By Mrs. Sandi Swerdloff, SSLI Lower School Principal


Friday, June 21, 2019

June 21, 2019
By Sandi Swerdloff, Lower School Principal

Dear Schechter Families,

On Wednesday of this week, Mikey B. was Principal for the Day. His theme for the day was promoting kindness for all God's creatures. Mr. B. spoke to the students in fourth and fifth grade about his theme and explained that there are animals living in shelters who need toys to play with. Mr. B. collected old T-shirts for this project and today, he taught the kids how to make braided pull toys for dogs and cats that live in the North Shore Animal League. The North Shore Animal League is the world's largest rescue and adoption organization. Their vision is a future in which all companion animals find responsible, loving homes where they are free from abuse, hunger, fear, and loneliness and receive the care and respect they deserve. All together the 4th and 5th grade students made 29 dog toys and 37 cat toys which Mr. B. will donate as soon as possible. Click for more Principal of the Day Photos

The class Monthly Newsletters are posted on our website and are ready for you to view. Take a minute to read about the activities that transpired over the past two months.  

The end of every school year is always filled with a lot of mixed emotions and for me this year is a particularly difficult one. I was hoping to close this chapter of my life quietly, but the Schechter community made that virtually impossible. On Thursday, I was called into Eileen Bohrer's office to talk about scheduling for next year, when she received a phone call saying that people from Jericho were here and we had to "walk the building" with them. I opened the door to her office and Micah B. and Aviva W. grabbed me by the arm shouting, "Mrs. Swerdloff, Mrs. Swerdloff, hurry. The show is about to begin, and you have a reserved seat". They ushered me into the auditorium and gave me the seat of honor on the stage. And then the fun began...We played "Name That Tune" where each grade got up and sang a song. I had to say the name of the song and identify the Broadway show. The kids were great. They sang with all their heart and filled the stage with laughter and love. After the kids sang, I was treated to a slideshow that was created by Mrs. Marrache, highlighting some of the many wonderful days that I shared with the students and the faculty. And all of that would have been enough, Dayenu, but then I was asked to go with Eileen into the conference room to check on the packing progress. When we opened the door, I was met with a roaring Surprise! All the teachers, present and past were on hand to join me and enjoy a most incredible luncheon put together by, none-other than, Dave and Eileen. The table was laden with the most delicious delicacies and sharing this with everyone was a day I will never forget. Surprising Mrs. Swerdloff...This is Your Life 

This Is Your Life

 It is so hard to believe that our year is over. We enjoyed many action-packed days, special occasions, and SSLI traditions and now it's time to reflect on our time together and prepare for moving forward.

Beginning in September, we welcomed our new Shinshinim, Hila and Rotem. Together they brought absolute joy and infused excitement into the very fibers of our building. Every Thursday morning, they joined the students in the gym and began the day with singing and dancing, introducing our very hip and savvy American kids to the wonderful sounds of Israeli music. Each week they came up with games and challenges that taught our children about the geography, culture and history of Israel. They spent time at recess teaching our youngsters how to play Israeli outdoor games and created bulletin boards throughout the year that made everyone stop and notice their handiwork.  

As a parting gift to our school, Hila and Rotem, wanted to leave a legacy of their own and came up with a great idea. They hand painted a clock of important places in Israel and set it to record the time in Israel. We will bring it to Williston Park and hang it proudly in the main lobby for everyone to see.

As a going away gift for Hila and Rotem, we had a farewell breakfast on their last Thursday. We gave them New York and Long Island sweatshirts and baseball caps to wear proudly when they return home to Israel. I hope their parting gifts will remind them of the special times we spent together during the 2018-2019 school year.  They both became integral parts of our lives and will be sorely missed.

Every week we welcomed Shabbat with members of our third, fourth and fifth grade choir singing traditional and non-traditional melodies and we were joined by guest rabbis and cantors who entertained us with their interesting stories and Midrashim. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank all the parents who joined us each week at Kabbalat Shabbat and all the guest Rabbis who enriched our Shabbat experiences. I would also like to acknowledge this year's Rabbis in Residence who spent time each week in the classroom, doing Tefila with the students and enhancing their learning. Many thanks to Rabbi Joel Levenson, Rabbi Cara Rosenthal, Rabbi Ben Herman, Rabbi Michael Mishkin and Rabbi Dahlia Bernstein. I would also like to give an additional shout-out to Rabbi Levenson who led Tefila every Rosh Chodesh, who ran the TuB'Shevat and Pesach Seders and for sharing his wisdom 100% of the time. His steadfast commitment and tireless work for our school is greatly appreciated.

Our grade level performances proved to be meaningful highlights of the year. We watched the third-grade students receive their Chumashim and the second graders celebrate The Creation. The fourth graders presented "The Language of Angels", a story about the reinvention of Hebrew.  The first graders received their Siddurim, the Kindergarten children celebrated their moving up to first grade with a beautiful Siyum and the fifth graders celebrated their Moving Up Ceremony with an original script and songs about "Moving Up and Moving Forward".

Our students went on interesting field trips and returned with memories and stories that will last a lifetime. To name just a few: The students in Kindergarten went to the Upper School to celebrate Thanksgiving with their new-found middle school friends. The first grade students spent a scientific day at the Waterfront Center in Oyster Bay and loved every minute . The second graders had a great time visiting the Conklin House in Huntington and the third graders went to Safety Town in Eisenhower Park. The fourth graders enjoyed a great day of team building at Project Adventure right here in Brookville and spent four sessions baking with senior citizens at the Shepherd Hill Housing complex in Plainview. The fifth graders enjoyed TEVA., two full days in Manhattan visiting Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and the Lower East Side and visited the Stern Rehabilitation Center in Manhasset. We packed 50 smiley face boxes of personal toiletries that brought a little ray of sunshine to the patients. Each box also contained two battery operated candles and a combination of Get-Well and Shabbat Shalom greeting cards made by all the students in school. The fifth-grade students delivered these baskets to Rabbi Hillel Fox, who is North Shore University Hospital's chaplain and he distributed them to the patients. Rabbi Fox came to visit our school back in December and was quite impressed with all that he saw. We spoke for quite a while and he captured my attention as soon as he told me about the Shabbat baskets. I knew this would be a perfect project for our fifth-grade students who always try to be mindful of others. 

On November 17th we held our first ever Literacy Night. All students were invited to come to school wearing pajamas so that they would be able to lounge around after school playing literacy games, reading books in our "Book Nook", listening to guest author, Bonnie Grubman, and enjoying a pizza dinner together with family, faculty and friends. This was also our annual Scholastic Book Fair and many parents had the opportunity to purchase books and games for Hanukkah and birthdays.

This event could not have been possible without the help of the Parents Association co-presidents Andrea Bitton and Aimee Weber, their cadre of volunteers and two very special teachers - Ms. Stacy Morris and Ms. Rikki Chaskes. For two weeks straight, all they did was come into my office with creative ideas for games, designs for the way the room should look and ingenious ideas for keeping our students occupied and engaged for 4 hours. Their ideas were brilliant, and they are truly my Dream Team. A special shout out also goes to our fifth-grade students who were our assistant teachers for the night. They helped the younger students play the games, create bookmarks, write their own books, spell words using Legos and write letters in sprinkles and colored rice. Parents came throughout the day and enjoyed shopping for books, presents and Schechter Wear at the Scholastic Book Fair.

On December 12th volunteers from Splashes of Hope helped us design a beautiful, custom made hand-painted mural that is proudly hanging in the Center for Developmental Disabilities in Syosset. Splashes of Hope is a non-profit public charity dedicated to transforming the environments of hospitals, healthcare centers and social service facilities.

The week of March 4th was earmarked to celebrate Dr Seuss. Parent volunteers visited school all week reading Dr. Seuss books, in Hebrew and English, and the kids loved dressing up each day in special attire in honor of the celebration. Monday was Crazy Sock Day, Tuesday was Crazy Hat Day, Wednesday was Wacky Wednesday and Clown Day, Thursday was Animal Day and we culminated on Friday with Favorite College Day when I read this short excerpt from Oh, the Places You'll Go at Kabbalat Shabbat.

Our annual STREAM Day, representing SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, RESEARCH, ENGINEERING, ART and MATH was a huge success. We had hands-on math activities in the gym, hands-on science experiments being conducted in the science lab, and guest participants such as Mad Science Long Island. We had several activities in the MAKER SPACE where children came and designed their own creations and a fully stocked art area where students created individual masterpieces linking the knowledge with science and art. And most important of all, on this day our students in grades three, four and five proudly displayed their science projects and explained their research and data to the many visitors that came to see their interesting experiments.  

We celebrated Purim with a wonderful reading of the Megillah by our fifth graders, followed by a fun filled carnival where teachers, students and parents dressed in creative costumes and participated in games and activities throughout the afternoon. 

The PA hosted our annual Passover Model Seder, led by Rabbi Levenson, Rabbi Cara Rosenthal and Rabbi Uri Allen. Students in each grade read and sang together using the Schechter Family Haggadah which was then taken home. We went through the first part and then everyone enjoyed the festive meal which consisted of chicken tenders, mashed potatoes and string beans. After the meal we concluded the Seder by reading the second part of the Haggadah, singing Chad Gadya and saying "Next Year in Yerushalayim".

The fifth-grade students presented a beautiful service for Yom HaShoah and the fourth grade remembered the victims of those people who fought for the preservation of peace in Israel in a Yom Hazikaron program. For Yom HaShoah, we welcomed Holocaust survivor, Inge Auerbacher to tell her story of survival and hope during World War ll.

For Grandparents Day, we celebrated Shabbat. Teachers read books in the classrooms and students and grandparents decorated wood flowers to fill in our Garden of Flowers. Then they were entertained in the auditorium, with songs of Shabbat and Israel by all of our students.

On Yom HaAtzmaut, we brought Israel to our school. Classrooms were set up as places of interest such as the Dead Sea Spa, the Kotel, The Shuk, The Museum of Notable Jewish Americans and topped off their day off with dessert at an Israeli cafe.

We celebrated Lag B'Omer with an incredibly well run, well organized field day filled with games, races activities and a faculty vs fifth grade kickball game. The weather was perfect, the children's enthusiasm was at an all-time high and Coach Dalton made sure that everyone understood the importance of good sportsmanship and fair play.

Our Schechter Long Island Lower School Choir, The AriNotes, performed at many venues over the course of the year. We celebrated Hanukkah with the senior citizens at the Woodbury Jewish Center and welcomed the preschool children from Woodbury to our school to see scenes from Into the Woods; they sang at the Suffolk JCC in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and proudly represented our school and were slated to sing at Israelfest, which was cancelled due to heavy rain.

We presented Into the Woods to a packed audience. This success was due to the incredible talent and perseverance of our music teacher Mrs. Elana Stern, and her assistant Rikki Chaskes. To Elana, thank you for bringing the joy of music, in every form, to our students. You have raised the musical bar to a level that surpasses other schools. You have instilled a love of music in the students of our school that will last a lifetime and will bring them joy and comfort throughput their lives. To Rikki, thank you for always giving 100 % of your talent to our school. You've made the stage at Schechter come alive with your artistic endeavors. Your talent is a gift that you share easily and readily, and you have shown our students what it means to work together to achieve a common goal.       

A successful year cannot happen without the help and support from teachers, parents and community members. I want to thank our dedicated teachers for their creativity, flexibility and humor and for keeping our school climate safe, supportive, and happy. It is wonderful to work with this talented team every day. 

Thank you also to our Director of Student Services, Gila Calev, for ensuring that the needs of our students are met in a warm and compassionate setting and for ensuring that our students feel safe, cared for and are engaged in learning.

Many thanks are also due our supportive families and our PA President, Andrea Bitton. Andrea works hand in hand with her wonderful and supportive board and together they enrich the lives of the students and the teachers.

Special thanks to Cathy Main who is truly my "right hand man". She has the uncanny ability to know what I need before I do and takes care of all the details, major and minor, so that I can visit classrooms and spend time with the people I care about most - the students and the teachers.

Also, a huge thank you to Dave Ostrove who never says, "No" and who is always willing to indulge my "creative" thoughts and ideas. Special thanks Roy Tarantola and Gary Purdy for helping maintain our building and to our security guards, Alex Papagiannis and Jeremy Mohan for always keeping a watchful eye on our school and our children and ensuring that all students are safe under our watch. 

I would be terribly remiss if I didn't say a huge thank you to my favorite "editor in chief", Sheryl Sokoler. Sheryl works tirelessly to make sure that the Friday letter is sent out and pictures are uploaded so that everyone who reads my novelettes can have a glimpse into the wonderful happenings at the Schechter School of Long Island each and every week. 

Enjoy our entire year of school events in our photo gallery.

And last, but certainly not least, thank you to my brilliant, wise and supportive coworker, Adele Spickler. We work closely together to instill a continuous love of learning in our students. I am truly blessed to have such a caring and devoted teacher at my side whose only goal is to ensure that the wonderful work we do continues to flourish. May we all go from strength to strength.

This was going to be the end of my Friday Letter, but I couldn't conclude without sharing how Kabbalat Shabbat was celebrated this week. As always, the choir sang their welcoming songs then the fifth-grade students led us in song. And at the time when I generally introduce our guest Darshan, Mrs. Stern took over and welcomed several people to speak on my behalf. And speak they did. I must say a huge than-you to Rabbi Cara Rosenthal, Rabbi Joel Levenson, Rachel Schor, Aimee Weber and Amy Kamensky for their beautiful, heart-warming words. I listened intently, as they thanked me for my 24 years of service and dedication to our school. However, it is me who should be saying thanks. Thank you to the place that became my second home. Thank you to the faculty and staff for always supporting my ideas. And thank you to the administration for believing in me and watching me grow from 4th grade teacher, to Assistant Principal, to Principal. Every day that I came to work was a day that made me happy. It was an honor to be part of the lives of so many people and it was amazing to see how many people came to Kabbalat Shabbat to offer good wishes. I was overwhelmed as I said hello to parents, grandparents and students that have become a part of my life. For this and everything else that Schechter has given me, I am eternally grateful. This was a very special journey that began in 1995 and continued until today. Thank you to all who helped make it happen!

Tribute to Mrs. Swerdloff

Thank you to all the parents, students and friends who came to Kabbalat Shabbat today to celebrate my 24 years at Schechter. It was truly a pleasure to have spent this time with you.

My best wishes for a fun filled, safe and enjoyable summer.


Shabbat Shalom,


Sandi Swerdloff
Principal, Lower School
Posted in June 2019


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