Grade 4 Students Win Brookline Children’s Book Shop Poetry Contest!

Mazal tov to Moshe Sherman-Kadish (Grade 4) who won first place in the Brookline Children’s Book Shop Poetry Contest in the third and fourth grade category for his poem, “When Winter Hits the Woods.” Mazal tov to Sonya Finkel (Grade 4) who won an honorable mention for her poem, “A Fall Walk.”

When winter hits the woods

Moshe Sherman-Kadish

The snow is up to my knees

and the wind is stinging my cheeks.

I see abandoned birds’ nests in the trees, and

rabbit and deer feet are printed in the snow,

walking across a frozen pond.

In the ice, air bubbles try to escape, but they’re stuck.

Snowflakes fall and melt on my tongue,

and the wind pushes against the trees.

My toes, my tongue, my cheeks are all cold, and

I see my breath swimming in the air.


All of this happens

when winter hits the woods.



A fall walk

Sonya Finkel

Feel the cool wind upon your face.

Listen to the golden leaves on the trees shake.

Look up at the geese overhead,

Migrating to somewhere warm instead.

Leaving behind all the rocks, logs and dust,

Leaving behind all the trash made by us.

Soaring up over the river, grass and trees.

Up over the sky and across the seas.

As they fly up over the trees ,

all the fourth graders cease.

On top of a hill,

They feel the chill,

And the start of fall begins.

D’var Torah: Seth Korn (Acharei Mot)


In Acharei Mot, B’nei Yisrael is basically doing what we do on Yom Kippur but a bit simpler. All they had to do was “give” their sins to Aaron, who was the head Kohen. Then Aaron placed all the sins of B’nei Yisrael on a goat which they sent off into the wild to die. And it was simple, for the people. But not for the Kohanim. God gave Moses all these rules and laws on how to conduct the work of the Kohanim. And there were a lot of them! Keep in mind that two of Aaron’s four sons had just been killed by God because they went up to the altar drunk. Aaron had no time to grieve or mourn, it was just, “Help the people with their sins. Make sure the people are okay. The people are the top priority.” That seems pretty harsh if you ask me.

Now as I said in the last paragraph, the people of B’nei Yisrael didn’t really do anything in their equivalent to a Yom Kippur service. They just gave their sins to Aaron, which basically consisted of them going to Aaron and telling him their sins. But that’s the point, they didn’t do anything.  After this once a year Yom Kippur service that occured in the desert, the Jews started a new way to get rid of their sins when they got to Israel and built the Temple.

As the Roman consul, Marcus says in his eye witness testimony, on Yom Kippur “There were thirty-six thousand of them, and all the prefects wore clothing of blue silk; and the priests, of whom there were 24,000, wore clothing of white silk.  After them came the singers, and after them, the instrumentalists, then the trumpeters, then the guards of gate, then the incense-makers, then the curtain-makers, then the watchmen and the treasurers, then a class called chartophylax, then all the workingmen who worked in the Sanctuary, then the seventy of the Sanhedrin, then a hundred priests with silver rods in their hands to clear the way.  Then came the High Priest, and after him all the elders of the priesthood, two by two.”

Just seeing the High Priest on this holiest of holy days was a life changing experience. The Yom Kippur service was entirely surrounding the High Priest. But then, as you all know, the temple was destroyed and the nation of Israel fell in to state of grief. After that happened, the Jews found their own little communities and their own part in each service, including the Yom Kippur service.    

As Rabbi Sacks says in his book The Koren Yom Kippur Mahzor “Every synagogue became a fragment of the Temple. Every prayer became a sacrifice. Every Jew became a kind of priest, offering God not an animal but instead the gathered shards of a broken heart.”

Now we would find it strange to go into a synagogue and see a priest doing everything while everyone else is just sitting there watching or even weirder, to find no one here except for a priest. But the new approach to Yom Kippur demonstrates that the people, everyday people, could talk to God. As Rabbi Sacks puts it “Even ordinary Jews could, as it were, come face to face with the Shekhina, the Divine Presence. They needed no one else to apologize for them. The drama that once took place in the Temple could now take place in the human heart. Yom Kippur was saved. It is not too much to say that Jewish faith was saved.”

Yom Kippur is one of those very special praying times. On Yom Kippur we are even not supposed to eat anything for fear of your thoughts straying away the prayers you are praying. “Yom Kippur is the holy of holies of Jewish time. Observed with immense ceremony in the Temple, almost miraculously rescued after the Temple was destroyed, sustained ever since with unparalleled awe, it is Judaism’s answer to one of the most haunting of human questions: How is it possible to live in the ethical life without an overwhelming sense of guilt, inadequacy and failure.”  

But God is understanding, “He [God] asks us to acknowledge our failures, repair what we have harmed, and move on, learning from our errors and growing thereby. … at its heart there had to be an institution capable of transmuting guilt into moral growth.”

Now we pray with Rabbis, but we also pray as ourselves. By ourselves or more often, with a community.  Again, “Even ordinary Jews could, as it were, come face to face with the Shekhina, the Divine Presence. They needed no one else to apologize for them. The drama that once took place in the Temple could now take place in the human heart. Yom Kippur was saved. It is not too much to say that Jewish faith was saved.” Because now we can all pray to God as ourselves.


Seth Korn ’20

D’var Torah: Rabbi Gilbert S. Rosenthal (Vayishlach)


Jacob was terrified: he was on the eve of meeting, after many years of estrangement, his brother Esau. And now, after all these years, Esau was about to catch up with Jacob and accompanied with 400 of his men to boot (Gen. 32:7). It was a terrifying encounter because Jacob had “cheated” Esau out of his birthright for a bowl of stew (Gen.25:1ff.).

Jacob had good reason to be terrified. After all, Esau had a reputation as a man of violence whose life was stained with blood; who lived by the bow and arrow. Jacob prayed to God for salvation. Jacob was so terrified that he divided his family into two camps so that if Esau attacked one, at least that other would escape (Gen. 32:9).

But God did not forsake Jacob: Esau’s passion for vengeance abated and instead of killing Jacob they embraced and kissed. All was not forgotten—but all was now forgiven.

So Jacob returned shalem (Gen.33:18), “whole,complete, at peace.” The rabbis note the phrase and have a beautiful comment on it: “Shalem—ba-guf (whole in body); shalem be-mamon (whole in his wealth) and shalem be-Torato)—whole in his faith in God and commitment to the Jewish people (see Rashi at Gen. 33:18).

Here we have the key to Jewish survival. We endured the destruction of our two Temples; we suffered through the Crusades, expulsions, ghettos, religious persecutions and forced  conversions, martyrdom and all means of persecution. And we survived the Holocaust. How can Am Yisrael continue to march on its path to salvation? By returning to its roots, by reiterating its expectations as a Jewish people; by consecrating our wealth and possessions for good purposes—not just for levity and ostentatiousness, and by retaining, enriching and spreading our commitment to Torah (Jewish learning) and Jewish living by Jewish principles.

These three bases of Jewish civilization have enabled us to outlast our persecutors and survive as an Eternal People—Am Olam. Will we now abandon these saving, vital elements?

I pray not. In America and Israel we are blessed as no other Jewry in the past. May we always live up to the challenge!

Rabbi Gilbert Rosenthal, Schechter Grandparent

D’var Torah: Rabbi Elan Babchuck (Bamidbar)

Bamidbar: Embracing the Unknown

On more of my childhood nights than not, my father used to retire from the dinner table to the piano bench to play some of the blues songs from his earliest memories. Most of his repertoire consisted of well-known hits by Aretha, Ella, and BB, but there was one Bessie Smith song he truly loved to sing: Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out. The song is about losing everything you’ve ever had, and dreaming of what it might be like to recover even just one silver dollar. His favorite line, which – if I close my eyes and think back to those vivid memories of evenings by the piano – I can still hear him singing: “If I ever get my hands on a dollar again, I’m gonna hang on to it ‘til the eagle grins.”

The fourth book of the Torah, Bamidbar – “in the wilderness” – describes the Israelites’ attempts to regain a sense of comfort and stability amidst the tumultuous conditions of their endless wanderings through the desert. We learn about three such efforts: (1) taking a census of the population, (2) developing systems around the traveling sanctuary called the Mishkan, and (3) better understanding the nature of the Promised Land ahead by sending 12 scouts across the border.

These three methods of seeking security and stability in the midst of the unknown are much more constructive and purposeful than the nostalgic complaints that this generation’s predecessors tended towards in the earliest years of their exodus. We could certainly conclude, then, that the takeaway from their wanderings is that we too must seek out a sense of security during tumultuous times. Like Bessie Smith gripping the silver dollar with all her strength, it’s human nature to seek comfort in the face of change.

But on the other side of the border from our wanderings is the Promised Land, the one flowing generously with milk and honey and the promise of a stable existence for this weary people. It is here that the Israelites will soon take root and build a nation. And while stability has its draws, on the flip side of this silver dollar is the danger of losing our wandering spirit – the sense of adventure, possibility, and curiosity that got us here in the first place.

In fact, our wandering story’s most important lesson is two-fold; two sides of the same coin. All of life is about finding forces of stability in the unknown wilderness, and seeking a wanderer’s spirit even in the midst of stasis. When our life’s wanderings weigh too heavily on our weary souls, we must find ways to anchor ourselves on the journey. And the moment we get too comfortable in place, it’s time for a new adventure – of the mind, body, or spirit. So whether your next step is to plant yourself right where you stand or to broaden your horizons and step forward, I wish you a nesiyah tovah – a safe, fulfilling, and enlightening journey ahead.


Rabbi Elan Babchuck ’96, Director of Innovation, Clal; Founding Director, Glean Incubator

Will McDonough Writing Contest Honorable Mention: Emma Shay-Tannas

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.

Emma Shay-Tannas, Grade 6
Solomon Schechter Day School, Newton

                                         Behind the Goal

                    (creating a life changing experience from poor sportsmanship)

“The camera cannot lie, but it can be an accessory to untruth.” –Harold Evans

The photographer who takes the photo chooses what side of the story he portrays. Photos can often be misleading. The photographer will not be able to portray all angles of the story in one photo because one photo cannot be shot from all angles. An honest person will try to take the photo from the most truthful angle.

I have never accomplished this. I’ve never even tried. I don’t exactly want to show the truth because I’d rather convince myself of lies than face the facts. The fact is I’ve always dreamt of being a professional soccer goalie, but I knew this was an impossible dream. I was never fast, I have never had good reflexes, and I have bad coordination. No matter how little talent I had in soccer, I always tried out for the school team. Every time I tried out, I would get glares from my classmates who would laugh at the way I kicked the ball and when we ran to warm up,  would make me run alone. The more they isolated me, the more they treated me like I was nothing, the more I wanted to play, and the more I wanted to prove them wrong.

Every game I would ask to be the goalie, but the coach always said no. I went to every game in the season, always ready to play, but sadly I was never in a game for more than a few minutes.  Then, one day I got sick of waiting on the bench, so I brought my Nikon camera to the game. After I played my few minutes, I got up, picked up my camera and started walking along the sidelines of the field. I didn’t stop walking when I saw the players staring at me, some starting to whisper to one another; I didn’t care. They had already drained the joy of playing soccer out of me. I would not let them take the joy of taking pictures from me. I just pretended they weren’t there.  I saw no one but me, my camera, the ball, and the goal. When I got right behind the goal, I had a realization. When placed behind the net, and while facing the camera to the game, the pictures look as if I were the goalie myself. I had finally found a way to pursue soccer without even playing.

The day after, I asked the coach if rather than playing in the game, I could take photos instead,  and he happily agreed. After that, I became the official photographer for the team. I would take pictures of every person on the team during practices and games. Instead of  the team berating me for taking photos, they were amazed at how I captured them. I had turned years of bad sportsmanship from my teammates into mutual friendships. Several of my photos won awards including the first one I took behind the goal.

                  “When God closes a door he opens a window”  Malachi 3:10

D’var Torah: Rabbi Charlie Schwartz (Vayikra)

Where is the heart of the Jewish people? Parashat Vayikra answers this question unequivocally with the first installment of what will become an entire Biblical how to manual to sacrificial worship; the heart of the Jewish people is wherever centralized sacrifice takes place. For the Israelites wandering in the desert this was in the tabernacle while for later generations the heart of the Jewish people became the Temple in Jerusalem.

If you take a moment to reflect on modern Jewish practice, the centrality of the sacrifices outlined in Vayikra are integrated in to much of what we do. We pray facing Jerusalem to orient ourselves toward the spiritual capital that once held the Holy Temple. Our synagogues, with their eternal lights and curtained arks, in many ways mirror the physical structure of the Temple. And our prayer services are at least partially and sometimes directly linked to the sacrificial services of our ancestors.

But are the sacrifices of the Temple  really the heart of the Jewish people?

A moving passage from the Babylonian Talmud suggests that the answer might not be as clear as Parashar Vayikra assumes. We learn in Mesekhet Shabbat 119b:

אמר ריש לקיש משום רבי יהודה נשיאה אין העולם מתקיים אלא בשביל הבל תינוקות של בית רבן

 Reish Lakish said in the name of Yehudah haNasi: The world only exists because of the breath of school children.

On it’s own, this is a powerful statement, that the world is sustained by the elementary learning of school children. The surprising emphasis here is not on the masterful give and take of rabbinic tradition, but rather on the basic acquiring and integrating of knowledge done by children. But Reish Laksih goes even further when a few lines later in the sugya he states:

ואמר ריש לקיש משום ר”י נשיאה אין מבטלין תינוקות של בית רבן אפי’ לבנין בית המקדש

And Reish Lakish said in the name of Yehudah haNasi: One may not interrupt the studying of school children, even in order to build the Temple.

So where is the heart of the Jewish people? In this Talmudic passage, Reish Lakish suggests that it is wherever school children are studying Torah. It is where children are surrounded by traditions of their ancestors. Where they seek to master texts in order to engage in the debates and questions that have animated the Jewish mind for thousands of years. Reish Laksih suggests here that while the rebuilding of the Temple is still an integral part of Jewish longing and aspiration, the heart of the Jewish people is what happens in our schools, around our tables, in our synagogues and in our families. The heart of the Jewish people is the education of our children.  

Rabbi Charlie Schwartz is the director of content development for Hillel International’s Center for Jewish and Israel Education. He lives with his family in Cambridge, MA

D’var Torah: Henry Goldstein (Va’era)


In this week’s parsha, Va’era, G-d told Moses about his promise to let the Israelites have a home in the land of Canaan and his plan to help the Israelites leave Egypt. G-d asked Moses to speak to Pharoah, and Moses responded “וְאֵיךְ֙ יִשְׁמָעֵ֣נִי פַרְעֹ֔ה וַֽאֲנִ֖י עֲרַ֥ל שְׂפָתָֽיִם” “How then will Pharaoh hearken to me, seeing that I am of closed lips?” Moses admitted to G-d twice that he did not feel comfortable speaking, so G-d told him to have his brother Aaron speak for him. Despite Moses’ imperfections, (including impulsively killing an Egyptian), G-d still chose him to be the leader of a new nation. G-d told Moses that he also made the promise of Canaan to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These men were also not perfect: Jacob took advantage of his brother, Isaac favored one of his sons over the other, and Abraham laughed at G-d when G-d said he and Sarah would have a child. Just as the characters in the Torah are imperfect, none of us is perfect either.

And so Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh to free the Israelites. They threatened to send plagues to the land of Egypt, and Aaron turned his staff into a snake, but Pharaoh was still stubborn. 

וַֽיֶּֽחֱזַק֙ לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֔ה וְלֹ֥א שָׁמַ֖ע

“Pharoah’s heart stiffened” the Torah says many times, to show how Pharoah still felt no sympathy for the Israelites. The plagues kept coming, and still Pharaoh did not let the Israelites leave Egypt and be free.

The plagues occur in order from least damaging to most severe. I think G-d wanted to do the least amount of damage possible to the Egyptians. First, the water of the Nile River turned into blood. Since Pharaoh did not let the Israelites go, the second plague hit. Frogs infested everywhere.

וַיִּקְרָ֨א פַרְעֹ֜ה לְמשֶׁ֣ה וּלְאַֽהֲרֹ֗ן וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ הַעְתִּ֣ירוּ אֶל־יְהֹוָ֔ה וְיָסֵר֙ הַֽצְפַרְדְּעִ֔ים מִמֶּ֖נִּי וּמֵֽעַמִּ֑י וַֽאֲשַׁלְּחָה֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם וְיִזְבְּח֖וּ לַֽיהֹוָֽה

Pharoah told Moses and Aaron that if they made the frogs go away, they would be able to pray and sacrifice to their G-d. The frogs went away, but Pharaoh changed his mind, and the Israelites were not allowed to leave Egypt. The same thing repeated itself again in the next plague, the plague of lice. Pharaoh again promised freedom, but then changed his mind.

Pharaoh made a big mistake. Every time he said “No,” the plagues got worse. Although everybody makes mistakes, and nobody is perfect, you can always change. Abraham lost faith only for a short time. Jacob realized trickery was bad, once he ran away, and Moses felt very bad, once he impulsively killed the Egyptian. But Pharaoh did not change. He could have, but he didn’t.

As 2018 starts, we should all recognize when we make a mistake, and always try to do better next time.

Henry Goldstein, Grade 4,  is a current Schechter student.

Grade 6 Students Make the Hanukkah Story Come Alive

In Grade 6 Tanakh class, the students studied the story of Hanukkah and how it is celebrated today. They put together a multi-part movie to present what they learned to their peers. Split into three groups, the students wrote the script, created the visuals, and recorded the narrations. On behalf of the 6th grade, we hope you have a joyous Hanukkah!

D’var Torah: Rabbi Jonina Pritzker (Miketz)

Chanukah is a holiday that reminds us of Jewish people-hood. It represents the first recorded struggle for religious freedom, as the Maccabees fought for the national sovereignty and religious freedom in the Land of Israel against an oppressor who denied that freedom and forbade the practice of Judaism.

In the ancient world, Hellenism was spreading; other forms of worship were being banned and outlawed. Jews who refused to conform were massacred. The revolt of Mattathias with Judah Maccabee and his brothers was the first recorded struggle for religious freedom in history.

The first meaning of Chanukah is shown by dividing the name of the holiday: “Chanu” means “they rested” or “made camp,” and the letters “kauf” and “hey” in Hebrew add up to 25. It was on the 25th of Kislev that the Jews re-dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem after liberating it from the forces of the Greco-Syrian emperor Antiochus Epiphanes. The word “Chanukah” reminds us of the battle, and tells us that on the 25th day of Kislev, the Jews rested.

For the second meaning of this holiday, we put together the word and read “Chanukah,” which means “dedication” because, ultimately, this was the purpose of the battle. The unified word shows that the battle was not fought for military glory and achievements. The battle was fought for the purpose of re-dedicating the Temple which had been desecrated by the invaders; the battle was fought to ensure the right to live in freedom in our homeland.

For the third meaning of our Festival of Lights, we look at the Hebrew letters in the word “Chanukah:” “chet” “nun” “kauf,” which, when put together, mean “education.” This reminds us that to understand the ideals around which we have always built our lives, requires education. It reminds us that learning about our history and heritage gives us the spiritual strength and direction to fight the current rendition of these battles, thereby championing the just causes of our day, just as our ancestors did in ancient Israel, BaYamim HaHem BaZman HaZeh, in those days at this time.

Rabbi Jonina Pritzker, Alumni Parent


Meet Dan Savitt!

Dan is excited to be at Schechter for his 14th year teaching 7th grade Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and Toshba (Rabbinic Literature) and serving as the Tefillah Coordinator. He holds a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and studied for two years at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. Dan is the father of two Schechter students: Eliyah in 3rd grade and Adiv in pre-K. Every year, Dan looks forward to engaging with the unique dynamic of each class. He is especially excited to continue to help develop the Judaics and z’man kodesh (tefillah) program this year with his colleagues and students.

In his free time, Dan juggles!

Dan feels #SchechterPride when he hears from students after they’ve graduated from Schechter!