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Upper School Windows To Learning

 

 

Windows to Learning

"What a Spiritually Nourishing First Week We Had!

September 08, 2017
By Ofra Hiltzik, Upper School Principal

What a spiritually nourishing first week we had!

Welcomes were in abundance, echoing an ongoing theme we as educators will weave into our classes this year-welcoming the "stranger" into our midst.  Of course, in our case we have no strangers, but we do have new, younger students who need to feel the warm embrace of older students.  Our sixth graders and other students new to our middle school, have already been assorted into their camps-"מחנות," joining the 7th and 8th graders, and it was a pleasure to see the eagerness and generosity displayed by all in the middle school.  Our 9th graders were the first to arrive at the high school's 17th retreat at Camp Ramah with their Peer Connectors, who welcomed the new students with wisdom and kindness.  The entire retreat was a delight.

Today, before the high schoolers left camp, Diane Chernoff, our Student Government President, gave a D'var Torah that beautifully blended this week's Torah portion, our school year theme of welcome, and the high school's experience at the retreat and we would like to share it with the rest of the Schechter Family.  In it, she said -

"It's crazy to think that the school year is already starting up again. This year, we are all about to embark on new learning experiences; aside from the information we learn from subjects in school, we will also learn about ourselves-- who we are as students, as individuals, as friends, and as members of the Schechter community.

Unlike other schools, we have the amazing opportunity to start our year off each year at Ramah. For freshmen, this retreat provides you with a vital bonding experience with your fellow classmates and senior Peer Connectors that will prepare you for the new year ahead. For sophomores, juniors, and seniors, the all school retreat allows us to strengthen our friendships with one another, get to know students in other grades, and make memories to keep in mind as we begin the school year.

In this week's Parsha, Parshat Ki Tavo, Moses reminds the people of the strong community the Israelites have developed over the past forty years in the desert. He instructs them on the bikkurim sacrifices to G-d, and their responsibility to set aside a tenth of their crop every three years for the Levite, the orphan, the widow, and the stranger. Moses and the elders then instruct the people to observe a ceremony in which Moses reminds them of their responsibility to obey G-d's commandments and the punishments they will receive if they do not obey the commandments. Moses specifically stresses the importance of performing the mitzvot as a community-- for the community will either be rewarded or punished as one.  The Parsha concludes with Moses reminding the Israelites of G-d's power and how he provided them adequate clothing and food for 40 years in the desert. Moses states, "You have seen all that God did in Egypt... Your own eyes saw the great miracles, signs and wonders. But until this day, God did not give you a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear," [Deuteronomy 29:1-3].

Even since the days of the Bible, the importance of community has been ingrained within us as Jews. Moses ensures that we are caring and providing for people who may feel or seem aloof through the triennial tithes. Moses specifically mentions that the Israelites must provide for the stranger. In our sichot/discussions this week, we explored the topic of Ger v'Ezrach, the stranger and the citizen. Clearly, there have always been people who feel or seem to be outsiders to a community. And it is our responsibility that not only everyone feels included but that we account for and explore our differences to make one reliable, diverse, and fun community. As Moses said, we have a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear, so we must use them. We should look out for others, offer our support, and try to better our community by combining each of our talents, passions, and wonderful personalities. The more coherent we are as a student body, the more opportunities we can have to pursue our academic and personal interests while making lifelong friends.

Hopefully, at retreat, you got a glimpse of the amazing opportunities and potential of our Schechter team. From the human bingo club fair, we go to hear from leaders within the Schechter community on clubs they feel passionate about. Through the bingo activity, every student got to hear about every club, not just the clubs their friends belonged to or the clubs they were in last year. Some students who wanted to share and explore their passions even started new clubs this year. This activity allowed each of us to learn about the school's activities, while learning more about each other.

Secondly, through the Battle of the Classes activities, we saw how well we can work together as a team. Just like each one of us had an important role to play in the various activities, so too do each of us have an important role to play in school. Without any one of us the school would not be the same.

This year, we need to be able to rely on our Schechter team for support and assurance. We can serve as coaches, tutors, mentors and most importantly friends as we combat new challenges both academically and socially. Not only should we stress inclusivity, but we should also think about ways to help each other and better our school as a whole. And remember, I'm just a hallway, text, or a scream away. Thank you."

 

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom!

Ofra Hiltzik
Upper School Principal 
Posted in September 2017

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