Our week at Gross Schechter Day School began with a bang: the Buddy Havdalah and middle school Read for Life Lock In! Over 60 older students in 4th-8th grades joined 30 pre-schoolers and their parents for a beautiful havdalah led by Sheri Gross. Then, the older students stayed for a late night of reading, fun games, and prizes. Todah rabbah to our staff for making the program a huge success!

Sunday evening was the JECC annual meeting. Our school could not operate without the support of the JECC! A strong contingent from GSDS joined over a thousand community leaders and educators to celebrate our community and honor some outstanding educators. It was powerful to realize that our thriving school is part of a larger group of schools and leaders who are passionate about Jewish education.

Read for Life activities resumed on Monday when the middle school heard from Andrea Vecchio, a journalist and author with Cleveland roots. On Friday, we had our first “Drop Everything And Read” time. In a beautiful way, our week was bookended with reading. We are grateful to Ida and Michal Grinberg and the Sveta Grinberg Memorial Literacy Endowment Fund for making our Read for Life programming possible.

Wednesday was Tu Bishvat! Kofim and Dagim had an adorable Tu Bishvat seder in the Media Center; other ECC rooms had smaller programs in their classrooms, and the third grade conducted its own seder with a wonderful combination of rich content and joyful creativity. Happy birthday, trees!

Our No Place For Hate program, facilitated by the ADL on Wednesday night, helped students and parents learn how to stand up for people who are targets of mean comments, exclusion, or hatred.

Finally, four of our students (Perry Gellwasser, Rachel Blumin, Noy Keren and Arthur Stadlin) competed in the regional round of the national Zionism quiz against seven other schools. Their scores earned them a place in the next round, but some problems with the judging and scoring left the outcome unclear. We hope to have good news by the next weekly update, but whatever the decision, we can be proud of our students and their knowledge and love of Israel.

We are still looking for volunteers to help out with Mishloach Manot! Please e-mail Bchrist@grossschechter.org for more information.

Have a great weekend and Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Jonathan Berger

Associate Head of School for Judaic Studies and Programs


Parashat Yitro-Education Makes Us Priestly

In this week’s parashah, Yitro, the Torah is given at Mount Sinai. There is thunder and lightning, the mountain trembles, and God’s overwhelming voice proclaims a series of pronouncements, beginning with “I the Lord am your God” and ending with “You shall not covet.” But before all the drama, God describes to Moses the relationship God hopes to have with the Israelites: “All the earth is Mine, but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

In context, the phrase “holy nation” is clear: by observing the mitzvot, we become holy. But what does it mean to be “a kingdom of priests”? Are we all supposed to be ritually pure like priests? Are we supposed to offer sacrifices? The words are beautiful, but their meaning isn’t clear.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of Britain, offers an amazing interpretation. He points out that in most ancient societies, only priests knew how to write. The word “hieroglyphics” actually means “priestly writing.” And why does the word “clerical” refer both to members of the clergy and to office work? Because in medieval Christian Europe, only priests could read and write. But from the beginning, Judaism has demanded that everyone read; for example, the “Ve-ahavta” instructs us to teach, discuss and write. So how do we become a “kingdom of priests”? By learning to read.

Today, this belief in universal education is less distinctively Jewish; graduation from high school and even college is expected throughout society. Still, there is a difference. The Jewish motive for schooling is not career advancement, prestige, or status. Our tradition teaches us that learning makes us holy—and such holiness can never be limited to a priestly class. This is why Schechter exists!

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Jonathan Berger

Associate Head of School for Judaic Studies and Programs

Questions for the Shabbat table:
  1. It’s almost impossible to function in our society if you can’t read — but in the time of the Torah, when most people were shepherds and farmers, literacy was less critical in everyday life. Why do you think the Torah thought literacy was so important?
  2. How is reading a story or mitzvah directly from the Torah (or a humash) different from hearing about it from a teacher?

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Ben Christ

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