T minus four days and counting! The end of the 2017-2018 school year is coming to a close quickly and next week will provide more excitement and memories for all of us to hold onto until the next school year begins in August. Summer vacation will be here and much planning will occur during those two months to ensure another fantastic Schechter school year. Please watch for announcements and information during the summer months.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Buddy Shabbat program this morning. We had a packed house filled with song and prayer. Parents joined our ECC and kindergarten students after the service to make challah together. It was a wonderful morning for our Schechter community. Thanks to Janna Dorfman and our ECC staff for their assistance.

Our 5th graders returned from the annual trip to the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center to cap off their science and social studies curriculum. They had the chance to stay overnight, walk the beautiful trails, sing around the campfire and even learn a little about protecting the environment. Thanks to Lisa Loeb, Rachel Lawton, Joel Faulkner, Laurie Gross Kammer, Rabbi Berger and our parent volunteer chaperones for their participation.

Friday morning we organized the Step Up day for our students. Students in our current grades had the opportunity to “step up” into the next grade to meet teachers and learn about the expectations and exciting plans for the 2018-2019 school year. This is a great opportunity for our students to get excited about their class for next year.

This past Tuesday our Ultimate Frisbee Team lost a heartbreaking championship game to Ruffing School. The group had a very successful season despite the many days of inclement weather. On Tuesday evening, all of our middle school athletes were recognized for their achievements at the Annual Sports Award program. Special recognition went to the Girls Basketball Team for their fourth consecutive League Championship and to Maya Dorie for earning her third consecutive MVP Award. Thanks to our coaches Kevin Weisenberg, Joel Faulkner and Jordan Lekin.

On Wednesday evening our Kindergarten students presented the wonderful Alphabet Runway Show. Orli Dugan and Abby Sobel do an amazing job preparing for this event and the students took great pride in “strutting their stuff” down the runway.

The Cleveland Zoo was the destination for the pre-K and kindergarten students this week. Teacher and parent chaperones reported that each group had a fantastic time. Something is always happening at the zoo!

Each school year we bid goodbye to staff members as they move on to new challenges. This year we say goodbye to Alex Blumin who has decided to seek other opportunities, Rachel Lawton (after 21 years) as she moves to Laurel School, and to Carrie Singer who is returning to private practice. We wish them all well as they pursue their dreams and thank them for their contributions to Gross Schechter.

Next week will be an exciting week. Because we have numerous teachers moving classrooms in the lower school wing we want to give them an opportunity to organize their supplies and materials. We have an altered schedule filled with fun filled activities. Also, on Wednesday, June 6, we will have locker clean out, book return and desk clean out. Please send in a trash bag, suitcase, duffle bag or anything else that will carry the accumulated supplies home.

The Gross Schechter Annual Meeting is Monday evening, June 4 at 7:00 pm. We invite you to come and hear about the status of the school, meet new Board of Directors and help us acknowledge our staff.

Our 8th grade Graduation Ceremony is Thursday, June 7 at 9:15 am. We welcome all parents to come and and celebrate with our graduating students.

Have a great weekend, lets hope for a Cavs win and Shabbat Shalom.

Randy S. Boroff

Head of School

Parashat Beha’alotcha Burning out vs. Lighting Up

How do you say “to light a candle” in Hebrew? The answer, familiar to us from the blessing we say before lighting candles on Friday nights and on Hanukkah, is lehadlik ner. Surprisingly, though, these words don’t appear in this week’s parashah. At the beginning of the parashah, Moses tells Aaron how to light the menorah. We would expect to see our familiar verb in these instructions, but we don’t; instead of le-hadlik, we see the verb leha’alot, which literally means “to make something rise up.” Why doesn’t the Torah use the word we expect?

When this question first occurred to me, I thought that maybe le-hadlik simply wasn’t a word in Biblical Hebrew, and only entered the language in the time of the Talmud. But I learned that this wasn’t quite the case; the word le-hadlik did exist in Tanakh, but with a slightly different meaning. Lehadlik meant “to (destructively) burn up,” whereas leha’alot carries the idea of “elevating”— a flame that illuminates. The menorah wasn’t about combustion; it was about illumination.

Aaron’s goal in lighting the menorah was to elevate the community. The flame symbolized God’s presence. The people would be reminded of their relationship with God, and of their purpose as a nation: not to burn with the consuming fire of zealotry, but to be a model for ethical and spiritual living.

The metaphor of lighting candles is commonplace in teaching. William Butler Keats wrote that “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” But what kind of fire are we trying to ignite? These two distinct ancient Hebrew terms for kindling flames offer a beautiful answer: a desire to learn more, to generate more light. We pray that, just as Aaron lit his lamps, we have succeeded in elevating and our inspiring our students to keep learning—over the summer and beyond.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Jonathan Berger

Associate Head of School for Judaic Studies and Programs

Questions for the Shabbat table:
  1. The menorah that Aaron lit was a seven-branched oil lamp. Oil lamps aren’t bright, but they do burn with a steady, pure flame. How is God’s presence like a steady, pure, but somewhat dim flame?
  2. Religious beliefs can lead people to light the world through kind and good actions; sometimes, though, religious beliefs lead to fighting and violence. How can we make sure that our Judaism is a source of light and not conflict?

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