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Friday, June 12, 2015

Kids on the (Schechter) Street

As we close out the school year with all of the excitement of graduation, there is such a rush of energy in the air. We’re watching student video productions and getting ready for the end of the year staff vs. student basketball game. Everyone is sharing summer plans and reflecting on the year that has passed.

We did a few kid on the street interviews today to share some of what they are thinking. Here are their answers to questions about what Schechter is, what they are looking forward to for next year, and what they will miss about Schechter this summer.

Click HERE to view the video.

Shabbat Shalom and Go Cavs!

Dr. Ari Yares
Head of School

Friday, June 5, 2015

Oh the Places We've Been!

Like the kids, I’m just as excited when our learning leaves the classroom and we head out on a field trip. There is something special about climbing aboard a school bus and heading to a new place for exploration and discovery. Field trips are about allowing our curiosity to run wild and connecting our learning to the world outside the walls of the school.

Over the past few weeks as the weather has shown signs of summer, we’ve had a number of field trips that have helped deepen student learning. Our fourth graders just returned from a day- long exploration of Columbus, the culmination of their learning about the state of Ohio. They visited the State House, State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s office, and Ohio’s recently opened Holocaust Memorial. You might have seen Lolly the Trolley hanging out in front of the school as it waited for our third graders to board for their tour of downtown Cleveland as part of their study of our community.

Our middle schoolers wrapped up their monthly TOPS trips to a variety of community service sites throughout the area. Each experience was designed to inspire them to a life of volunteer service and a commitment to tikun olam (repairing the world). At the opposite end of the building, our PreK students explored the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo while looking for examples of all of the letters that they had been learning all year learning (lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!).

As you finalize your summer travel plans, think about how you can not just have fun as you visit distant (or close by) places, but also deepen your child(ren)’s understanding of the world around them and how it connects to things that we continue to learn about here at Schechter.  In fact, as you do so, share your summer adventures with us through our new Schechter Selfie social media campaign.  Take photos of yourselves in your Schechterwear, post them on FB, tagging Gross Schechter Day School and including the #SchechterSelfie or email them to so we can share them for you.

We look forward to seeing where the summer takes you!

Shabbat Shalom,

Dr. Ari Yares
Head of School

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Entering the Home Stretch

I am sure that we have more than a few students eagerly counting down to the last day of school (and maybe a few teachers, too). It has (thankfully) gotten warmer and feels like summer is just around the corner. And each group of students is starting to think about themselves in the next grade up.

We’ve started marking these transitions this week with the Fourth Grade Kabbalat Tikkun and the Fifth Grade Siyum. Our fourth graders have concluded their introduction to reading Torah and have read in front of the fourth/fifth grade minyan. Each of them left school Wednesday evening clutching a new Tikkun (the special book that includes the text of the Torah as it appears in the scroll without vowels and another column with vowels). This gift from the Malcmacher Fund has provided every Schechter student with a Tikkun and even replaced a few that wore out from being lovingly used to read to learn a Torah reading.

Our fifth graders mark the transition to Middle School with their Siyum. This isn’t a graduation (we’ll have one in two weeks for our eighth graders), but rather a way of marking the end of one period of study and the beginning of another. Our fifth graders are eager to explore the Middle School hallway for more than just math with Mrs. Markus.

Step Up Day, our annual tradition of treating our students to a taste of the grade to come, is just around the corner. It’s just another sign that we are entering the home stretch of an incredible year of learning.

Shabbat Shalom,

Dr. Ari Yares
Head of School

Friday, May 22, 2015

Taking Flight

Imagine a plane taking off. As it taxis down the tarmac, it gathers speed and then lifts off the leaving the earth behind. The plane climbs steeply at first until it slowly levels off at 30,000 feet and you breath a quiet sigh of relief as the captain turns off the seat belt light.

This is the metaphor that we focused on as we began our strategic planning process at Wednesday night’s board meeting. Our goal is to help Gross Schechter lift itself higher, building on our strengths and successes, as we move into the years ahead. Our conversation wasn’t on what was wrong, but rather using a technique known as Appreciative Inquiry, focused on finding what is right and building from it.

To kick off this process, we began by thinking about the things that make Schechter excellent. We shared our own personal experiences and what we felt during those moments. Then, we shared wishes and hopes for the school in the next three to five years. These Appreciative Inquiry tools will push us to discover more about Schechter, dream about our future, design plans, and, of course, deliver results.

Over the next few months, a group of board members, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members will serve as our strategic planning committee. The group will be led Beth Rosenberg, past board president,  and supported by consultant Marcy Levy Shankman, Vice President for Strategy and Director of Leadership Cleveland for the Cleveland Leadership Center. With Beth and Marcy’s guidance, we are excited to embark on this path of growth and seeing the heights that Schechter will soar to.

Shabbat Shalom V’Chag Same’ach,

Dr. Ari Yares
Head of School

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bringing it Home

Not surprising, but one of the questions that the younger siblings of our eighth graders asked, upon their return from Israel, was, “What did you bring me?” It’s not that the siblings are selfish, but knowing that their older brother or sister brought them a gift meant that the older sibling was thinking about the younger sibling during the trip. For the younger child, it is a tangible way of knowing that they are loved (and you can see this from the big smiles on their faces when you ask them about the new Israeli t-shirt that they are wearing in school).

As our oldest students, our 8th graders are responsible not just for bringing back a gift for their siblings, but also a gift for the younger students at Schechter. Today, this gift materialized in the Yom Yerushalayim presentation prepared by the 8th graders. More than just your traditional post-vacation slideshow, it was an interactive experience guiding our younger students through the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 with a wide variety of activities designed to help share the connection to Israel that our 8th graders now have. Combined with reflections, music and images (and, of course, food), they developed and implemented a multi-sensory experience with the help of their teacher, Cheryl Stone. This medley of images, words and experiences brought us together to celebrate Yom Yerushalayim and relive the Israel trip through the eyes of the 8th graders.

The gift wasn’t a t-shirt with a funny Israeli logo, but sharing their excitement from the trip. Their enthusiasm on this day, dedicated to the capital of Israel encourages the next cohort of students to be just as excited for their 8th grade Israel trip and build our love of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom,

Dr. Ari Yares
Head of School

Friday, May 8, 2015

Food for Thanks

Over the past several months, Randy Boroff and I have been building a partnership as we work to build on the excellent academics at Gross Schechter. We have also been thinking about a side venture that would highlight some of our other skills. We’re thinking of calling it “Boroff and Yares’ Breakfast and Barbecue”. We’d serve a yummy breakfast complete with waffles in the morning and switch over to grilled burgers, hot dogs and other treats for the evening crowd.

Ok - maybe I’m kidding just a little bit, but Randy and I have gotten a good rhythm together this week in the Schechter kitchen and out on the grills. It’s been fun for us and cooking this week, first for our teachers as the administration made them breakfast early Wednesday morning and then for our families at our Lag B’Omer Bonfire, has been a way of saying thank you.

Thank you to our faculty and staff for all of the hours that they put into making Schechter an incredible place to learn and work. I know how deeply our students are cared for and the lengths that you go to to help our students grow into their best possible selves. You are igniting a love of learning and shaping them into passionate and engaged young Jews.

Thank you to our families who are incredible advocates for our children and our school. Your dedication to our school community, and to the larger Jewish community, makes us proud to call Schechter and Cleveland home.

Shabbat Shalom,

Dr. Ari Yares
Head of School

Friday, May 1, 2015

Got Mensch?

When I got back from Israel, I received an unusual letter in my mailbox. Like most of you, I seldom receive meaningful snail mail. Personal notes usually come via e-mail and my snail mail is mostly a collection of bills, catalogues and brochures. The letter was from Ilissa Cappell, a good colleague and the associate director of the Schechter Day School Network. When I opened it, a huge smile crossed my face.

After doing some quick math, I’ve realized that with this current eighth grade trip, I have escorted nearly 300 students to Israel. It’s an incredible privilege as an educator to have helped connect such a large group of students to Israel, and, of course, each trip has its own special memories. As I reflect on each of the groups, I think about conversations with individual students, special stops that were unique to a group and the way that the groups bonded together.

What I don’t think about is the airplane flight.

I’ll be honest. The flying part of an Israel trip is my least favorite part. Being stuck on a plane with a large group of students for 12 plus hours is usually the part of the trip that I selectively “forget”.

That’s not going to be the case with the Gross Schechter Class of 2015. As you can see fromIlissa’s letter, our students were just phenomenal on the plane! The derekh eretz that they displayed so impressed this anonymous gentleman that he called the Schechter Network’s offices in New York to find out which Schechter school was on his flight and to share that he had noticed that our students behaved like mensches on the flight.

The eighth grade Israel trip is more than just an opportunity to travel to Israel and see the land. It is a learning laboratory for all of the skills that our students gain during their Schechter experience. They are connecting their lessons in Social Studies to their stint as amateur archeologists at “Dig for a Day”. While they may not want to admit it, math is constantly in use each time they pull out their wallet to buy a souvenir, converting between dollars and shekalim, and when we give them money to buy lunch on their own in small groups. Of course, their Hebrew skills are constantly in use, whether it is meeting their Israeli pen pals in Bet She’an for the first time or just checking out the billboards as we drive down the highway.

And, as we saw on the plane, it is an opportunity for our students to demonstrate the Jewish values that are integral to being a student at Gross Schechter Day School.

During this time of year, we study the chapters of Pirkei Avot, Ethics of Our Fathers, as we move through the days of the Omer from Pesach to Shavuot. Famously, Hillel is quoted as saying,

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?" Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14

Understanding that we treat others the way that we want to be treated may be the most valuable life lesson we can give our children. It shows that we understand that “others” are people as well, and that there is an urgency to treating other people with dignity. We put this into practice in our personal interactions, in our giving of tzedakah and in how we engage in Tikkun Olam.

I can proudly say that the Class of 2015 is learning this lesson well.

Shabbat Shalom,

Dr. Ari Yares
Head of School