Airport Code SSDS K-1: How the Lower School Got Its Own Airport

by Sondra Kaminsky (Kindergarten Teacher)

It began when were walking from the music room to the science room, up the back staircase.  There was nothing on the walls and I said it seemed very plain in there. One child said it was empty.  Another said it was boring. I said it reminded me of getting on an airplane from the terminal….and that was it. One of the children suggested we make an airport.

We began by making a mural of airplanes up in the sky. Then someone said that we needed a terminal. We began to work on the terminal, the check in, the security, the restaurants and shops, the baggage claim. Next we needed planes taking off from the runway… We were clearly not finished!

We had to have people watching the planes take off from the terminal. I emailed parents to send any photos of the children over vacation time if they were going on an airplane or in a terminal (we have a photo section). Then we needed a control tower and one of the children said we needed some maps to show where the airplanes go… So we made a map. The children even made things from different places to put on the map like oranges in Florida, the Eiffel tower in France, tea in Seattle because one of our Grandmas lives in Seattle and she likes to drink tea… One child said “Wherever we go, we have to keep Schechter in our hearts.” and that became the caption on the map.  We wrote books and poems and signs for important things to remember at the airport (no liquids, gate numbers, fasten your seat belt, etc.). The project had a life of its own over a two month period. The children chose to spend time during their free choice/play time. I was beginning to wonder what they were imagining and whether it would meet their expectations…

We had an opening ribbon cutting ceremony (also suggested from the children) and we invited the other kindergarten class. The K-1 children were the tour guides. We even served refreshments in the form of airplane cookies. We also had tours with the first grade classes and the children brought their parents through the airport. I thought we were finished but I heard from parents on Friday that their child said “we are not finished, we can always add more!”

What I especially love about the whole project is that it was child initiated, every step of the way. The children were so excited and worked so well together as a community to produce this airport. We used all our curricular areas to have this developmental based unit come alive. I am sure they will remember this for a long time and every trip to the airport will bring a reminder of this happy learning time with their kindergarten friends.

D’var Torah: Rabbi Beth Naditch (Bo)

When one of my children was in kindergarten, learning from the wonderful Sondra Kaminsky, I visited his class around this time of year to do some Torah study with the kids. I sat down on the floor with the class, took out a case of props with which to tell the story, and told the children that we were right in the middle of the amazing story of the exodus from Egypt. A young boy raised his hand to ask a simple, but ultimately profound question. “Why are we reading this story now, in January, if it isn’t Pesach?” One of the learnings that emerged from our ensuing discussion was the concept that the Torah is our story – that the story of the Jewish people is our story even today, and it is ours to return to, just like the favorite books which all of them eagerly shared that they read at home every night. (Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse were particular favorites, if I remember correctly.) As anyone who has a young child, has had young child, or has been a young child, knows, children want the same books over and over and over. They seem to rejoice in the familiarity, the structure, while at the same time locating themselves in a new time and place at each reading.

The rabbis were wise when they instituted the cycle of Torah readings – we need to revisit the bedrock of our story over and over again. We are not the same people in January as we are in April. Not the same this year as we were ten years ago when we read the same words. Not the same people we will be the next time we encounter these words. For me, the opening chapters of Shmot have particular resonance this year, as we read about the new Pharaoh who arose, declaring in the parasha two weeks ago, “Look, the Israelite people are much too numerous for us. Let us deal shrewdly with them, so that they may not increase; otherwise, in the event of war, they may join our enemies in fighting against us and rise from the ground.” (Ex. 1:10) I have taken both solace and strength from the actions of the Hebrew midwives Shifrah and Puah, who resisted the unethical orders to kill all baby boys who were born.

In the summer of 2001, modern research caught up to the rabbis’ reasoning. At that time, Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush, two researchers from Emory University, did a study on children’s resilience. Using a scale they developed called the “Do You Know” scale, they asked students twenty questions, such as: “Do you know where your parents grew up?” “Do you know what went on when you were being born?” “Do you know who in the family you act most like?” They discovered that higher scores on this scale were associated with a host of things we all hope for for our children, among them, higher levels of self-esteem and better chances for good outcomes when facing adversity.* A family culture – and dare I say a religious one – where stories are central is a family culture which gives our children tools for uncertain times, whether they be individual, local, or global. In our parasha, we hear for the first time the exhortion to re-enact the Exodus story throughout time, and to be diligent about telling the story to our children.  God weaves the future retelling of the story into the very fabric of our process of liberation from slavery.

Now, I might be more explicit in the answer I would give to the 6 year old who asked the question with which I began.   I would tell him that stories give us strength. We’ve been telling the same stories for thousands of years, and they help us get through hard times and joyful ones. The more our stories become a part of us, the more connected we are to ourselves, to each other, and to our history.

Rabbi Beth Naditch is teaches spiritual care at Hebrew SeniorLife and Hebrew College. She is a parent of three boys, at Schechter, Metrowest Jewish Day School, and Meridian Academy.

*A blog post on the study can be found here:


Snowy Science Storms Kindergarten

by Steve Lechner (Lower Division Science Specialist)
I started my “Snowy Science” unit with the kindergarteners last week by reading The Snowy Day, followed by showing the students my snow collection, which they had to sort and classify to find the reason why NONE of my samples were actually real snow. I then discussed the concept that snowflakes have six sides or points, and we looked at different shapes to compare and contrast them. I finished up by showing them my snowman that I made last year and kept in my closet all year (he was just water with a hat, scarf, eyes and a carrot nose in it). The students helped me figure out the best place to keep a snowman.
This week we followed up by talking about ice, and demonstrating how warm air will melt ice cubes slowly but their warm hands with melt it really quickly! I then told the students about how I used to be a cowboy, and learned how to ride around in the desert lassoing ice cubes. I made a very tiny lasso and attempted to lasso a very large ice cube (which didn’t work). Eventually I remembered my secret ingredient (salt), which when sprinkled on the ice lowers the freezing point of the ice, allowing the lasso freeze onto the ice cube! Check out a video of this experiment!
marc baker

D’var Torah: Rabbi Marc Baker (Va’era)

 Every time we say the Amidah, the central prayer of Jewish liturgy, we read the phrase familiar to many of us: “Elokeinu v’Elokei Avoteinu – Our God and the God of our Fathers (or, Ancestors).” Implicit in this simple phrase is one of the great beauties of the Jewish spiritual tradition and one of the great challenges of Jewish education.

The phrase “our God” implies that each of us has a relationship with God that is personal and relevant to us in our time. And this same God is the God with whom our ancestors had a relationship, relevant to them in their time. At its best, this juxtaposition connects us in a deep and meaningful way with those who have come before us by virtue of our shared relationship with something transcendent, timeless, larger than ourselves. At its most challenging, this juxtaposition explains why a belief in God is so challenging for so many of us. When we feel obligated simply to continue or replicate the experiences of those who came before us, we can encounter a very real gap that exists between them and us, their time and ours. When the only language or framework for Jewish theology or spirituality is that of our ancestors, God can become inaccessible to us. For many, this causes us to check out of the very possibility of “Elokeinu” – of making their God my God.

The opening of this week’s Torah portion, Va’era, and, in particular, one of Rashi’s commentaries, offers a beautiful insight into Jewish spirituality that helps to address this challenge. “And God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord. And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai, but in My name “the Lord” I was not known to them.” (Exodus 6:1-3) Rashi explains this last line as follows: (God says:) “My quality of trustworthiness, which the name ‘the Lord’ represents, was not known to them (your ancestors) because while I promised them (to bring them to the Land of Israel), I did not fulfill my promise (during their lifetime).”

This is radical. According to this, God had unfinished business with our ancestors, who never knew God in all of God’s fullness because they never experienced the playing out of history. To put it differently, we who are living out the unfolding story of Jewish history are also living out the unfolding relationship between God and the Jewish people. This is the opposite of trying to replicate or sustain their relationship with God. On the contrary, when we make the relationship our own, we contribute to God’s evolving relationship with the Jewish People and the world as they are today.

When we make God Elokeinu, our God, we keep alive Elokei Avoteinu, their God. This is a great spiritual opportunity, an invitation to write new chapters in the literal and spiritual story of our people.


Rabbi Marc Baker, President and CEO of Combined Jewish Philanthropies. He wrote this D’var Torah in 2016 as Head of School at Gann Academy

D’var Torah: Rabbi Leslie Gordon (Shmot)

We might expect the birth of Moses to be heralded with great fanfare. Instead, immediately following Pharaoh’s decree to kill all Hebrew boys we read: A certain man of the house of Levi stion married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw how beautiful he was, she hid him for three months (Exodus 2:1-2).

“Beautiful” as the JPS translation is rendered, is not entirely accurate. And “beautiful” confuses the narrative: After all, what mother does not think her baby is beautiful? Are we to suppose that if this baby were not pleasing to look at his mother would not have sought to save him from Pharaoh’s decree?

We do better to translate literally: the mother saw that he was good: Tov. When we read the verse, טוב כי אתו ותרא “She saw that he was good,” we can’t help but hear echoes of Creation, when day after day, G. saw that what had just been created was good טוב כי אלוהים וירא.

This nameless boy born to an anonymous mother is our greatest teacher, the leader who would shepherd us to freedom. As Nahum Sarna comments, “this parallel (“saw that it/he was good”) suggests that the birth of Moses is intended to be understood as the dawn of a new creative era.”

Yocheved saw in her newborn, not yet named Moses something more than beauty: she saw the goodness in his creation, his potential to change the world. There is no fanfare or proclamation of greatness or even noble lineage at his birth. Like countless babies born to generations of parents, this humble, nameless child is good because even in a time of terror and suffering, a new life means the potential for salvation. This baby is not distinguished by miraculous powers. His mother sees that he is good, he is part of creation, he evinces a spark of the divine. It is no more and no less than what we all see in the birth of our children. Famous or the product of a certain man and his wife—all our children bring the goodness of hope for a better tomorrow.


Thank you, Schechter!

A note from alumni parents Marcia and Alan Leifer:

This fall we celebrated the wedding of our eldest daughter Jessica ’02. Our joy was shared by the Schechter community that grew up around us since the day 23 years ago that we dropped off Jessica in Naomi Katz Mintz’s kindergarten classroom. The hora was filled with concentric circles of classmates of Jessica and her three Schechter siblings (Becca ’04, Ben ’07 and Veronica ’12); Schechter parents who became the closest of friends as our kids grew together into emerging adults and as we embarked on our own Jewish journeys; and Schechter Board and Committee members who worked alongside us in our volunteer efforts to help Schechter grow from “Good to Great.” Schechter has given the Leifer family a gift for the generations and we are humbled and honored to have the opportunity to say thank you.

When it was time for us to update our estate plans, we thought about what it would take to ensure Schechter’s vitality for generations to come. And with that, we are proud to share that we intend to leave an endowment gift to sustain our annual gift to Schechter in perpetuity and to significantly expand The Marcia Siskind Leifer Fund for The Creative Arts and Sciences. We hope to inspire passion for art and science in Schechter students for generations to come.

Schechter takes in kids whose parents flock to Boston from all over the world and sets them up to be effective “Jewish bridges.” Bridges to our American Jewish friends and family who are less comfortable with tradition. Bridges to our Israeli mishpocha (family) who thirst for connection to America. Bridges to Americans of all stripes who value tikkun olam (repairing the world) and their spiritual connection to the Holy Land.

As such, Schechter is a vital institution of Boston and American Jewry and should be supported by all of its stakeholders – parents and grandparents, alumni parents, and community leaders.

The Generations Campaign supports our commitment to providing our students with a dynamic 21st century education, infused and enhanced by Jewish learning and values, to prepare our students for informed and active engagement in the Jewish community and the broader world.As of November 2016, Schechter’s Generations Endowment Campaign has raised $9,581,166 toward our $12.5 million goal.To learn more, contact Natalie Matus at or 617-630-4617.

Rebecca Luire

D’var Torah: Rebecca Lurie (Vayechi)

A key theme in this week’s Torah parasha, Vayechi, is forgiveness. We all know the famous Joseph story – of his brothers selling him into slavery and lo and behold, Joseph becomes a key leader among the Egyptians. When their father Jacob dies, the brothers are asking for forgiveness from Joseph. “Please, forgive now your brothers’ transgression and their sin, for they did evil to you. Now please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.”  

And Joseph’s reaction to this plea was to weep. And he said “Indeed, you intended evil against me, [but] God designed it for good, in order to bring about what is at present to keep a great populace alive. So now do not fear. I will sustain you and your small children.” וְעַתָּה אַל תִּירָאוּ אָנֹכִי אֲכַלְכֵּל אֶתְכֶם וְאֶת טַפְּכֶם

So, why was he able to forgive his brothers after betraying him? Rabbi Jonathan Sacks sees Joseph’s relationships with his brothers as the full cycle of repentance. The first stage of repentance is when they admit they did wrong (when the brothers first encountered Joseph in Egypt). The second stage of repentance is when they confess and take responsibility for their actions (when they confess to having sold Joseph into slavery). And the third is when they are presented with the same situation as the first time and they choose not to make the same mistake again (they offer to be Joseph’s slaves). The three phases of repentance presented here are 1) admission of guilt, 2) confession and 3) behavioral change.

The story of Joseph is a beautiful representation of humanity and our ability and obligation to forgive our fellow man and woman. For when we forgive one another, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks notes that we are no longer prisoners of our past but are able to find new purpose and meaning in our relationships with one another. As the new secular year has become, I wish you a year filled with opportunities to model this lesson of repentance and accept forgiveness into your hearts.


D’var Torah: Rabbi Carl Perkins (Vayigash)


As we all know, siblings (brothers and sisters) don’t always get along. This has been going on for a long, long time–indeed, since the first brothers and sisters were born.
Let’s see: the first two human brothers were Cain and Abel. They certainly didn’t get along very well. (See Genesis 4)
The first two Hebrew brothers were Abraham’s sons, Ishmael and Isaac. They too did not get along very well. (See Genesis 21)
Isaac’s sons, Esau and Jacob, were twins. They also didn’t get along very well, even before they were born. (See Genesis 25) After buying Esau’s birthright (for a mere bowl of porridge) and cheating Esau out of his special blessing, Jacob was forced to flee for 20 years, with no contact with his family, before finally returning home. Fortunately, Jacob and Esau eventually reconciled. Their relationship was uneasy, but it never again flared up into outright conflict.
Jacob had married two sisters, Leah and Rachel. They too, you won’t be surprised to learn, did not get along very well (see Genesis 29-30), and that hostility continued on into the next generation.
Jacob’s children REALLY didn’t get along very well. Joseph’s older brothers hated him, and treated him badly. When they got the chance, they threw him into a pit and sold him to slave traders heading down to Egypt. He suffered for a long time until finally, as unlikely as it must have seemed, events turned his way and he was appointed second-in-command to Pharoah.
Then, even more unbelievably, Joseph’s older brothers–the ones who’d mocked, scorned, tortured and humiliated him–came before him begging for grain. How he must have longed to do to them what they had done to him.
And indeed, he almost does. He certainly does trick them and plays with their feelings. But he does this not purely out of vindictiveness. Instead, he has a different motive: he wants to see if they have changed. Are they who they always were? If so, well, then they deserve to suffer. But perhaps they have changed ….
In the climactic scene that begins toward the end of last week’s parasha, Joseph tempts his brothers to do exactly what they had done many years before: to abandon a younger brother (this time, Benjamin). As the parasha concludes, he leaves it up to them, and we really don’t know what they will do: Will they abandon Benjamin, demonstrating that they’re as bad as they were years earlier, or have they changed?
We find out at the very beginning of this week’s parasha: “And Judah approached.” Seemingly miraculously, Judah, the older brother who had played a key role in selling Joseph into slavery years before, steps forward and breaks the pattern that has been going on for generations.
“No!” he tells Joseph: “I won’t abandon Benjamin. Take me instead!”
Hearing these words, Joseph is so struck by Judah’s uncharacteristically kind behavior that he can hardly control himself. He bursts into tears, and after shooing the Egyptians out of the room, he reveals himself to his brothers, and they weep together.
What a wonderful testimony to the power of teshuvah/repentance! By abandoning his destructive, competitive behavior with his sibling–by changing, and demonstrating that he had changed–Judah allowed a loving relationship to grow in place of the mistrust and hatred that had previously existed.
We can do the same. If we have brothers or sisters, let’s strive to treat them as Judah came to treat all of his brothers, including Joseph: with self-sacrifice, love and caring.
Rabbi Carl Perkins is the Rabbi at Temple Aliyah, Needham and Schechter alumni parent