Student Reflections on Grandparents’ and Special Visitors’ Day 2018

Hi. I’m Isaac Klar, and through my nine years at Schechter, I’ve learned quite a lot. As my time here at Schechter comes to an end, I think about everything that has stuck with me throughout this whole time. My teachers, my friends, and my Jewish identity have been with me throughout my time here, and they will stay with me through my whole life.

My teachers have given me the best opportunities to learn and succeed, and have set me up so that I am ready for high school. They set me up to be accepted into my first choice for high school, where I will be attending next year, Gann Academy. In first grade, we learned basic math like addition and subtraction. In sixth grade, we started learning geometry and even some algebra. Now, in eighth grade, we have learned quadratic equations and have had a lesson on logarithms.

My friends, who have stuck with me through thick and thin. We’ve celebrated together, laughed together, and done basically everything else together too. We blew up when the Patriots beat the Seahawks with Malcolm Butler’s unforgettable interception, and we’ll celebrate again soon at our graduation.

My Jewish identity will stay with me throughout my time at Gann, and will stick with me as an adult. I will raise a Jewish family, and hopefully send my children to a Jewish school. I’ve gained skills here that I wouldn’t have gained anywhere else, like being able to go to Israel and speak to the Israelis in Hebrew. I’ve learned how to code, manage my time, and I’ve become trilingual with Spanish, Hebrew, and English.

But the thing I will miss most about Schechter is the community. My friends, my teachers who have also become my friends, and even everybody here that I don’t know. When I see everybody getting up and singing and dancing when we pray as a school, I feel happy knowing that all the kids younger than me have the opportunity to have an experience similar to mine. I hope they all enjoy Schechter as much as I have, and I hope you all can see that today.

Thank you.


Breaking News: Schechter selected as one of four schools nationwide

Schechter has been selected as one of four schools nationwide to participate in the inaugural cohort of the Pedagogy of Partnership (PoP) Day School Fellowship. PoP is an innovative research-based pedagogy for the design of relationship centered education, led by Dr. Orit Kent and Allison Cook. PoP is a program of Hadar, based in New York City. The other schools in this inaugural fellowship are:

  • Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital
  • Luria Academy (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Oakland Hebrew Day School (Oakland, CA)

Through this program, our faculty will learn how to guide students toward using concrete tools to improve their communication and interpretive skills and be better able to seek understanding, work collaboratively and engage with their studies. Our faculty will teach and model for our students to learn from one another through hevruta learning, in pairs. The root of the word hevruta is haver which means friend. Facilitating learners in this way can inform teaching practices across almost any subject matter or category, offering a powerful Jewish framework from which to educate and learn.

In an article posted by the Jewish Theological Seminary, Cook and Kent write, “Whether it be in text study, in our interactions in Jewish communal life, or beyond to the town square, Jewish education must focus deliberately on building the discrete skills and dispositions necessary for this interpretive engagement. It is not enough for these skills and dispositions to be in the hands of a few; they must be taught and made available to individuals of all ages. In the Pedagogy of Partnership we seek to do just this because we believe that Jews and Judaism thrive in relationship and that how we learn is ultimately what we learn.”

Head of School Rebecca Lurie shares that, “a key element of Schechter’s strategic plan is to embrace aspects of Jewish thinking and learning such as hevruta style collaboration and apply them as scaffolding to our entire academic program. This fellowship is an important step in implementing that vision for our school and we couldn’t be more excited!”


photo credit: Heidi Aaronson

Schechter Students Receive High Awards in Writing Contest!

Mazal tov to our Middle Division students on their accomplishments in the Will McDonough Sports Writing Contest:
The Will McDonough Writing Contest, named in honor of the legendary Boston Globe sportswriter, takes place every year. This year, over 900 students from across New England participated in the contest. The winners are chosen by Globe Sports Editor, Joe Sullivan.

Will McDonough Writing Contest Honorable Mention: Ariel Skolnick

Mazal tov to our Middle Division students on their accomplishments in the Will McDonough Sports Writing Contest:
The Will McDonough Writing Contest, named in honor of the legendary Boston Globe sportswriter, takes place every year. This year, over 900 students from across New England participated in the contest. The winners are chosen by Globe Sports Editor, Joe Sullivan.

Ariel Skolnick, Grade 6
Solomon Schechter Day School, Newton

Gleaming Heart of Gold

(based on the true story of the gold medalist Jacqueline Nytepi Kiplimo)

I can see it, the finish line, that beautiful, pure, and precise white streak across the copper polyurethane track. My beating heart, my pumping arms, and my racing mind push me into the lead of my final lap. I chance a glance behind my shoulder, seeing the man. His face was as red as the setting sun with sweat dripping down his back, and nothing to quench his pleading throat. I don’t know why I did it. I didn’t even know his name.

My name is Faith Lane. Running was my destiny, or so I thought. Five miles and a pressured win was all it took to determine my future. I would either get a full scholarship to college or I would be a high school dropout, like my mother. I didn’t know I would stray from my unwavering path, at the race that changed my life.

As I was jogging outside the stadium, warming up my limbs on a cool Sunday morning in Kenya, with perfect weather for a race, I thought to myself, “just one more gold.” One win, and I would be awarded a spot on the varsity track team. I heard the horn blare, signalling the time to get into position. Taking my mark, I sized up my opponents. Then I shot out onto the track, in the lead, although realizing that one man was matching me stride for stride, I got annoyed. I would not let anyone else triumph before me. This was my race to win.

As I looked behind my shoulder one last time, I realized he was breathing heavily. Then I noticed he never grabbed the cups of water that were distributed to keep us hydrated because he couldn’t, for his arms were amputated at the elbow. At the third mile mark, he looked exhausted, faint, and unable to move on. As he faltered, almost losing his footing, my heart ripped from my body and forced me over to his side. My trembling arm reached out to help him drink just one cup of water, then two, and finally three. With only two miles left, he raced out from behind me, refreshed and ready to win.

He crossed the finish line thirty seconds in front of me. The crowd, shocked, started to clap, but in a matter of seconds thousands of people got on their feet, clapping like they never had before. I just walked out on my unsteady legs, not looking back, because of that single tear running down my silent face. I never looked back; therefore, I never saw the look on his face. The look of pure defeat.

A few days later he came to my home with the gold medal around his neck. With determination, he told me that even though I didn’t receive the gold medal, It didn’t matter because I already had something much more, for I had a gleaming heart of gold. As I stared in shock and admiration, he willingly bent over and dropped the gold medal at my feet, turned around and left. Never looking back.

Will McDonough Writing Contest Second Place Winner: Abby Goldstein

Mazal tov to our Middle Division students on their accomplishments in the Will McDonough Sports Writing Contest:
The Will McDonough Writing Contest, named in honor of the legendary Boston Globe sportswriter, takes place every year. This year, over 900 students from across New England participated in the contest. The winners are chosen by Globe Sports Editor, Joe Sullivan.

Abby Goldstein, Grade 6
Solomon Schechter Day School, Newton

Miracle Off the Pitch

“Mili, you can be on our team!  Last June, seven girls from my Natick town soccer team lifted a sign with these words addressing Mili Hernandez, an 8 year old girl from Nebraska.  Mili is a cute, spunky girl with very short dark hair. Her full name is Milagros, which in Spanish means “miracles”.  Mili’s soccer team, Azzurri Cachorros Chicas, was registered to compete in a soccer tournament, but parents on the opposing team questioned why a “boy” was playing on a girls’ team.  Volunteer director Ray Heimes from the Springfield Soccer Invitational checked the roster which mistakenly noted M for male instead of F for female next to Mili’s name.  The organizers didn’t investigate further to confirm their suspicion before deciding to disqualify Mili’s  team, even though her father produced a health identification card showing she was a girl. Probably, if Mili had longer hair and more so-called feminine features, the tournament officials would have realized the error.

Mili’s team could have been angry about their elimination from the competition, but instead,  showed solidarity, by cutting their hair shorter. Word spread quickly through the media, and people voiced their outrage that a girl would be discriminated against because of her appearance.  Soccer teams around the world responded as well. Some teams took pictures showing signs of support like ours. Others, like a woman’s club in Sydney, Australia, The Flying Bats, cut their hair and posted pictures.  Even U.S. Soccer Olympians  Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach supported Mili, by posting, “You’re  inspiring” and “You’re a natural-born leader, honey, and I’m so proud of you.”  They also invited Mili to participate in Hamm’s week long soccer youth camp in Massachusetts.

I play on my town’s travel soccer and youth basketball teams.  I also dance competitively. I’ve learned many moves, can pass, shoot and score, but the most important thing I’ve learned in sports is good sportsmanship.  I know that we all face adversity everyday. Adults have challenges at work, and kids face obstacles at school and with friends. A good sport treats their teammates and opponents with respect and competes fairly even when faced with challenges.    We can’t win every soccer game or dance tournament, just like we can’t always win at business or in school, but it would be more frustrating if people didn’t have the courage to play fair.

The reaction of so many people around the world to Mili’s situation is a great reminder of good sportsmanship.  What happened to Mili’s team was unfair, and incredibly frustrating. It was like losing a close game to a last- second goal after trying your hardest for 40 minutes.  But it would have been harder if people didn’t care, or show their support. The whole game is better when good sports do what’s right for the sport, and not just for their team.  When my team heard about Mili Hernandez, we knew we had to support Azzurri Cachorros Chicas. Now Mili is back on the pitch, playing the game she loves with a full heart thanks to the miracle of support and good sportsmanship that lives in her name.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       





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Purim Festivities and Mitzvah Morning

From crazy hat and hair day to pajama day to costumes, our students had a fun-filled, spirited week in celebration of Purim! Click here to view more photos on Facebook.
In addition to the Purim festivities, Middle School students participated in a Mitzvah Morning, coordinated by the Student Council and their faculty advisors. Students made care packages for United States troops serving overseas, coloring books for kids at Children’s Hospital and fleece blankets for Project Linus which serves children who are seriously ill or traumatized They also collected and sorted books for their buddies at the Jackson Mann School as well as items for the Buddy Dog Humane Society. Students also wrote letters to the Parkland community following the recent tragedy. We were so moved by their words. See samples below.
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Business Leaders Running Jewish Day Schools – A Good Thing?

By Mark Springer

In 2016, I retired from my position as principal of the Mason-Rice Elementary School in Newton, Massachusetts, a high performing public school district outside Boston. My retirement concluded my 38 year career as a teacher and administrator in the public schools of Massachusetts. Within a few months of my retirement, I was approached by members of the Board of Trustees from the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston about becoming the new Associate Head of School for Program and Instruction. They explained to me that they had just hired Rebecca Lurie as the new Head of School (HOS) right out of the business world with no experience in the world of education. I’m sure I smiled; I imagine I raised my eyebrows; I know I thought they were out of their minds. After meeting Rebecca, however, I was inspired and I agreed to join her team as the Associate Head of School for Program and Instruction following my retirement from Mason-Rice that summer.

Those of us in the public schools have always blanched at the thought of business leaders and politicians telling us how to educate our children. While everyone considers themselves an expert in education because they all went to school, those of us in the field know full well the many challenges presented to educators in today’s world. We know there are no easy answers. Our challenges are immense, the solutions nuanced and complex. How would a person steeped in the business world attempt to solve the problems facing one Jewish day school in suburban Boston?

Private schools are quite different from public schools, and Jewish day schools face their own set of unique challenges given changing demographics in the Jewish community across the country. Schechter was facing the very common problem of declining enrollment and unsustainable budget shortfalls.

To address the startling challenges in front of them, Schechter’s Board of Trustees took the bold step of reaching into the business world to find a leader who would rapidly change our present course. This individual was uniquely qualified in a number of other ways than many traditional candidates. She was a Schechter graduate with a double degree from Barnard College and the Jewish Theological Seminary, majoring in Talmud, with her three children enrolled in the school. As a member of the Board of Trustees, Rebecca was intensely involved in the challenges facing our school, and possessed the self-confidence, humility and cheerful optimism that attracted the attention and deep interest of the board. Her background leading Talent Management at Staples, Inc. was also seen as an incredible strength as any school is only as good as the teachers tasked with instructing its students.

Being a HOS at a private, 15 months-Grade 8 Jewish day school is a far different role from that of a public school principal. It is more similar to the role a superintendent of schools would play in the public sector. Yet, where the public schools are funded through property taxes, a private school is funded solely through tuition, grants, charitable contributions and other established revenue streams (i.e. rental income). Our new HOS’s immediate challenge was to stem the departure of students from our school, provide faculty and parents with an optimistic and hopeful view of the future, and dramatically improve the financial position of the school. Donors would only donate if they had faith in school leadership and the belief that their investment was a sound one.

I have learned that individuals with a business background possess a unique skill-set that is rarely found in those cast in leadership positions in education. A strong business background brings many important qualities to the HOS position.

  • These individuals are often well-versed in setting goals and holding people accountable in reaching those goals.
  • Individuals from the business world often have a strong sense of how to engage in strategic thinking and planning – tackling both the macro market trends and the challenges the individual institution faces – and establishing implementation plans to ensure the strategic plan gets executed.
  • With a strong business background, the school leader understands a balance sheet and an earnings statement, and can very capably handle him/herself in working with a demanding Board of Trustees who can be driven by financial statements, but truly want what is best for children and the future of their school.

Yet those skills alone will not get the job done. Adam Bryant, author of The Corner Office, identified one of the single greatest challenges facing top executives as understanding the value relationships play in building any successful organization. Numbers and spreadsheets and financial statements are easy, Bryant claims, in comparison to understanding the subtlety of being able to get the best work out of its employees. For a person with a business background to thrive, the following skills are necessary in abundance:

  • Acknowledge they don’t know all the answers.
  • Seek and accept constructive feedback.
  • Remain steadfast in building a school where teachers love coming to work and children love coming to school.

Rebecca Lurie does not have an education background and she does not pretend to have one. Instead she relies heavily on our two building principals, our Associate Head of School for Program and Instruction, our Director of Marketing and Enrollment, our Development team and our Director of Jewish Life and Learning. She asks the important questions, listens intently and reflects deeply on what she hears. She is a leader and a learner, and regularly seeks out feedback from her team, students, faculty and parents. She has an uncanny ability to connect the dots among many disparate pieces of information culled from a variety of sources. Successful school leaders possess a true commitment to building relationships with all of the people around them and being very aware of their needs and desires, and Rebecca models that every day.

Only a year and a half into Rebecca Lurie’s tenure as HOS, there is an undeniable hope that pervades our school community. While she commands the respect of faculty, students and parents, she possesses a wonderful sense of humor, a warm smile and a genuine and deep care for the entire Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston community that has everyone believing that our school’s future is bright.

Mark Springer is Associate Head of School for Program and Instruction at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston.

Originally post: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/business-leaders-running-jewish-day-schools-a-good-thing/

Schechter Students Shine in Analogy Competition

The WordMasters Challenge™ is a vocabulary competition based on completing analogies. We are pleased to share that out of 81 schools, Schechter’s eighth grade was ranked SECOND IN THE NATION and Schechter’s seventh grade was ranked FOURTH IN THE NATION out of 79 schools. One Schechter seventh grade student received a perfect 20 out of 20 score on the test. Mazal tov to all of our students and their teachers!

Wrapping Hanukkah Rap

Here’s the first installment of our Hanukkah Rap! See details below for more information.

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Students in Grades 1-3 are invited to participate in creating a song about Hanukkah in the form of a rap. Students will write the lyrics, come to the music room for a recording and have the song featured here on our blog. Lyrics either in Hebrew or English are welcome! Click below to listen to the beat and first verse.

“So they fought the Greeks heroically

And they boogied to the Temple in jubilee

They cleaned the dirt took the idols out

And when they were done the all began to shout”

This project allows students to:

  • Develop creativity in a new form
  • Learn about Jewish holidays through music and composition
  • Use technology during recording sessions
  • Build school community as we make one song with many verses, showing  the students’ thoughts about Hanukkah miracles and freedom

Deadline: Sign up your child for the project before November 1 by emailing eugenia.gerstein@ssdsboston.org.

Students will then need to bring the lyrics to Gene by November 13.

Recording sessions with Gene will take place at the Lower School on November 28, 29, 30.


Meet Rachel Chiel Katz!

Rachel is excited to return to Schechter for her 12th year as a Middle School teacher. She will teach 8th grade Language Arts this year, while having also taught 7th grade Language Arts and 7th grade Social Studies in the past. She holds a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. Every year, Rachel looks forward to getting to know a new group of students and observing their insightful and creative discussions of literature.

In her free time, Rachel loves reading mysteries and historical fiction. She also enjoys making paper cuts and creating other types of art.

Rachel feels #SchechterPride because she is not only a teacher, but an alumna and a Schechter parent. She knows her children are in excellent hands and feels lucky to work with such talented and committed educators.