Thank you, Jane Rechtman



Jane Rechtman, who passed away March 3, was an integral part of the Masters community, revered by her colleagues and an inspiration to her students.

Ellen Cowhey, Faculty Member

Dearest Jane Rechtman,

You were always so good at writing thank you notes—handwritten, on a card or nice stationery, and at least three lines. Just three days before you passed on, you sent me a thank you note for something I’d just sent you, plus asked me to thank again the whole team who created a quilt for you.

But now, it’s my turn to write you a thank you note on behalf of the waves of Masters students you taught, your friends, colleagues, and the many more lives you profoundly impacted.

Thank you for your sense of wonder and exploration, whether that meant finding the best dumplings in all of Flushing, Queens, or pursuing yet another degree, this time to become a hospital chaplain because you saw new ways to be present, alive and engaged in the world. It also meant learning everything you could about bioethics and how the mind-body-spirit connection worked from a multitude of scientific, technological and spiritual perspectives. You were open to it all, ever eager to learn and grow and explore.

Thank you for your smile that danced all the way up to your eyes. A smile that broke open so easily into generous laughter. That smile, the laughter and the big warm hugs to go with it let us know you genuinely cared about us, wanted the best for us, and were willing to see us for who we truly were, even as you called us forth to our higher selves. You always expected to see, and therefore did see, the good in each one of us.

Thank you for holding true to the vision of Miss Eliza Masters by helping transition what once were Bible Study classes into World Religion classes. You also developed Matters of Spirit from what had been Chapel in an earlier era into a respectful exploration of many different religious pathways, all the while allowing our own truths to shine forth.

You’ve shown us how to live. You’ve also shown us how to let go of life graciously with heart and eyes and arms wide open, embracing the mystery into which you were headed. I can remember when you first shared the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in the spring of 2014. You said, “Well, I’m going on an adventure. I get to see what‘s on the other side. Maybe it’s something, maybe it’s nothing, but I’ll get to find out. I just feel bad for all the people I love who I’ll leave behind.” No self-pity, you just had that adventurous spirit of sailing off into the wide unknown.

None of us will be here forever, Jane. You’ve reminded us of that. But you have been with the Masters Community for almost 25 years as a classroom teacher of religion and wisdom traditions. You’ve also been a mentor, a class dean, a colleague and a friend far beyond the classroom. You have modeled listening without always needing to “fix” the concern shared. You’ve shown us how to live to the very edges of our lives, ever extending beyond the perceived limits, showing us to see further with the vision of a kind heart.

Thank you for teaching us, not only how to live with passion, but how to die with an effervescent spirit of adventure. When your bodily form passed on, it felt less like a loss and more like a great burst of energy was being released into the universe in a million bright sparks. May each of us be lit by those sparks of kindness, light and laughter, as our own deep thank you back to you, Jane Rechtman, for all you have been to us.