“Miss Elyse” had enough kids to fill an entire classroom multiplied by 20 years.
Before you alert the Guinness bean counters, it should be noted that Elyse Marcus had four children of her own. But her heart was so open to the students she taught at preschool at Temple Sinai of North Dade, she referred to them as her “kids.”
“Elyse was about pure love and concern,” said the temple’s Rabbi Alan Litwak, who led her service on New Year’s Eve before nearly 1,000 people. “If you had a child and you entrusted her with your child she saw that child as her own. And so hundreds of parents over 20 years entrusted their children to her. She taught parents as well — including me. My youngest daughter was her student. I came in as a dad like any other mom or dad who is learning what it means to be a great parent and a great teacher, which, in Judaism, are intertwined.”
Marcus, who died of cancer at age 51 on Dec. 30, scheduled her treatments around her “kids” to make sure she would be at her best should they need her.
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“Nothing mattered more than making sure that she could get back and be with her kids,” Litwak said.
Litwak was so overtaken by emotion while delivering her service, Marcus’ husband Eddie strolled to the stage to offer comfort.
But that’s how people responded to Marcus. “Elyse was the most selfless person. She taught everyone priceless life lessons,” said Donna Gaber, a friend of 33 years. “If they paid that forward that would be the most amazing thing.”
The first time she met somebody that person walked away saying she was her best friend.
Eddie Marcus, Elyse Marcus’ husband of 30 years
Her Facebook flooded with posts of adoration and thankfulness. Messages came from near and as far away as Iceland and India.
Litwak explains: “With every teacher, you have to be dedicated. Then there are people like Elyse who didn’t care that the school year ended. She wanted to make sure her kids transitioned to summer camp at Camp Sinai on the first few days to make sure her kids were there and were OK.”
She really was like my sister. From the day I met her she was instantly my sister.
Jane Marcus Yaffe, sister-in-law to Elyse Marcus
For Marcus, born Aug. 8, 1964, mothering came to her early while growing up in Hollywood. “Our mom passed away when I was 13 and she was 17. She came home from college, University of Florida, to raise me until she met Eddie and she got engaged and married. She always told me she’d take care of me and be there for me. She was still a huge part my life every day … she was everything,” said sister Debra Kogan Gaynor.
The story of how Marcus met her husband brings much-needed smiles to the matchmaker, Michelle Wolfe, and to Eddie Marcus.
Eddie was like a brother to best pal Wolfe. The two met at her bat mitzvah. Years later, Wolfe met Elyse in the college cafeteria. She thought her two friends could be a match so she whisked them to a Pompano Beach disco in the 1980s. It wasn’t exactly A Night in Heaven. Until it was.
“He was cracking obnoxious jokes and she looks at me, ‘Is this who you want to fix me up with?’” Wolfe said. “We go into the disco. It was jam-packed so there was no place to sit so she was sitting on his lap and she points down to him and whispers to me, ‘I’m going to marry him.’”
“She was 18. I was 20,” remembers Eddie Marcus. But that whispered aside between girlfriends went unnoticed amid the throbbing dance tunes. “I didn’t even know that,” he says today, “and we celebrated our 30th anniversary on Nov. 24.”
Said Wolfe: “I brought them together. She was a magnet. She touched every single person and they thought literally that they were her best friend.”
For 33 years I was honored to be her best friend. And we only called each other sisters. Never friends. Only sister.
Donna Gaber on Elyse Marcus.
In addition to her husband and sister, Marcus is survived by her children, Michael, Sarah, Carly and Andrew. Donations in her name can be made to Temple Sinai of North Dade, 18801 NE 22nd Ave., North Miami Beach, Florida, 33180.
Remembering ‘Miss Elyse’
Parents and friends flooded Facebook and the Miami Herald obituary Guest Book to share memories of a very special teacher. Here are some posts about Elyse Marcus’ impact on a community.
Sasha Goldsmith: I am thinking of you and how blessed we are that Jade and Jake were lucky enough to have you as their first teacher!!!! I'll never forget the bubble blowing, the book there was an “old Lady who swallowed some leaves” and your “achoo” as you read the book! It's still their favorite book and they imitate u when they read it! U will remain forever in our hearts …
Allison Levey Friedman: My daughter has been sending your special hand sign for “I love you” all day to you wherever you are. My babies and I will never forgot their first and most special teacher.
Jill Rotenberg Moss: You were our rock. You made sure that not only were our children in an amazingly safe and loving environment, but that all the mommys were okay too. I remember many a time that you would catch me peeking in the little eye hole, only to throw me a kiss and let me know that all was okay. You were not only a teacher to the kids, but to me as well.
Andie Cohen Singer: Elyse was my son's "mommy and me" teacher 28 years ago. She used to sing “who has new shoes? Jordan has new shoes” I can't get her smile out of my mind. I never met a woman with so much love in her heart for everyone.
Sarah B. Morel: I could never forget, the day of Jacobeli's birth, Elyse rushed to be right by my side knowing that I had no mother/relative to make sure we were very supported and all our needs were met. That same night at midnight, again she came rushing to feed my husband and make sure he knew how to feed my son. This was Elyse, even at those younger years she was one of the truest of friends a person could have.
Laura Herman: Elyse was such a shining light. I took her Mommy and Me class many, many years ago and still carry memories of how much she loved and cared for each child (and mom) whose life she touched. She truly was a blessing.