At synagogue recently, someone not yet connected with the school asked me about the community here at Schechter. He wanted to know whether that “special feeling” exists, how we help foster it, and why we do it at all. As you can imagine, we had a great conversation. Since then, I’ve been thinking more and more about what makes a community, or a kehillah as we call it here at Schechter, and also the last part of his question — why.
The first part of his question about whether community exists here is obvious. Yes, definitely yes. I’ve written in the past on this blog about how my family has been welcomed and how at home we already feel after just eight months.
At a meeting of the Parent Ambassadors this week, the group was asked what brought them to Schechter and what has kept them here. I was blown away by some of the stories they shared about how the community was there for them. They used words like warm, caring, and nurturing to describe their experiences.
So then how do we make sure parents continue to have these sorts of stories? What’s the recipe? It first calls for one cup of volunteer engagement. Over the past month, parents have come together to bake hamantaschen for Mishloach Manot, Purim gift bags. Several parents have commented that they met people with whom they never would have interacted but for programs like this. They had the chance to chat about children, work, and life while rolling out the dough. Others choose to serve on board committees, others like to plan communal dinners, and still others like to make calls to solicit donations for our Annual Fund.
The recipe then calls for another cup of chesed (kindness) for those in times of need. Often our community gets to celebrate births and weddings. Sometimes we mourn losses together too. And other times people just need a little help. For those of you who are on the Schechter Parents Social Facebook page, you may remember seeing offers of seats in cars during a recent delayed opening. Parents were willing to pick up other people’s children and bring them to school so that working parents could get to their offices. Small kindnesses that have big meaning.
The recipe also includes pinches of things that happen outside our doors such as play dates in your homes, Shabbat meals, and gatherings at the playground (once the snow melts). If you haven’t had dinner with a Schechter family recently, maybe consider inviting someone to join you. It is a great way to get to know people and build that connectivity. Offer a playdate to your child’s classmate. Come into the building during pick-up or drop-off and join the schmoozing that happens in our lobby.
So that brings us to why. Why do we want all of these things to happen? Because they feel good. Because being part of a community means that we have to work at it a little (and sometimes a lot) so that every member feels our warmth. Because we are much stronger as a whole than as individual parts.
How would you answer the questions? What do you love about our community? What makes you keep coming back?
Dr. Ari Yares
Head of School
P.S. Another great way to experience the Schechter community is to come to the Purim Bash.Order your tickets here.
P.P.S. Don’t forget about your volunteer engagement hours. Lots of options exists and we’re always looking for a variety of help from development to supporting teachers to planning terrific programs.