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“Who is rich? She whose child…attends Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston”

Schechter alumni parent, Keren R. McGinity shared the following remarks on behalf of the eighth grade parent community at Schechter’s Faculty and Staff Appreciation Luncheon, June 15, 2016 

When the Parent Association Co-Chairs first invited me to give these remarks, I was deeply honored and jumped at the opportunity to articulate my immense gratitude to all of you. But as I began to piece together some thoughts in my head, I became increasingly daunted by the task at hand. How do I, one parent, represent a whole grade’s worth of diverse parents’ perspectives, some of whom I don’t know nearly as well as I wish I did?

In order to say something meaningful yet brief, I’ll just share a few personal thoughts and hope that though words alone cannot do justice to your devotion, dedication, expertise, and care, they will at least give you an inkling of how we parents feel.

When I was 10 years old my mother and I moved to Boston and I had an interview at Schechter. I remember being told that my Hebrew was only at the first grade level and the massive amount of studying that would be required to “catch up” with the fifth graders made a Schechter education unattainable at that time. Now, I did have the privilege of having a then soon-to-be Schechter teacher as my bat mitzvah tutor, so I wasn’t entirely deprived. But I wanted more for my one and only child.

My daughter Shira’s Schechter experience began nearly 13 years ago when she was just 20 months old at Gan Yeladim, the former Gan Shelanu. It was there that a Schechter teacher came to sing songs with the children. (Little did I know then that this same teacher would one day teach Shira at the upper school and chaperone her on the 8th grade trip to Israel!) Perhaps it was those tunes that helped make the transition from Gan to Kindergarten so seamless. Over the years, many more teachers and administrators contributed to making more transitions seem almost effortless.

On Yom Kippur, some Jews fast. Fasting, among other things, reminds us to feel—if only for a day—what someone who doesn’t have enough to eat feels on a regular basis. To fully appreciate Schechter teachers and staff it may be necessary to live without you for a time, which we actually did. Shira and I spent her first and second grade years at a different Jewish day school in another part of the country. While it had its strengths and some excellent educators, those two years gave us a point of comparison that increases our gratitude. The warm welcome we received when we visited and again when we returned as planned, solidified that Schechter of Greater Boston was truly where we belonged.

“I love school!” Shira has said many times over the years—thanks to you!

Shira grew from holding my hand until we said goodbye at the classroom door to a social butterfly whose wingspan is still spreading—thanks to you!

Shira evolved from knowing her name in Hebrew to texting b’ivrit—thanks to you!

Shira’s grasp of the English language went beyond WordMaster’s to poetry and state-wide essay contests—thanks to you!

Shira’s indifference about science and confusion about math became infatuation mixed with curiosity and conceptual satisfaction—thanks to you!

Shira transformed from a child whose gross motor skills lagged behind her fine motor skills to an athlete who played soccer, basketball, and softball all in the same year—thanks to you!

She glided from singing and dancing in the privacy of our kitchen to dueling with her fictional nemesis and belting it out on stage—thanks to you!

Most recently, Shira morphed from someone who accused me of being “that kind of mother” for not allowing her to go to a Beyoncé concert on Shabbat to telling me exactly what time we needed to light the candles—thanks to you!

The school-parent partnership is an extremely important function of a successful educational experience. I couldn’t be more grateful for the abundance of information, timely responses, and proactive communication. Colleagues of mine wrote a book called Back to School about how Canadian Jews who send their kids to day schools learn alongside their children. That’s definitely true in my case and so I must thank you for my Schechter education in addition to Shira’s. You have also provided much needed support, during good times and some hard ones; when I needed you, you were always there for me.

Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 4:1 teaches us: “Who is rich? He or she who is happy with what he or she has.” In today’s age of social media, with Facebook posts about everything from the best trip to Paris to a new puppy, it can be challenging to remember the most important thing, which isn’t even a thing but a process: Jewish Education. Who is rich? She whose child has the privilege of being taught, coached, challenged, nurtured, and most importantly inspired by all of you!

Now, as a freshly minted alumni parent, I have only one regret and that’s not having more children to send your way!

Todah rabbah. May you all go from strength to strength!

In addition to her newest role as Schechter alumni parent, Keren R. McGinity is the Director of Interfaith Families Jewish Engagement at the Shoolman Graduate School of Jewish Education and Founding Director of the Love & Tradition Institute

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Melanie Gerard

Melanie Gerard and her husband, Michael, have three children at Schechter: David (Grade 8), Ari (Grade 7) and Maya (Grade 2). We asked Melanie’s a few questions about her family’s experiences:

What do you love most about Schechter?
There isn’t one single thing I love about Schechter; rather, many complex layers that make the school a very special place for my kids to grow and learn: strong curriculum; fantastic faculty and staff; a nurturing environment; diverse Jewish community; and terrific enrichment and afterschool programs.

Why did you choose Schechter for your children?
We chose Schechter because of the strong Judaic curriculum combined with stellar secular academics that prepare our children for the rigors of high school with the added bonus of a strong Jewish foundation that they will carry with them for life. Schechter is small enough to make sure my children personally succeed and also large enough to feel my children have choices both academically and socially.

In what ways have you seen your child grow and develop as a result of their experiences at Schechter?
They grow leaps and bounds every year and surpass my expectations every year both in the context of their studies and the values/morals Schechter teaches them.

We recently hosted Israeli students from Schechter’s partner school in Haifa, the Reali School. This is part of Schechter’s 8th-grade Israel Study Tour. Reali students visit us in the fall and our kids go to Israel right before Passover. The experience of hosting Israeli peers and the connections our two schools made were instantaneous and beyond my expectations. Everything is in Hebrew and for the first time, my son told me he was “thinking in Hebrew”! I feel as if if this experience made my 8th-grade son more confident and independent. He can’t wait to go to Israel in March.

What would you tell other parents to encourage them to consider enrolling their child at Schechter?
It’s not just about the Judaics, but it’s a bonus that our kids come out of this program with ethics, values and a stronger sense of moral upbringing that is supported throughout the curriculum in a way that public schools simply aren’t allowed to teach (by nature of separation of church/state). By sending kids to Schechter, parents can give their children the opportunity to experience adolescence in a “safer zone” when compared to public schools – that our staff, the teachers and the kids are all in it together, to raise confident Jews that care and nurture each other.

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Onir Spiegel

Onir Spiegel and her husband, Jeffrey, enrolled their daughter, Sammy (Grade 1) at Schechter beginning in kindergarten. We asked Onir a few questions about her family’s experiences:

What do you love most about Schechter?
We love the warm and nurturing environment the teachers create for the children, the school’s love for Israel and Jewish values, and the school’s unsurpassed academics.

Why did you choose Schechter for your child?
We chose Schechter because of its excellent Hebrew curriculum and the nurturing environment that supports each child’s growth and development.

In what ways have you seen your child grow and develop as a result of their experiences at Schechter?
Three words: Leadership, confidence and values. Our daughter truly enjoys coming to school. She runs to see her teacher from last year and carries a new air of confidence that I’ve never seen in her before. She shares new Hebrew songs with us and has changed the tune of our Shabbat candle lighting so that we can sing at home just like she does with her classmates at school.

What would you tell another parent to encourage them to consider enrolling their child at Schechter?
I want to know that I have given my child everything I could to make sure she becomes a caring and loving individual, philanthropic and someone who lives her life through a Jewish lens with Jewish values and a love for Israel and Judaism. Schechter helps to make this happen.

Ruth Bernstein

Ruth, and her husband, David, have two children at Schechter: Aviav (Grade 7) and Carolyn (Grade 6). They came to Schechter when their kids were in grades 5 and 6. We asked Ruth a few questions about her and her family’s experiences joining the Schechter community at the Upper School.

What do you love most about Schechter?

I love how connected to my kids the teachers seem to be. They take great pleasure in my kids’ accomplishments and are quick to notice when a child needs help academically. They also do everything they can, both within the school and by making suggestions about what to do outside the school, to help the children overcome their various challenges.

Why did you choose Schechter for your children?

I chose Schechter because my kids loved it on their visit. Our kids started Schechter as Upper School students because their own former (beloved) school had closed. One of my kids loves his class because he has found a like-minded group of kids to hang out and tell jokes with; the other felt the warmth of the teachers and classmates and asked to come for that reason.

In what ways have you seen your children grow and develop as a result of their experiences at Schechter?

Schechter is an academically rigorous place, and my children have developed an appreciation for how hard work translates into good grades and mastery of material. Even though they sometimes feel challenged by the volume of the work they have to do, they know how to ask for help and they know the teachers will help them succeed academically. Now that my child is on the Bar/Bat Mitzvah circuit, I have also seen him create strong bonds with his classmates, come out of his shell at parties and support his classmates as they celebrate. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, there was a weekday sunrise service for one child’s Bar Mitzvah–the kids got up early and carpooled to a very joyous service followed by a delicious breakfast. I can’t think of a better way to start the day!

What would you tell another parent to encourage them to consider enrolling their child at Schechter?

I think Schechter has so much to offer, particularly if it is the right fit for your kid–I would tell another parent to speak to as many other parents as possible, to attend Schechter events and to bring her or his children to visit as much as possible. I would also make sure to tell a fellow parent about the afterschool care, which my children and I both love.

Ruhama Shitrit

Ruhama and her husband, Yossi, have three children: Shoham ’14, Dor (Grade 5) and Zoe (Kindergarten). Ruhama also teaches Hebrew at Schechter’s early childhood program, Gan Shelanu. We asked Ruhama to share a little bit about her family’s experiences at Schechter.

What do you love most about Schechter?

I love the welcoming feeling in each campus and the nice people that greet the children every morning.

Why did you choose Schechter for your children?

I chose Schechter because the strong connection to Israel, Jewish values and above all the great academic environment in the school!

In what ways have you seen your children grow and develop as a result of their experiences at Schechter?

My children feel supported by their teachers and therefore are motivated to learn and feel engaged by the curriculum.

What would you tell another parent to encourage them to consider enrolling their child at Schechter?

Schechter is a gift for life for your children. The school has “all in one”: great academic and enrichment program, Hebrew everywhere and a great community!