a silver "yad" pointer on a page from the torah, the first five books of the hebrew bible.  selective focus, shallow depth of field.

Pesach

Pesach

by Rabbi Yoel Lax
Teacher, Camp Yavneh

The very mention of the name of the festival elicits different reactions from the entire family; from the displeasure of having to do all that Pesach cleaning to the joy of vacation from school and all those fun activities. However, this very name of the festival teaches us the fundamentals essence of these days. We call the festival Pesach – which literally means “Passed Over” to offer our gratitude to G-d for doing just that – passing over the Jewish homes during the plague of the firstborn and only affecting the Egyptian homes. However, the Torah uses a different name for Pesach – Chag HaMatzot – the festival of the Matzot (unleavened bread). What is the reason for this?

When we left Egypt, we became united as a people – the children of Israel. It was this unity that enabled us to stand at Mount Sinai and receive the Torah “like one person with one heart.” Chag HaMatzot is G-d’s way of expressing his love to the Jewish people, as alluded to in the Song of Songs (“Shir hashirim” – which we read on Pesach) by the way of comparing our relationship with G-d to the relationship between husband and wife. It is a way of thanking us for the faith we had in G-d to hurry up and bake these Matzotand enter the desert without any provisions and place our trust solely in G-d.

These two names of the festival – Pesach and Chag HaMatzot show us the importance of appreciating and valuing others for who they are.

R’ Yisrael of Salant, a leading 19th century Lithuanian Rabbi, was known for his exceptional observance of the Mitzvot and as such used to personally supervise the baking of his Matzot every year. One year, he was in poor health and couldn’t do this himself. His students, who were to do this on his behalf, asked him if there were any stringencies they should take upon themselves during the baking of the Matzot to make them Kosher for Pesach. Rabbi Yisrael responded in the affirmative, “the woman who kneads the dough is a widow. Please treat her especially well and be very careful not to hurt her feelings”.

From the very names of the festival which shows the value of fully appreciating what others do for us; to the episode of the four sons all coming together for the Seder night; we learn a very important message. On this night, when we attained freedom and as a nation became one; we must do our best to retain this unity; to welcome others and appreciate the different components of the Jewish nation that comes together as one unit. When we truly internalize this and learn to value and appreciate others who may be very different to us, can we truly merit to see the fulfillment of the epitome of theHaggadah we read on Seder night – Leshana Haba’ah BiYerushalayim Habenuyah – Next year in the rebuilt Jerusalem.

Chag Pesach Kasher VeSameach!

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First Graders Celebrate Receiving Their First Siddur

“This is the best day of my life,” whispered one of our students to her first grade teacher, Marla Cavarretta, as she was presented her very first siddur. Marla shares, “First graders have spent weeks preparing to receive their siddurim. They have studied and discussed different tefillot throughout the year and were able to show off what they learned this week. When asked why they were ready for their siddurim, children responded by sharing that they could now read Hebrew and they know what the tefillot mean. Boy were they right! To celebrate this special occasion each class performed the famous Noah‘s Ark play. After the play, each child received their very first siddur, that they will be able to use for many years to come. The sense of pride from each family was undeniable. Mazal tov to the first grade class!” First Grade Teacher, Jesse Wolf adds, “The children said they were nervous but it didn’t show! The smiles on the children’s faces as they were called up to get their siddur could light up the room. What a magical day!”

Framing Schechter’s Future

Schechter’s Honor Society reception featured a number of displays of creative and innovative Schechter student work, artwork by renowned artist Carol Barenberg (Schechter grandparent) and some of Galerie d’Orsay’s finest masterpieces. In her remarks during the evening’s program, event chair Penina Magid (Director of Enrichment) spoke about how profoundly different the world which our students will enter as adults will be from the world today and the kind of tools they’ll need in order to be prepared. Twenty-first century learning through a Jewish lens is one of three pillars of the school’s strategic plan and was a key focus of the event. The program concluded with this video.
Special thank you to Honor Society hosts, Schechter parents Sallie and Jay Hirshberg, who are generously donating 10 percent of the proceeds from any purchase to Schechter’s Annual Campaign, through December 31, 2016.

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Sunrise on Masada!

Dear Parents,

Yesterday morning, we left Tel Aviv to go to the Beit Guvrim archeological dig. There, we toured ancient caves that had once been the basements of the homes in the city Mareisha. We also dug in caves that hadn’t been fully excavated and looked for artifacts such as pottery shards, charcoal, and shells. We found parts of vessels and dishes. Afterwards, we had lunch and free time at a small mall in Kiriyat Gat. We then drove down to the desert to spend time at a Bedouin Tent. We first prayed the mincha service, and then went on camel rides through the desert. When we returned, we went to the hospitality tent where we drank tea and a Bedouin man spoke to us about his culture. We then went to the dining tent to eat a delicious dinner. We ended the evening with a bonfire and made smores before sleeping in a large tent with the entire grade.

This morning, we woke up at 3:50 am to climb Masada and see the sunrise. We arrived before sunrise and had tefillot before turning around and watching the sun rise which was an amazing experience. One of the fascinating sites we saw was King Herod’s sauna. We climbed down Masada and relaxed before driving to the Dead Sea.

We ate lunch at the Premier Spa and had lots of fun floating in the salty water of the Dead Sea. From there we drove a couple of hours to Mitzpe Ramon, which gave us time to catch up on our sleep.

We’re looking forward to the adventures we’ll have tomorrow, our last day in Israel.

See you soon!

Adina K, Adina S, and Sophie G

Rebecca Lurie

Schechter’s Board of Trustees Appoints Rebecca Cole Lurie as Next Head of School

Schechter’s Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to appoint Rebecca Cole Lurie as Schechter’s next Head of School. We believe that Rebecca will be an outstanding leader for our school, reflecting our school’s history, embodying its values and bringing capabilities to move Schechter boldly into its second half-century.

We want to thank the entire Schechter community for your active involvement in identifying the school’s most pressing needs to guide the search, meeting with Rebecca in forums and interviews and sharing your feedback and input through the survey. We also want to thank the search committee and particularly its Chair, Joshua Margolis, for its efforts to design a sound and thoughtful process that paid careful attention to the voices of our many constituencies.

Rebecca was introduced to education professionals, community leaders, faculty, staff, parents, donors, alumni and alumni parents, through one-on-one meetings and interviews, focus groups, open community sessions and formal presentations during the last month. While we understand that the decision to focus on a single candidate caused concern to some who would have preferred to see multiple candidates, the process of assessing Rebecca’s qualifications and engaging community feedback, was nonetheless extensive. According to our consultant, Bruce Shaw, the number and depth of the sessions held were among the most extensive, and the feedback received across all constituent groups, among the most positive he has seen in his professional experience.

We recognize that choosing a candidate from outside of the field of education can seem like an unconventional move. In today’s rapidly changing world, where we are increasingly preparing our students for an unknown future, we believe Rebecca’s outsider’s perspective and insider’s passion positions her to be the kind of engaging and innovative leader Schechter requires.

Rebecca is a living model of the power of a Schechter education and continues to embody it in all aspects of her life. We look forward to working with her as the new Head of School where she will bring her visionary and collaborative leadership and her exemplary interpersonal, communication and management skills to help Schechter thrive.

We feel deeply fortunate that Rebecca raised her hand as our forefathers had done, and said Hinenni (“here I am, ready to serve”).

Rebecca will become Head of School effective July 5. Please join us in welcoming her!

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Israel’s Independence, Shopping and a Memorable Dinner Out

Dear 8th grade Parents,

Friday, April 15th, we woke up at 6 am in Jerusalem ready to drive to Tel Aviv. Once we got to our destination we went to Israel’s Independence Hall, and pretended we were there, celebrating the independence of Israel in 1948. We heard a recording of David Ben Gurion reading Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Then we watched a movie summarizing Hertzl’s dream become a reality. After we left the Independence Hall we walked to Nahalat Benyamin and shopped up and down the street, seeing and buying handmade jewelry and crafts. After a couple of hours of shopping and eating we departed to different destinations for our free Shabbat. We spent a lovely Friday night and Saturday at family and friends’ homes, and at night we were dropped off at the Ruth Daniel Hotel, in Old Jaffa.

Today, we had the choice of either planting a tree in a new JNF forest or going shopping for Judaica in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. We had previously been to the Jewish Quarter but some of us felt like we didn’t have enough time there and went back. Later, we took a bus to Har Hertzl where we learned about Theodore Hertzl and his dream of Israel and visited many graves of important Israeli figures as well as soldiers who parished in the many wars.

We returned to the hotel where we met with David Micley, a Schechter alumnus who lives in Tel Aviv and works for an organization called Tamid. David arranges internships for American college students with Israeli start up companies. After that, we ate dinner at a restaurant called Nalaga’at where the waiters are deaf. They taught us some sign language phrases which helped us during the meal, including how to say thank you and please. The food was delicious. At around 10:00 pm, we are going on a safari where we will see animals such as zebras, lions, etc. We are all very excited.

We are having a great time and are sad that our study tour is coming to an end in just a few days.

L’hitraot,

Ava, Samantha, and Jaclyn

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Yad Vashem, Pantry Packers and a Time Elevator

Thursday, April 14, 2016
Dear Parents,

We had an amazing day. This morning we went to Yad Vashem, the Israeli national Holocaust museum. We heard the different stories of individuals such as Irena Sedler and Oscar Shindler and saw many original artifacts from various camps around Europe. One especially meaningful memorial that we visited was the Children’s Memorial, where five candles flickered in mirrors to memorialize the 1.5 million children who perished. While experiencing the powerful image of candles, we also heard a list of names, ages, and countries that described a few individual children chosen at random. Finally, we visited the Hall of Remembrance where we saw 600 pictures of those who did not survive. Behind the pictures, we saw many books filled with names commemorating as many people as Yad Vashem had names.

After leaving Yad Vashem we took a break for lunch at an outdoor mall in Bayit Bagen. Then we got back on the bus and headed to our next stop, Pantry Packers. When we first got there we watched a video about what we were going to be doing and how there are many families that can’t supply themselves with basic necessities like food. After watching the video we were put into smaller groups and began to help those less fortunate than us by packaging food. We packaged both rice and chickpeas and together we packed enough food to feed 160 families for an entire month. Being able to see what an amazing difference we could make for families in need was an incredible experience. Once we finished at Pantry Packers we went to see an interactive movie at the Jerusalem Time Elevator. We learned the history of Jerusalem in a fun and interactive way. Finally after a long day of activities we went to the Malcha Mall and got to hang out and eat dinner. Our final day in Jerusalem was a blast! Can’t wait for Tel Aviv!

L’hitraot,
Zoe D, Jessica, and Gabby

Rabbi-Micah-Liben

Metzora

Metzora – Shabbat Hagadol –
Maintaining Modest Machloket (debate)

by Rabbi Micah Liben ’95,
Director of Jewish Life and Learning, Kellman Brown Academy, New Jersey

Pesach preparations are often accompanied by machloket (debate): Horseradish or romaine lettuce? Haroset with walnuts or without? White Moscato or red Manischewitz?

They say that with two Jews come three opinions. Indeed, a little machloket can do a lot of good, as long as it is l’shem shamayim, for the sake of Heaven. When we debate for the right reasons—striving for truth, empathy, new perspectives—then machloket yields positive outcomes. It is when we engage in machloket for selfish motives that debate becomes corrosive.

The paradigm for machloket l’shem shamayim is represented by Hillel and Shammai. Their schools disagreed about everything from candle-lighting to conversion, but they argued for the right reasons. My own favorite is their disagreement over Kiddush at the Seder: Shammai declared that the blessing over the day be recited first, while Hillel insisted on starting with the blessing over wine.

This argument may appear silly; who cares which blessing comes first? However, the underlying issue is deeper. For Shammai, the day is blessed first because if it weren’t a holiday, there would be no reason for a special cup of wine. But Hillel argues the holiday is not inherently special. Rather it is what we bring—through family and ritual—that imbues the day with holiness. Thus, the wine ritual comes first.

As usual, our practice is to follow Hillel. I am moved by Hilllel’s position, but I am also aware that Shammai—both here and elsewhere—is not “wrong.” On the contrary, the Talmud declares both parties’ positions valid. Moreover, the Talmud states that in the messianic era, unresolved disagreements will be settled by Eliyahu HaNavi (Elijah the Prophet), and strikingly, we will then follow Shammai.

On this Shabbat before Pesach, known as “Shabbat Hagadol,” Eliyahu appears in the Haftarah portion (Malachi 3). According to this passage, the prophet will come before the “Day of the Lord” to restore relationships. Just as Pesach looks toward a future redemption, the Haftarah reading points to a redemptive period when conflict will be resolved.

Maintaining hope in a peaceful future, free of discord, is laudable. But until Eliyahu rings in the messianic era, feel free to engage in some modest machloket at your Seder table!  It’s a healthy part of Jewish life which, if done right, can truly imbue the day with significance and holiness. Just be careful not to spill the red wine.

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From Haifa to Jerusalem!

Dear Parents,

Today was an exciting day! After sadly leaving our Reali friends in Haifa, we headed to Jerusalem to discover what made it so important to Judaism and what made it the heart and soul of the Jewish people. Upon arriving at the City of David, we saw a short movie about the history of the City of David, the most ancient part of Jerusalem. We saw ruins where bullae, seals which are wrapped around letters bearing the letter writer’s insignia, were found, and one bore the same name as Jeremiah’s scribe. We visited a house with one of the oldest toilets ever found. We were then shown the ancient Canaanite water system that the Israelites used for much of the First Temple period. This water system lasted until before the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians, when King Hezekiah ordered the building of a water tunnel to divert what was then Jerusalem’s main water source, the Gihon Spring, into the city so that the Assyrians couldn’t take away this vital resource from the Israelites. We walked through the very same tunnels where two teams of quarrymen worked day and night from opposite sides to create Hezekiah’s tunnel, proven by the inscription commemorating the joyous occasion of their meeting in the center.

To connect with our past, we went to the Southern Wall of the Kotel and learned about how our ancestors made their pilgrimages to Jerusalem. As a group we walked up the stairs 2 steps at a time to take in all the spiritualness of the holy city. Eventually we made our way to the Kotel and the boys put on tefillin, we all said personal prayers, put in notes to God, and some of us davened mincha.

We came back to the hotel had dinner and played evening activities despite the fact that we were all exhausted. All in all it was a great learning experience about the one place we hold most dear to our hearts as Jews.

Shalom v’Lehitraot,

Dore, Dylan, Ethan

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Underground Visit to the Rambam Hospital

Dear Parents,

Today we saw many great sights. One sight that really stood out was the Rambam Hospital. While the architecture and Children’s Center was very impressive, what was especially impressive was the underground hospital. Designed in case of warfare , the underground hospital is found three stories below ground level and is completely surrounded by water. The space is typically used as a garage, but in case war should break out all patients, staff, and necessary equipment could be moved into this shelter in 72 hours. Once in the underground hospital, the patients and staff have enough resources to stay underground for three days straight at which time more supplies can be brought in. Also, the secondary hospital is equipped with some of the most cutting edge medical technology we have ever seen such as an infectious disease containment area . The underground hospital can also house 2000 patients and a staff of 1500. The hospital took 6 years to build at a cost of 100,000,000 dollars. Rambam Hospital was given the funds and raised money for the hospital after the second Lebanese War, in which 60 rockets fell within a kilometer of the hospital. We were very fortunate to be able to tour the hospital and are very thankful to the Reali parent who worked at Rambam and allowed us to join her. Thank you Inbar!

Afterwards, we traveled north in the pouring rain to Ramat HaGolan. We did a little sight seeing, but since it was raining, we could’t see as much. It was unusual that it rained so much because it usually stops raining earlier in the year. Fortunately, when we arrived to the hot springs at Hamat HaGader, it stopped raining. It was a lot of fun and the water was really warm and relaxing. We are on our way to Reali now to have a final night with our hosting families. We are having a great time.

L’hitraot,

Zach, Sam O., and Adam W.