Here we are at winter break and everyone is ready to head off to various places for the next two weeks.  We have survived a tough couple of weeks as various flu bugs and stomach issues impacted our school.  Kudos to Nurse Charlene for keeping our students comfortable in the health office and keeping our parents updated on the health of their children.  It seems we go through a stretch like this each year and we do our best to keep the educational process moving forward.

We had a fun ”Spirit Week” this past week and I want to thank our Student Council for the planning and implementing the various themes and activities. Special thanks to William Uvlin and Ethan Smith for their hard work.  I hope you followed the excitement on Facebook as our students and staff came to school in their favorite sports wear, pajamas, in crazy hats and with crazy hair.  We also enjoyed spelling bees, Jeopardy games, and “The Great Chocolate Pudding Eating Relay” during the lunch periods.  It was a great way to celebrate the last week of school in 2017.

Congratulations to our girls basketball team for their victory this past Thursday.  They have picked up right where they left off last season.  The boys gave a great effort in their defeats but I expect that they will improve greatly with more practice when they come back in January.

Please mark your calendar for a special program for all 4th through 8th grade students and parents.  “How to be an Upstander and an Ally” is a workshop for students and parents presented by the Anti-Defamation League.  This is part of our annual “No Place for Hate” Campaign.

When: January 31, 2018 from 6:30- 8:30 pm

Where: GSDS

Snacks will be provided

Registration will be available online the week of January 8, 2018

We will be opening re-enrollment for students currently in grades K through 7 in mid January, watch for details.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and the entire Schechter staff, I wish you a very enjoyable winter break and a very Happy New Year.  See you all in 2018!


Parashat Vayigash — Giving Kindly / Erev WInter Break

Just today, I was asked by a fifth grader why Joseph isn’t included as one of the avot (patriarchs). Why are only Abraham, Isaac and Jacob on the list? My answer to him was that unlike the three avot, who were singled out in their generation to be partners with God, everyone in Joseph’s generation became part of the covenant. Joseph wasn’t considered one of the avot because he wasn’t one-of-a-kind in the manner of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

But there’s another answer that I think is worth considering as well: even as he fed all of Egypt through the years of famine, Joseph reduced most Egyptians to share-croppers. When they came to him, hungry, they had to use their savings to buy grain. Then, they sold him their cattle; then, desperate, they offered him their land, which he claimed in Pharaoh’s name. He saved the country — but in the process, independent Egyptian farmers became serfs.

Interestingly, through the narrative, verbs of le-hahayot (to sustain, give life) and mehayeh (one who sustains/gives life) recur. These words are found in the second blessing of the amidah as well: God is called mehalkel hayim be-hesed, the One who sustains the living with kindness. Later in the blessing, we say that God acts berahamim rabim, with great mercy. How is Joseph different from God? They share the same verbs — but only God is described as being merciful and kind. Even when Joseph is saving the country, he is never described that way.

The lesson, I think, it that while giving is always laudable, and saving lives is always a priority, there are better and worse ways to act. Was Joseph a hero? Absolutely. But was he an exemplar for our people, worthy of standing alongside Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? On that measure, he falls short.

May we always give… with kindness! Have a shabbat shalom and a wonderful winter break. I can’t wait to see everyone back in 2018!

Rabbi Jonathan Berger

Associate Head of School for Judaic Studies and Programs

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