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During the first week of school, the Early Childhood team has been helping their young students adjust to meeting new friends, following directions, and participating in activities together. What an incredible first week this has been! Marking a truly smooth transition to school routines, the EC students spent time exploring their environments and getting into the classroom routines. The Nitzanim and Shorashimstudents enjoyed sensory activities, listened to stories, created art, played on the playground and went to music and PE class. We are looking forward to an amazing year at Schechter!
In science class this week, first and second graders (Anafim ) broadly discussed the field of science (what comes to mind when they hear the word science? how do scientists learn through observations and experiments?), then delved deeper while practicing those concepts. Acting as scientists, the students used different parts of their bodies to observe a strawberry closely. First, they looked through magnifying glasses to get a closer view of the strawberry’s different parts. Next, they used their noses to describe the smell, their hands to feel different textures, and finally, their mouths to describe the taste! After making their strawberry observations, science teacher Mrs. Spector asked the students to reflect upon what their lives would be like without science. One commented that “we wouldn’t have any food,” while another observed, “we wouldn’t know what was up in space.”
Did you know that Schechter is welcoming 21 new families (31 new students) this fall? Word of Schechter’s fantastic combination of engaging classrooms and personalized K-8 learning, low student-teacher ratio, hands-on Reggio-inspired Early Childhood program, and opportunities for deeper Jewish connection and growth continue to spread, and we are celebrating our fifth consecutive year of enrollment growth! To help these new families get acclimated, on Sunday, both new Schechter families and the families of our veteran room parents came together for conversation and popsicles on the playground. It was a great way for students to start building connections before school officially began!
It’s never great to state the obvious. At best, you will be greeted with raised eyebrows; at worst, with frustration or sarcasm. Why, then, when our ancestors brought their first fruits to the Beit Hamikdash (Temple), would the Torah command them to make a declaration that seems both underwhelming and painfully obvious?
The annual first fruits ceremony took place in Jerusalem after the Israelites settled permanently in the land. At that point, after their harvest, they were to take some of their first fruits, put them in a basket, and go to the Temple. We imagine a farmer with tanned skin and calloused hands, head held high, making his way to Jerusalem. When he arrives, he would make a declaration before giving the basket to the priest: “I declare this day… that I have entered the land (bati el ha-aretz) that the Lord swore to give to our ancestors.” And we, as the readers, have to wonder: isn’t it obvious that the Israelite farmer has entered the land of Israel? With the formal “I declare” opening, we expect a powerful statement. What’s so powerful about this declaration?
The answer, I believe, is that batihere means more than just “I have set foot in the land”; it indicates making an actual impact. Rookie professional basketball players might feel good about getting drafted or signing a contract—but the real feeling of belonging comes after they make their first basket. In our verse, bati means more than “I have entered”; it means, “Now that I’ve grown something, I have truly arrived.”
As this school year begins—and the Jewish new year is almost here—we have a chance to reflect on how we are able to spend our time. In some settings, our only role is to show up and enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor. There is always a place for that! But if we are looking to add more meaning, satisfaction, and purpose to our lives, there’s no better way than by contributing our hands-on labor to a community we value. Whether it’s by making things happen at a synagogue, or coaching a youth sports team, or volunteering at Schechter—we all deserve to have that feeling of working, making something grow, and feeling like we have truly arrived.
May it be a fruitful year for us all!
Rabbi Jonathan Berger
Head of School
Questions for the Shabbat table:
1. Imagine that you were a (relatively elite) priest in Jerusalem, accepting the basket of fruits from a farmer. What might you have been feeling?
2. Is there a community or project where you want to make an impact? Where are you already seeing the fruits of your labor?