Jane Tuv is pretty busy these days. Besides being a mom, she’s also busy changing the face of Jewish education (no easy task, right?). When she first moved to Queens, New York last summer, she discovered something kind of shocking: There weren’t any programs for Russian-speaking Jewish infants and toddlers.
Because Tuv met a lot of Russian-speaking Jewish moms in Queens who said they felt disconnected from the Jewish community, she was inspired–and so, she made a change. She created Queens’ first Russian language infant and toddler program called Kinder Klub, which was launched in February–with help from a grant from PJ Library.
Tuv also founded the Arlekino Theater Troupe for Russian-speaking Jewish children and she’s JCC Manhattan’s director of programs for Russian-speaking children and families at Generation R.
I was also able to speak with Tuv about how she does it all, why she switched careers (she was formerly a journalist), and what her weirdest family tradition is.
What inspired you to switch careers (from journalism) and work in education? Was there a defining moment for you?
I always knew I would become a teacher, but I thought I would do so mid-life. I left my journalism career for reasons other than wanting to become an educator, but there was a defining moment when I knew I was in the right place—both psychologically and physically.
I came for an interview at a Russian language preschool on the Upper East Side eight years ago; I sat on a tiny wooden chair and was surrounded by beautiful process art and collages, little handprints, and children’s musings. The director spoke softly and kindly, and revealed to me the wonders of progressive early childhood education. I ate up everything she shared. I got up, teary-eyed, and told her that I didn’t have much experience working with very young children, but that I knew I belonged there, at that preschool.
And she hired me. Her belief in me and in my future as an educator set me on an incredibly fulfilling path.
You’re a new(ish) mom, as your daughter is a little over a year old now. What’s one thing that has surprised you about being a mom?
I discovered how much of an enormously humbling experience it is. I also never imagined I’d be so engrossed in my daughter’s development and well-being that I’d struggle to maintain a loving relationship with her father.
What was your favorite children’s book or young adult novel growing up?
I still love reading children’s books, but “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is one of my most favorites. I reread it once every couple of years, and fall in love with it anew.
What TV show have you binge watched?
Right now, it’s “The Americans.” My partner and I started watching the series about two months ago during our at-home date nights, and then it turned into a quasi-obsession (for me).
Biggest pet peeve:
I will probably sound anal-retentive, but my left eye twitches when they’re/there/their, your/you’re, and its/it’s are misused. I also can’t stand seeing people sit on an unmade bed in street clothes, especially after having just come off the subway. My first thought, “Bed bugs.”
If you were a Jewish holiday, which one would you be?
I am an only child, so I always said I wanted to have enough children to fill a kindergarten. That came true, in a way, when I became a teacher. I can proudly say I have lots of children, whom I love dearly!
What’s your weirdest family tradition?
Everyone’s family has its own quirks and I’ve grown to adore all the Soviet-Jewish-Odessan traditions that we share. There’s a superstition that it’s bad luck to toast with water–so in my family (and many other Russian-speaking Jewish families), the person who doesn’t have alcohol in his glass has to cheers with his nose.
I always find it amusing watching people reach across the table to hold a glass up to someone’s nose. And they’re quite serious about it.
What personal object could you not live without? (Besides your phone!)
Oh, I can definitely live without my phone. I have a book of personal poems that I have been filling since I was 12. I don’t write in it often, but I love reading through it from time to time.
It holds my changing emotions, my perspectives from adolescence into adulthood. I really cherish this book and hope to share it with my daughter when she becomes a teen. It’s one of the few things I have with handwritten words.
Least favorite part of your day:
The time when I have to say goodbye to my daughter and leave for the day.