Schechter Shavua: December 2, 2022


Schechter Embraces Holiday of Sigd

sigd collage- smaller.pngOn Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Schechter students of all ages celebrated the Ethiopian Jewish holiday of Sigd for the first time. Sigd became an official holiday of Israel in 2008. The Ethiopian Jewish Community- called Beta Israel- celebrates Sigd 50 days after Yom Kippur, on the 28th of Cheshvan. On Sigd, members of the Beta Israel community fast, read from scriptures (five books of Moses, Joshua, Judges and Ruth), recite psalms, and pray for the rebuilding of the Temple. The day begins with a serious tone and a monochromatic, white look and transitions mid-day to colorful celebrations filled with feasts of tasty foods, vibrant colors, and dancing to energetic music. Umbrellas are used to protect from the beaming sun and heat. 

In recent years, Sigd has become more widely celebrated in Israel, and Schechter is very excited to add this holiday to the other Jewish holidays and cultural traditions that students learn about and celebrate. Our students had the opportunity to learn about the holiday, participate in various craft projects like decorating umbrellas, dance to Ethiopian Jewish music, and zoom with an Ethiopian Israeli to hear about her experiences celebrating the holiday. 

Earlier in November, former Schechter parent Dana Keller visited RELISH to talk with students about her work with Ethiopian Jews on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. She met separately with the Middle School students to enable them to ask more nuanced questions about the Ethiopian Jews, their lives in Ethiopia, and their often decades-long quest to arrive in Israel. Many thanks to Dana for helping our students make connections between the current situation for Ethiopian Jews and the holiday of Sigd! 

To see more photos of Schechter's first annual Sigd celebration, click HERE
 


Lev Tov Shines Brightly on Giving Tuesday

giving tuesday- smaller.JPEGBecause two of our core values are Lev Tov (Good Heart) and Klal Yisrael (Community), Giving Tuesday is a big day at Schechter! Throughout the day, every student was engaged in activities to provide food, toiletries, or shabbat items to help people in need. Projects included:
 
Decorating and packing snack bags for the Chrysalis Center, an organization that helps people living in poverty, veterans, women and children, young adults and individuals who are struggling with mental illness, addiction, HIV/AIDS, homelessness and those returning from incarceration. Through job training, employment services, housing and other community healthcare services, the Chrysalis Center helps individuals transform their lives.
 
Creating Shabbat cards and bags for The Anja Rosenberg Kosher Food Pantry at Jewish Family Services. The Kosher Food Pantry distributes over 90,000 pounds of food, toiletries and cleaning supplies each year to local residents within the Greater Hartford area during temporary or long-term times of need. They serve all people regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation. 
 
Packing totes for Dignity Grows, an organization founded by Jessica Zachs, a Schechter alumni parent, former Schechter board co-President, and current board member. Dignity Grows provides individuals in need with essential personal hygiene products so they can attend school and work and participate in community life without interruption. Middle school students engaged in a very powerful educational program led by Dignity Grows COO Jennifer Schwartzman, in which they were given information about a family - who is part of their household, what is their income, what are their needs - and they had to create a budget in order for that family to obtain their food, hygiene products, and other necessities.
 
Baking blondies for Chrysalis Center, a fire station, and Lord's Kitchen, which is a coalition of organizations in Stratford, CT that prepare and serve meals for the homeless, food insecure, and elderly.
 
Preparing donations for Any Soldier organization. Schechter families showed appreciation for members of the armed services by donating granola bars, warm socks, and game/puzzle books that Any Soldier will ship abroad to soldiers stationed throughout the world. 

Click HERE to see some photos of our Lev Tov in action! 


Fifth Graders Explore Nature’s Classroom

5th Nature's Classroom- smaller.pngThe weather was gorgeous, spirits were high, and the kids seemed to have fun…what’s so unusual about that? Our fifth graders were reveling in Schechter’s first big overnight trip since pre-pandemic days! For three days, students visited Nature’s Classroom in Ivoryton, Connecticut, where they took hikes in the woods each day and learned about different kinds of plants (both edible and poisonous) and some really innovative ways that the Native Americans used these plants. Students also tried some of the edible berries and played games out in the woods. At other moments, students conducted science experiments and attended classes including geology, dissection, and wood carving. They even got to do a bit of fishing! 
 
Students Nava and Avi led the class in the tefillah one morning, and special thanks to Rabbi Ilana Garber for visiting the group to lead a special morning tefillah along with the Boston Schechter kids.  
 
Everyone enjoyed free time as well, hanging out with friends in the cabins, sipping hot chocolate, and warming themselves with a bonfire and smores. Many thanks to Nevatim teacher Vanessa Paddy, who served as both teacher and surrogate parent for the group, and who sent pictures and updates home to parents each night.
 
Food Services Coordinator Danielle Weiss was essential in making this trip happen. She prepared piles and piles of delicious kosher food for the students and Vanessa to sustain them in the great outdoors. While they loved the baked ziti, chicken nuggets, fries, waffles, and pancakes, the universal crowd pleaser was, of course…the brownies. Todah rabah, Danielle!
 


Parashat Vayetzei— On loving ourselves and good relationships

yoni headshot less vertical.jpgThis week’s parashah takes us from the heights of love to the depths of marital bitterness. The very first story of romantic love in the entire Torah is the story of Jacob and Rachel; he loves her so much that the need to work seven years to marry her felt like an easy task and not a heavy burden. They surely dreamed of a happy life together! 

But their dreams are shattered when Rachel’s childlessness fills her with shame, jealousy and bitterness. “Give me children or I shall die,” she says. “Can I supplant God, who has denied you children?” he responds. The cruelty of his response, which we can’t help but notice, is also noted by many commentators. Her utter despair, her sense that her life is worthless without children, receives less attention. The Torah implies that she felt like she was letting Jacob down. She didn’t feel lovable, or love-worthy, without children.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to have healthy relationships with others if we don’t feel good about ourselves. WhenI I think about Rachel, I find myself wishing I could have been a friend to her, that I could have helped her feel a sense of intrinsic worth, not dependent on having children, so that she wouldn’t have suffered so much. 

At home and at school, the most important work we do with our children and students is to help them develop a sense of worth, agency and value; without these feelings, nothing else good can happen. Rachel lived in a time when women’s worth was often tied to childbearing, and men’s to wealth; let us make sure our children grow up to value themselves for being good, in God’s image, with innate value that can never be taken away from them.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Jonathan Berger
Head of School

Questions for the Shabbat table:
1. If you were able to offer Rachel some comfort, what would you say? And what do you wish Jacob would have said?
2. Have you ever come to feel that your sense of worth was tied to the wrong quality or trait? How did you extract yourself from that pattern of thought?
 

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