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The Jewish Report Editorial

For the man who gave all for our education

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Running a tribute on the front page of the SA Jewish Report isn’t something I’ve done before, especially when the person in question died of natural causes.

But until now, there hasn’t been someone who touched and influenced quite so many lives as Elliot Wolf.

Mr Wolf, as we all knew him and most of us King David High School Linksfield alumni still refer to him as such so many years later, was an educator extraordinaire.

Throughout his career, he made sure that, as far as was possible, no Jewish child would be turned away from a King David school. He wanted to make sure that every one of us and our children got the best education possible from the top teachers. In his later years, it was about making sure that people could afford it, and before that, it was about finding ways for pupils to get the best education could offer.

Mr Wolf understood teenagers far better than parents did, and I would go as far as to say, better than most teens understood themselves. He got them, in every generation on whose lives he had an impact. He understood that when youngsters are disruptive, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are troublemakers but that they are probably calling for help.

Where some saw naughtiness, he saw potential. When others saw insolence, he saw strength and determination.

He understood that if you were battling at school, it didn’t mean there was something wrong with you. It meant you needed help. And he believed in going the extra mile to help – that is, if the child was willing to work hard to get there.

And, he so often managed to get through to teens in a way that others couldn’t, and turn their lives around. He helped them to believe in themselves and see their possibilities.

So, it’s no wonder that so many people are totally gutted by his death this week. He was a patriarch to most of those who passed through the portals of King David High School Linksfield and a mentor to so many.

However, he was certainly human and fallible. Mr Wolf didn’t impress every youngster and not everyone loved him. Some have said that those he liked would get away with anything, but those he didn’t wouldn’t.

I cannot comment on that. Suffice to say, there are few people who don’t have a ‘Mr Wolf’ story or two up their sleeve – and they were often humorous and sometimes outrageous. And the outpouring of sadness at his passing this week has been testimony to that.

He had an impact on so many people’s lives first as a King David High School Linksfield teacher, then principal for many years, and finally as director of the King David Schools Foundation. His impact is felt around the world wherever former King David Linksfield alumni now live. And there are a lot of us, considering when I was there – and I am talking a few years back – there were almost 3 000 pupils in the high school alone.

I always marvelled at the fact that no matter how many people went through the portals of King David High, Mr Wolf seemed to remembered their names as well as who their parents were and other bits of information. That’s such a wonderful skill, and one that always makes people feel seen.

Mr Wolf – and I was never able to call him Elliot – was always so well dressed, softly-spoken, and easy to chat to, in spite of the deep respect he engendered in most of us. He had a wry sense of humour, but was so incredibly knowledgeable. His commitment to education, and particularly Jewish education, was his biggest gift to us all.

Since we heard of his death, hundreds and hundreds of heartfelt messages have poured out on social media. In fact, within hours of his passing, a Facebook page called “In loving memory of Elliot Wolf” was created and had almost 1 000 members. Through this and other outlets came the flood of wonderful Mr Wolf stories. His impact will be felt forever through our stories and the influence he had on our lives.

The thing that always amazes me about someone like Mr Wolf is that I think he would be surprised at the outpouring of love for him. He was a genuinely humble man with a clear set of principles that had everything to do with education.

For him, like most of our parents, education was everything. And he believed it was vitally important to get a good education to set you up for life. He would echo the old adage of Jewish parents all over: “Education is the one thing that can never be taken from you.”

As the sun sets on Mr Wolf’s life, matriculants are geared up to write finals and all those high school pupils are getting stuck into their studies – or should be – before their end-of-year exams. I wish that each one of them could be inspired by what Mr Wolf represented for so many of us. It was much less about giving up everything to study and more about absorbing that education, building confidence, finding out what you really want to do with your life, and forging ahead.

May his memory continue to inspire all of us, and may he rest in peace!

Shabbat Shalom!

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