950 established her as a preeminent scholar of Yiddish children’s literature, and she was invited to present her research at conferences including the Association for Jewish Studies. She was a member of the Yiddish Committee of the Modern Language Association, a frequent contributor to the online Mendele Review: Yiddish Language and Literature, and just months before she passed away, she published an article in the Yiddish journal Afn Shvel.
In addition to these extensive obligations, Naomi always found time to build relationships with students. She held teaching positions at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary, and she taught and inspired Yiddish learners the world over through intensive summer programs at Tel Aviv University, the Free University of Brussels, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research/Columbia University. To the students whose lives she touched, the classroom experience with Naomi was tremendously enriching. She exuded a love for the beauty of Yiddish language and culture, and her endless enthusiasm and warmth inspired many to reconnect with their heritage. Her classroom became a second home, a sacred space for engrossing discussions, engaging activities, rich stories, beautiful songs, and new words and worlds.
Naomi is the spirit and inspiration behind BrainPOP, an online educational product that continues to transform the exciting frontier of digital learning. She conceived and founded BrainPOP ESL, an online English as a Second Language program that embodies her love of language and transmits the joys of her classroom through sophisticated animated learning.
On February 23, 2010, Naomi passed away after a valiant battle with cancer. While the world lost an exemplary person, a woman of valor, and an extraordinary educator, the profound impact of her boundless imagination and sophisticated pedagogy continues to be felt. Naomi lived every day with passion for and devotion to the ideals she cherished most deeply: love of family, Yiddish, and Israel; dedication to community values; and commitment to excellence in education. Humble and understated in her demeanor, Naomi’s legacy lives on, in ways she never imagined, in the hearts and minds of her students. Through the Naomi Foundation, which was established in her memory, Naomi will continue to inspire and impact educational opportunity for generations to come.