Known for her kindness and contributions to the Harvard Westlake (HW) community both on and off-campus, Rabbi Feigenson will be a deeply missed presence. Her warm personality has helped many students adjust and feel more comfortable at HW.
“One of the things I think is so admirable and that I really miss about her is she was so good at injecting community and heart into this place,” middle school history teacher Lauren Nichols ‘03 said.
Feigenson passed away Jan. 23, surrounded by her loved ones after a two year battle with brain cancer, President and Head of School Rick Commons announced in an email to faculty, staff and students.
“When I think about Rabbi Feigenson, I think about when I lost my husband eight years ago,” middle school attendance and health coordinator Brenda Simon said. Feigenson visited Simon’s house to support Simon through that difficult time.
Simon also said that Feigenson would sometimes come to her office to talk and make Simon laugh.
“I didn’t know what she was talking about, but she’d have some thought in her head that she hadn’t really formulated yet,” Simon said. “And I’d go, ‘Okay, Rabbi.'”
In Simon’s office, there is a picture drawn by Feigenson’s oldest daughter Netanya Perluss ’15. When Feigenson visited Simon’s office, Simon would point the drawing out to Feigenson.
“Every time she looked at it was like she looked at it for the first time,” Simon said. “You could just see the love she had for her daughter every time I showed her that picture. And I did it often just to see if I could get the same reaction.”
Feigenson’s caring demeanor made an impact across the HW community.
“She was always trying to think about how to improve people’s quality of life, just day-to-day,” Nichols said.
One of the programs she spearheaded, Big Sibs, has ended due to her absence. The program helped many new students adjust to HW.
“When I was a little sib in seventh grade, I thought it was a really good experience,” Ava Weinrot ’23 said. “It made me really eager to be one in eighth grade.”
Big Sibs prepared Maxwell Cretaro ’23 for his time at Harvard-Westlake as well. It also helped him with his study skills.
“If I didn’t have my big sib, I wouldn’t have known how the entire school was going to be,” Cretaro said.
He also got to interact with Feigenson. When Cretaro was trying to solve a math problem with his big sib, Feigenson helped them out.
While Feigenson greatly improved daily life in the HW community, she also paid attention to larger issues in society. In one of her last conversations with Nichols before she went on leave, Feigenson wanted to stand up against police brutality.
“She wanted to start kneeling during the national anthem at football games in protest of police brutality, which I thought was really brace and really special,” Nichols said.
Students, faculty and community members honored her life and contributions to the school at her funeral on Jan. 28. At her funeral, the people who spoke about her commented on her mischievous spirit.
“She was a very playful person,” Nichols said.”You could tell she had a silly sense of humor.”
With her kindness, dedication and good humor, Feigenson made HW a more welcoming community.