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IsRAPelites: Schechter Students Create a Rap for Israel!

Lower School students wrote lyrics and recorded their voices to create a rap about Israel for Yom Ha’atzmaut! Through this unique opportunity with Lower School music teacher Eugenia Gerstein, students used their creativity to connect to Israel through music and composition, learning about new technologies to record their voices and coming together as a community of many voices to make one song showing our love for Israel!

Click below to listen to Recording #1.

Click below to listen to Recording #2.

Click below to listen to Recording #3.

Click below to listen to Recording #4.

Click below to listen to recording #5.

Kol HaKavod to the 49 students who participated in this project!

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D’var Torah: Rabbi Mendy Uminer (Vayikra)

When one thinks of Passover, images of the traditional Passover meal, the Seder, immediately enter the mind. A seder is truly the time of togetherness for the Jewish family. Together, we recount the miraculous birth of the Jewish people. We revisit G‑d redeeming His people from the depths of despair and His transforming a nation of slaves into the beneficiaries of the Sinai experience and the recipients of His Torah.

During the Seder we discuss the “Four Sons” and the questions they pose, from the “Wise Son” who wants to know all of the particulars of Passover observances, to the “Wicked Son” who challenges and mocks them. There is a “Simple Son” who simply asks “What’s this?” There is even a son whose only form of participation is simply being there. With everything happening around him, not a single question occupies his mind.

My teacher and spiritual mentor the Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches us that today we have yet another son, “the fifth son”. The son who does not even attend a seder.

Just as we address the challenges and questions of the Four Sons, we must address the challenges of this fifth son as well. We must reach out and include those who have no place to be at the Seder, and for those who don’t feel the need or relevance to be there, we need to inspire them to its’ relevance to their lives.

In the early seventies, the Jewish Federation of North America decided to launch a campaign. They sought to institute that at every Seder table there should be an empty chair to bring into the Jewish consciousness the awareness that – if not for the holocaust and the loss of our 6 million – there would have been another Jew sitting in that seat.

They asked the Rebbe’s input, The Rebbe’s answer stunned the leaders of the federation: “Your idea of adding a chair is very important, and I’m ready to join the call. But, there is one condition…the extra chair should not be empty, but filled.”

We are lucky enough to have a school that inspires us to be engaged in Jewish life and we need to spread the light.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Schechter for being the home of our summer camp- Camp Gan Israel, thanks for the hospitality!

A Kosher & Happy Passover to you all.

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Schechter Students Continue to Excel in State and Nationwide Contests

Recently we received some very good news about two of the contests in which Schechter students participate: the National WordMaster Analogy Test and the Statewide Will McDonough
Sports Writing Contest.

In the second Session of the National WordMaster Analogy Test, our seventh graders placed third in the nation and our sixth graders placed sixth in the nation. Five Middle Division students received a perfect scores of 20 out of 20!

In the Statewide Will McDonough Sports Writing Contest, a Schechter sixth grader who
wrote about the beginning and the vital importance of the Special Olympics won first place for the sixth grade level contest. Out of the top 10 winners in the state for the sixth grade level, four were Schechter students! Out of the top 10 winners in the state for the seventh grade level, two were Schechter students! One student, who placed second in the state, wrote about penalties for “excessive celebrations” in the NFL.

 

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D’var Torah: Rabbi William Hamilton (Vayikra)

Priest and Prophet

The sensibilities of the prophet and the priest are quite different in the Bible. Prophets espouse values, champion integrity, and liberate dreams.  Primarily concerned with social morality and faith, biblical prophets view situations through the lens of history.  Alternatively, priestly systems care about boundaries, categories, and distinctions.  Priests have a strong moral sense, but their institutions leave no place for spontaneity.  Prophets are not opposed to ritual, but they become outraged when it is misused in effort to avert one’s gaze from hypocrisy or injustice.

This week’s Torah and Haftorah portions offer an up-close and personal view the divergent leadership models of priest and prophet.  We glimpse their different vocabulary, reflective of differing agendas.  Nearness to God is the aspiration of Leviticus’ world of offerings.  Atonement seeks the realigning of a disjointed relationship with God.  Isaiah’s voice encourages redemption, repentance, and societal renewal.  The word atonement, kapara (for which Yom Kippur is named) appears a dozen times in this week’s portion.  While the words for repentance and redemption (shuv, and go-ail) appear in the prophetic reading’s penultimate verse: “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions and your sins; return (shuva) unto Me, for I have redeemed you (ga’altecha)” (Is. 44:22). When these twin hemispheres coexist compatibly, creativity and vitality flourish.

Priests seek order.  Prophets seed hope.  An additional setting where their voices harmonize elegantly is at the Passover Seder.  The identity of the Seder itself means ‘order’, given how baked into its origins the priestly Pascal Sacrifice has always been.  Yet the prophetic voice which vectors toward Elijah holds sway by Seder’s end.

Often we feel called by prophetic expectations.  Sometimes we feel nourished by priestly habits and familiar rituals.  May we draw inspiration from a sacred blend of both.

A sweet Shabbat to you.

Rabbi William Hamilton, Congregation Kehillath Israel, Schechter alumni parent

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Grade 5, Curators of the Egypt Museum

Where can one learn about the Great Pyramid of Giza, Abu Simbel, Egyptian gods and goddesses, King Tut, and more?  Students from the fourth grade and from Gan Shelanu found out when they visited Grade 5’s Egypt Museum today. As a culmination of their study of ancient Egyptian civilization, fifth graders gathered and organized important facts and details about specific topics, wrote research reports, and prepared fabulous displays to present at their museum exhibits.

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Schechter Welcomes New Director of Jewish Life and Learning

As part of our work to foster an inspiring and authentic Jewish experience for our students, a committee of parents, faculty and staff initiated a search for a Director of Jewish Life and Learning. After meeting with the committee, candidates were invited to Schechter for meetings with faculty, staff and students. After completing a competitive and comprehensive process, we are thrilled to share that Rabbi Ravid Tilles will join the Schechter community as our Director of Jewish Life and Learning!

Rabbi Ravid Tilles was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2013 where he also received a degree in Pastoral Counseling. Originally from Silver Spring, MD Ravid is a product of Jewish day schools having attended Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School from Kindergarten through Grade 12. Rabbi Tilles received his BA in Arts and Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh. Since ordination, he has been the Associate Rabbi at the Merrick Jewish Centre in Merrick, Long Island where in addition to his pulpit responsibilities, he oversees the synagogue’s education program. Rabbi Tilles has a strong passion for Jewish education and engagement, particularly with young people, and is thrilled to be joining such a remarkable school. He looks forward to building meaningful relationships with Schechter students and staff to help deepen the culture of love for and embrace of Jewish life. Please join us in welcoming Rabbi Tilles, his wife Yaffa and their two boys, Avishai and Micah, to the Schechter community.

 

D’var Torah: Rabbi Dan Liben (Vayakhel-Pekudei)

Lord prepare me, to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true 
and with thanksgiving, I’ll be a living, sanctuary, oh for you. (Scruggs and Thompson)

The final chapters of Exodus and the opening pages of Genesis are like matching bookends. “In the beginning,” God made a world in which people could dwell. Now, the Israelites return the favor by building the Mishkan (Tabernacle), a space within that world where the presence of God can dwell.

The Israelites donate so much material for the project, that Moses, surprisingly, has to tell them to stop. Their gifts have been more than sufficient. For, how else can God’s dwelling place be built if not through a spirit of generosity, unity of purpose, and love?

It is unlike other Temples, ancient or modern, in one key respect: It is temporary and portable, meant to wander in the midst of the people as they themselves wander. Its holy ark is built with horizontal poles, ready to be lifted, carried, and set down again. Its walls and outer tent are constructed for easy disassembly, ready to travel and to be reassembled, as the people likewise break and reconstitute their camp.

This moveable Mishkan conveyed the comforting message that the God of Sinai is not static. Although the mountain is immovable, the experience of Sinai is portable. By carrying it with us, we continually create the conditions for God to be with us, across time and space. So we ask ourselves: What are the planks of our Mishkan? What are the daily kindnesses, the rituals, the freely given gifts of time and energy, with which we create space for God’s Presence?

The Mishkan’s design also testifies to the essentially impermanent nature of experience. It is made to move, because we are perpetually on the move. Emotions and mind states come and go, thoughts arise and pass, living things grow and die. We are perpetually forgetting, wandering, remembering and returning. Tellingly, the final word of the book of Exodus is “journeys.” Yet, we need never travel the journey alone.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Dan Liben, Temple Israel of Natick; Schechter alumni parent

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Adar Joy Felt at Schechter

Everyone’s favorite week of the school year just passed! Last week, Schechter students celebrated the week leading up to Purim with “Adar Daze.” The week started with Sports Shirts Day on Monday, Crazy Hat and Hair Day on Tuesday, Pajama Day on Wednesday, Schechter Spirit Day on Thursday and Costumes on Friday. Students at the Upper School had a pre-Purim celebration on Friday with a Ruach Minyan in the morning followed by a costume parade, while Lower School students enjoyed their annual Purim Carnival. This year, in addition to parent volunteers, eighth graders came to the Lower School to help staff the carnival.  What a fun day for all!

D’var Torah: Rabbi Michael Fel (Ki Tisa)

What do you do when you see someone with food stuck in their teeth?  Do you ignore it for fear of offending them or do you see it as an opportunity to help a friend?  Personally, if I see something, I say something.  I admit that it can be a little awkward, so I preface my observations by saying: I am telling you this because I would want someone to tell me, and then I tell them the embarrassing fact that everyone else is ignoring.  Most people express gratitude at my candor.

A potentially uncomfortable moment appears in this week’s Torah reading. After receiving the second set of tablets, Moses descended from the mountain, however…  “Aaron and all the Israelites saw that the skin of Moses’ face was radiant/shining/aglow; and they shrank from coming near him.30  But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the chieftains in the assembly returned to him, and Moses spoke to them.31  And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.”33  “Moses was not aware that the skin of his face was radiant/shining/aglow, since he had spoken with God.” 29 (Exodus 34

Poor Moses!  You can imagine his excitement at coming down with the tablets only to be disappointed that his friends were scared of him and didn’t want to learn from him.  According to Ramban, a 13th century Spanish Rabbi, Moses only learned he looked different and was able to continue teaching because someone had the courage to tell him,“Hey Moses, you’ve got a little something on your face.”  Rather than get angry or upset, in an act of true compassion and humility, Moses puts on a veil so he would seem less scary and be able to connect with others.

There will be times in our lives that require us to provide difficult information to a friend and others when we will be the recipient of that unflattering or challenging feedback.  May we have the wisdom to navigate those moments with kindness, love, and honesty so that we can truly help our friends, and ourselves, be our best versions and let our true brilliance shine forth.

Rabbi Michael Fel, Temple Emunah

 

Morris Family - Generations Profile

Expressing Our Gratitude and Appreciation to Schechter

Our family embarked on our Schechter journey almost nine years ago. Barbara and I had three very important considerations in making our decision about our daughter Ashley’s primary school education. We were looking for a school with a focus on substantive Jewish content, a secular curriculum that would provide a framework for educational excellence and a nurturing, comfortable environment, with teachers who would support, encourage and shape her learning process. With each passing year, we are more convinced that Schechter was the right choice for our family.

Both Barbara and I have become increasingly more involved in Schechter over the years – Barbara as a room parent, regular volunteer for pizza lunch and book fairs and this year as a costume designer for the Grade 8 play, while I took on a leadership role in the Annual Campaign and am now VP of Development on the Board of Trustees.

Inspired by our family’s Schechter experience, we recently made a meaningful gift to the Generations Campaign as our way to express our appreciation for the education Ashley has received from Kindergarten through eighth grade and our desire to ensure the future strength and success of the school.

In our final year as Schechter parents, we are eager to express our gratitude and appreciation with words of praise for the Schechter education Ashley has received and with strong financial support for both the Annual Campaign and the Generations Campaign. The Generations Campaign, when successfully completed, will double the size of Schechter’s endowment and provide financial stability and viability to Schechter for years to come. It will ensure that Schechter will continue to provide educational excellence for future generations of students and will provide tuition support as these costs continue to rise. Schechter enjoys a legacy of more than 55 years as a Jewish day school for the Greater Boston Jewish community; but the number of years is not the only important measure. Schechter’s graduates have gone on to be successful in a modern and complicated world and to possess and practice a Jewish value system in their daily lives.

For Schechter to continue its legacy, we must all understand the importance and value of a Schechter education and the foundation that it creates for our children to become great Jewish citizens of the world. My hope is that every Schechter graduate will harken back to their early educational roots and support Schechter so the next generation of young American Jews can reap the same benefits. And I hope every Schechter parent and grandparent will reflect on what Schechter has meant to their children and grandchildren – visualize how much better prepared they will be for the future with the foundation during formative years of a Schechter education. There is no better way to demonstrate the value of this education than by supporting Jewish day schools. Today, as Jews, we must continue our leadership roles in the world. We cannot do so without a strong educational focus, the kind of focus that Schechter provides for our children who will be the future leaders of the American Jewish community.

Pictured: Ellis, Ashley and Barbara Morris place a leaf on the Generations Vine signifying that the Campaign has crossed the $10.5 million milestone. As of March 2017, Schechter’s Generations Endowment Campaign has raised $10,775,273 toward our $12.5 million goal.