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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!”
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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Sixth Graders Score Big at the Will McDonough Sports Writing Contest!

Sixth graders took part in the Will McDonough Sports Writing Contest, sponsored by the Sports Museum. Sixth Grade General Studies Teacher, Pat Rigley, shares, “Sixth grade students wrote and submitted original pieces for the state-wide Will McDonough Sports Writing Contest. This is a contest for student writers that began as a way to honor the memory of Will McDonugh, one of the premier sports writers in the Boston area and in the country.

Sixth grader Abe Wyett won first place in the sixth grade division. He will be honored at a ceremony at the Sports Museum this Friday. His piece “Who is Rich? Who is Strong?” used the words of Ben Zoma and the Jewish Oral Tradition to showcase the courage of Denna Laing, the young hockey player who was severely injured in this year’s Winter Classic. His essay will be framed under a Boston Globe logo and hung in the Sports Museum at the TD Garden for the rest of this year. He also won tickets for a Celtics game.

Sixth grader Jonah Tillman won second place for his powerful essay “The Magical Foot” about his great grandfather, who was a talented soccer player in Poland before WW II, was sent to a concentration camp and, due to the request by the town mayor, was allowed to play one championship game outside of the camp during which his three goals won the game. Jonah, who was named after this great grandfather concludes his essay with, ‘…when I grow up I want to take my great grandfather’s dream and try to become a professional soccer player. Just like him, soccer is a piece of my heart that I will hold until the day I die.’

Out of the eight honorable mention winners, four were from Schechter’s sixth grade: Jordan Goldstein wrote a description piece about  the Doug Flutie “Hail Mary” pass, Carolyn Bernstein wrote a vivid, fictional story based on the theme of good sportsmanship, Oliver Wyner wrote about a “comeback victory” for his baseball team, and Emmanuelle Bogomolni wrote a fictional story about a girl’s determination to challenge stereotypes. Congratulations to the entire 6th Grade “Team” of 56 students who always encourage each other to develop the best of their talents.”

Schechter is pleased

Schechter Names Incoming Lower Division Principal and Early Childhood Assistant Principal

Schechter is pleased to announce that the school’s leadership has named Ellen Agulnick, Gan Shelanu Director, to the newly created position of Lower Division Principal for the next school year. Pre-kindergarten teacher, Deborah (Debbie) Moukit, will be named Assistant Principal of the Early Childhood Program and will manage the day-to-day operations under Ellen’s leadership.

In her new role, Ellen will oversee both Schechter’s Early Childhood Program and Lower School. Head of School Rabbi Elliot Goldberg says, “Ellen has made tremendous contributions to our community and, with this new position, she will have an even greater impact at Schechter in the years to come.”

Members of the Lower School faculty and staff met with the school’s search consultants earlier this winter and discussed the qualities they would like to see embodied by the Lower School Principal including passion and excitement for Jewish day school education; successful experience leading and administrating a school; knowledge of best practices in teaching and learning; and, of course, a love of children.

Schechter Board of Trustees President, Lauri Union, shares, “We are blessed at this time to have someone who embodies these qualities and is already part of our Schechter community and our senior leadership team. Our search consultants interviewed Ellen and were impressed with her strong administrative skills, educational philosophy and vision for Schechter’s young learners.”

Ellen came to Schechter over six years ago to envision, design and build our Early Childhood Program. Through Ellen’s leadership and expertise, Gan Shelanu has nurtured the hearts, spirits, minds and bodies of over 200 children since its founding five years ago. Union adds, “Ellen is a visionary leader with a passion for helping children and their teachers to reach their full potential.”

Ellen holds a B.A. from Brandeis University in psychology and elementary education, and a M.A. in Jewish education from Hebrew College. She holds Massachusetts state certifications in both early childhood administration and elementary education for grades one through six. She has over 25 years of experience in both early childhood and elementary school settings. In fact, Ellen began her career in education as a student teacher at Schechter’s Lower School!

Debbie has over 18 years of experience in both early childhood and elementary settings. She received a B.A. in education from Lesley University and holds Massachusetts state certifications in early childhood administration and elementary education. Ellen shares, “Debbie brings expertise, warmth and spirit to our youngest learners and has much to offer in her new role.” She will also continue as a music specialist and part-time pre-kindergarten classroom teacher.

Founded in 1961, Solomon Schechter Day School is a premier Jewish independent school in Newton, Massachusetts for close to 500 children ages 18 months through eighth grade. Schechter’s unparalleled academic program fosters critical thinking, academic preparedness and a strong sense of Jewish identity. For more information, visit www.ssdsboston.org.

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Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…Illustrator Kevin Hawkes Visits Grade 2

As part of the Parent Association’s Creative Arts and Sciences program, children’s book illustrator, Kevin Hawkes, visited with the students this week and shared some of his drawing and story writing techniques. He also shared the proofs of a book not yet published. Our second graders were the first to see it! Ask a second grader for the top secret (or not) details!

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Take 2! Trinidad 2 Timbuktu at the Upper School

Upper School students were brought to their feet this week, singing and dancing, as musicians from Crocodile River Music’s Trinidad 2 Timbuktu program brought African music to life. As part of the Parent Association Creative Arts and Sciences program, Upper School students experienced the three-part program that explores African music, dance and art. Similar to the program at the Lower School, after the concert, each grade took part in a workshop during which students had the opportunity to explore African dance. As part of the program, African art installations are currently on display at both the Shaller and Shoolman Campuses.

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Reali Students Land at Schechter

Schechter welcomed 51 students from the Reali School in Haifa this week for an eighth grade exchange program. So far the students have enjoyed informal community Simhat Torah celebrations, a day of team-building at Project Adventure, Inc., joint tefillot and a day of learning together. In the spring, Schechter eighth graders will travel to Israel to spend time with Reali students, while on their Israel Study Tour. Thank you to CJP – Greater Boston’s Jewish Federation’s Boston-Haifa School to School Partnership for supporting this program and to the MANY Schechter parents for hosting our guests. Pictured: Some of our Schechter and Reali students on a team-building field trip at Project Adventure.

Schechter Announces Recipients of the Second Annual Outstanding Alumni Award

Schechter has named Jeremy Blumenthal z”l ’83 and Teddy Fischer ’00 as recipients of the school’s second annual Arnold Zar-Kessler Outstanding Alumni Award. Created in 2014, the alumni award is given in honor of outgoing head of school, Arnold Zar-Kessler, and his 21 years of dedication to and leadership of Solomon Schechter Day School.

Jeremy Blumenthal z”l ’83 was selected for being an influential, thoughtful and engaging teacher, scholar and mentor.  He was an assistant professor of law at Syracuse University College of Law. His life was cut short after a battle with cancer this past December. Blumenthal was nominated by classmate Charlie Savenor ’83. He wrote, “His love of the law stemmed from his strong Jewish identity. Judaism played a central role in his life demonstrated by his sending his children to the Jewish day school in Syracuse and his leadership in his local Conservative synagogue.”

Teddy Fischer ’00 was selected for his impact on Israel as an engineer and social entrepreneur. As as a project manager at the engineering firm,  Telescope, Teddy is working on building train stations for the new light rail in Tel Aviv. He was nominated by his sisters Shira and Miriam Fischer, who shared that, “In all aspects of his life, Teddy exemplifies the ideals Schechter aims to impart into his students; with academic rigor and a Jewish and Zionist heart, he daily strengthens and builds our community and Israel.”

The awards were presented at the school’s eighth grade graduation on June 16 at Temple Aliyah in Needham.  The Arnold Zar-Kessler Outstanding Alumni Award is presented annually to an alumna/us whose life embodies Schechter’s vision and mission. Nominations to the director of alumni relations are due each year by March 31. Previous awardees include Rabbi Ilana Garber ’91 and Dr. Mitchell Schwaber ’78.