Nurturing the Pintele Yid Within Parents

Rabbi Ellen Bernhardt is the Head of the Gerrard Berman Day School, Solomon Schechter of North Jersey

Rabbi Ellen Bernhardt

Most of us have heard the expression, “A pintele Yid,” literally means the dot of a Jew. What it really means is that there’s a spark of Jewishness inside. I find that working with parents, I need to find that pintele and ignite it. I want to ignite it so that they may feel the passion of being Jewish as I do. I’ve taught many classes to parents in which we go on a (metaphorical) journey to uncover long-lost positive feelings of Jewishness from childhood. Reclaiming the childhood memories is sometimes painful, but usually leads to self-disclosure about how that part of themselves got closed off later in life for a specific reason.

“I hated my Hebrew school teacher.” “My parents stopped talking to me because I was dating a non-Jew.” “I experienced anti-Semitism in college,” and so on. But now Continue reading »

More Than Ever, Part of Something That Matters

Rabbi Shira Leibowitz, Ph.D. has been Lower School Principal at Schechter Westchester in White Plains, New York since, 2000. She holds a Ph.D in Education and Rabbinic Ordination from…continue…

Rabbi Shira Leibowitz

They visit on my facebook newsfeed – playful, thoughtful, thriving – middle and high school friends with whom I have little contact beyond their status updates, but who were once an integral part of my daily life. While I have not reconnected with my teachers, I still often think of them and of my principal, Mr. S. Hirsch Jacobson (May His Memory Be a Blessing). They guided and nurtured me through my adolescent years, ultimately serving as role models for the career I would later embrace. In tribute to them, I choose to write this post not primarily in my capacity as a rabbi, a Ph.D. in Jewish education, or even as Lower School Principal of Schechter Westchester, but rather as a graduate of a Schechter Day School – shaped by an exemplary education for which I am profoundly grateful. Continue reading »

Combine Loyalty to One’s Own Tradition with Reverence for Different Traditions

Rabbi Fred Elias, a 2009 graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and recipient of the 2009 SREL Fellowship, is in his third year serving as the School Rabbi at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County. Concurrently, he also serves as the pulpit rabbi at Kehillat Kol HaNeshamah, a Conservative congregation in Englewood, New Jersey.

Rabbi Fred Elias

Next Monday is our semi-annual Faculty Development Day at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County. Like many schools, these days begin appropriately so with tefillah (a prayer service). For the past couple of years, we have increasingly examined the value of having the entire community together to begin our day. Whether it is for ideological reasons of belonging to a different faith or those who pray in a different ideological setting (i.e. where men and women sit separately) from ours, some of our faculty has felt disconnected to the community by the school’s compulsion on faculty days to attend a mandatory Conservative Jewish prayer service. Continue reading »

Being Bullies; Being Bullied

Sally Baer is Head of School at Bornblum Solomon Schechter in Memphis, Tennessee, serving first through eighth graders. She has been with the school, either teaching or as an administrator, since the school’s inception 24 years ago.

Sally Baer

I would like to share with you parts of an article I wrote in September for our weekly school communication, The Shabbat Shofar. The article, entitled Being Bullies; Being Bullied was intended to offer parents and students concrete responses for dealing with bullying issues while cautioning against use of the bullying label too often.

Among the many values we work to instill in our children are those of kindness, respect, honesty, and a sense of responsibility. As Jewish educators and as parents, we know the value of modeling character traits that we want to build in our children. We talk about ways to exhibit these values, and we offer guidance and advice when our children are faced with difficult situations. Continue reading »

Technology in the Classroom

Today’s contributor, Arnie Zar-Kessler, is the Head of School of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston, which is a Conservative Jewish day school educating over 470 girls and boys in grades K-8 on its two campuses in Newton, Massachusetts.

Arnie Zar-Kessler

I’ve been writing a series of columns on key directions our school is embarking upon to further integrate technology into the educational program, and into the operations of the school. In this column, my second in the series, I had intended to focus on what educational research tells us about the impact of technology on student learning. More specifically, I intended to share the results of research on what the advent of computers in schools and classrooms has on student outcomes, on various measures, including but not limited to, standardized test scores and other established measures of improved student performance. Continue reading »

The Value of the Arts

Rabbi Laurence Scheindlin is headmaster of Sinai Akiba Academy in Los Angeles and past-president of the  Schechter Day School Network. He has published a number of articles and conducted workshops on emotional and spiritual development and education.

Rabbi Laurence Scheindlin

Here are some claims I have heard about the arts and the evidence of neuroscience: Music training improves children’s ability to read. The performing arts improve creativity. Visual arts training correlates with children’s enhanced ability to do math calculations. Dance training improves “executive function” (organizing, planning, etc.).

Some of these studies might turn out to be right and others wrong. What bothers me is the assumption behind the superficial news reports surrounding them. They purport that the arts are important only if they make people “smarter” in the way we usually think of intelligence. Continue reading »

A Message from Larry Scheindlin

Rabbi Laurence Scheindlin is headmaster of Sinai Akiba Academy in Los Angeles and past-president of the  Schechter Day School Network. He has published a number of articles and conducted workshops on emotional and spiritual development and education.

Rabbi Laurence Scheindlin

This is the new logo and name of the association of Conservative day schools to which Sinai Akiba belongs. In fact, Akiba was the first Schechter school—and very likely the first non-Orthodox day school—on the west coast.


Having served as president of the Schechter Network from 2008-2010, I have participated with colleagues and lay leaders from around the country in re-thinking the role of the association in an age when, blessedly, the notion of Jewish day school is no longer experimental and when a healthy competition for excellence exists among Jewish day schools of varied philosophies. Continue reading »

Using Appreciative Inquiry to Shift the Conversation from Cost to Value of Day School Education.

Deborah Grayson Riegel is the president of and Elevated Training. Her clients range from Jewish day schools, federations and synagogues to Fortune 100 companies and entrepreneurial start-ups. Deborah’s style combines her background in behavioral and cognitive psychology, adult learning, and improvisational comedy. She is a visiting professor of executive communication for the Beijing International MBA Program at Peking University, and writes the “Success without the Tsuris” column for the New York Jewish Week.

Deborah Grayson Riegel

Medieval Rabbi Yonah tells the story of an elderly sage who was walking along a path with his student when they passed a dog’s rotting corpse. The repulsed student yelled, “this corpse is disgusting!” His Rabbi answered, “but what lovely white teeth it has!”

I could use this Rabbi’s perspective every time a teacher at my kids’ Solomon Schechter school pulls me aside to say, “I wanted to tell you something about your child.” I instinctively brace myself for the bad news (sucking in my stomach, as if that would help), and I must admit, nine times out of ten, the news is delightful. Continue reading »

System-wide collaboration – Remaking the Schechter network image

Uri Cohen is director of development at the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan, and is a member of the steering committee of the Tri-State Schechter Consortium. Prior to his work at Schechter Manhattan, he served in fundraising capacities at Hillel and other Jewish organizations.

Uri Cohen

At last month’s day school conference in Los Angeles, collaboration was in the air. In this new era of economic austerity, strategic planning, and collaborative use of resources, the 600+ attendees were focused on how to structure things such that we really can accomplish more together than we can apart. This has never been more true, in theory or in practice – particularly at the Tri-State Schechter Consortium, comprised of 11 Schechter schools in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

In fact, our world will never be the same again. Continue reading »

Nurturing the relationship between Day Schools and Early Childhood Schools

Maxine Segal Handelman is the consultant for early childhood education for the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Max is the author of Jewish Every Day: The Complete Handbook for Early Childhood Teachers, The Shabbat Angels, What’s Jewish About Butterflies, The Vision for Conservative Early Childhood Programs and Early Childhood Staff Meeting Shiurim. She is a professional storyteller, and leads Tot Shabbat services for young families at Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago.

Maxine Handelman

Day schools and early childhood schools – it’s all about relationships.  A 2008 survey of non-Orthodox synagogue and JCC early childhood directors* revealed that while many EC directors are day school supporters, the day school community still has some work to do to insure healthy, supportive relationships with early childhood schools. The relationship between early childhood directors and the leadership of Jewish day schools is critical if families are to stay on the path of Jewish education. While there is no analysis of statistical significance, the survey does demonstrate that while in many locations this relationship is strong, there is still much room for improvement. Continue reading »