SEPTEMBER 20, 2018, DEDHAM – At a time when children have access to unprecedented amounts of information and influences, parents are increasingly looking to schools to guide their children to ask critical questions and make informed choices about their actions.
Boston is home to an impressive variety of public and private schools, leaving parents with the often daunting task of selecting a school. Many parents don’t consider Jewish day school for their children until they see the school in action. Ultimately, they find great value in the high caliber academics, that kids are respected and heard by adults who care deeply about them, and that their kids can build the confidence to understand the world around them through observation, exploration, and inquiry. A values-based education has never been more relevant.
Devorah Steinberg’s son Josh began his education in pre-K in the Boston public schools eight years ago. “We were happy with his experience [in public school], but we felt there was something missing,” Devorah said. “There are some things that a public education can never provide.”
Devorah applied to enroll Josh in kindergarten at The Rashi School, the Reform Jewish K-8 independent school in Dedham, in the hope of finding social justice, Jewish learning, and a sense of community for her son. She was looking for a values-driven education with very strong academics.
Now that Josh is entering seventh grade at Rashi, Devorah and Josh feel strongly that they made the right decision. “Josh loves Rashi; loves the variety of creative educational and social justice approaches, the Jewish and Hebrew education, and the quality of the academics, all infused with Jewish values and community,” his mother said. “What’s more, he will be prepared for the advanced level classes in high school that will follow.”
Melissa and David Goldstone chose a path less traveled for their three girls: public elementary school, public high school, and The Rashi School for middle school. “We often get asked why we jumped into Rashi for middle school,” said David. “There are so many highly personal factors that come into play into these decisions: personal preferences, finances, Jewish practice, learning styles, and time management considerations. For us, it came down to the word, ‘values.’ Rashi’s core values really are central to everything it does: Limud [Learning]; Tzedek [Justice]; Kehillah [Community]; Kavod [Respect]; and Ruach Elohim [Divine Spirit].
“We have found that during the middle school years, it has been a delight to immerse our girls in a Jewish values-based environment,” said David.
“They have learned Jewish content of values to a far greater extent than any after-school and Sunday morning program possibly could have taught them.”
The annual Rashi eighth-grade trip to Israel is a perfect example. The students travel with the same friends and micro-community with whom they have shared Jewish values.
“The Rashi Israel trip is not like any other Israel trip they will ever take, as it reinforces and crystallizes the values they have learned in their middle school experience,” said David. “In short, we found that the path less traveled really did make all the difference for our family.”
For the Neiger family, one of the most important criteria was to make sure the school was the right fit for their child. They wanted a school that would impart a love of learning while at the same time provide their children with the opportunity to learn Hebrew, enter into a curriculum tied to the Jewish calendar, and uphold Jewish traditions.
Shahar Hecht and Lior Neiger describe the process: “We wanted to make sure to ask the right questions: ‘Will this school be the right fit? Are the students really engaged? Will we make the right choice?’” It wasn’t a decision they entered into lightly.
“Walking through Rashi’s doors for the first time, we wondered how we would know if Rashi was right for our children,” said Shahar. “We wanted to join the kindergarteners on the carpet, write our first books as first-graders, learn about the body in fourth grade, and conduct science experiments in the seventh grade. We wanted to talk with the teachers and learn from the students.”
Today, their oldest child is beginning her final year at Rashi. The family has two other children at the school in grades 5 and 3. Lior reflected upon what a good educational setting means to them.
“For us, it’s important that our children be seen for who they are as individuals – to grow and develop their unique abilities and to be supported in their challenges. We want to be anchored in a caring community of friends, teachers, and families. Moreover, an environment that values curiosity and creativity and strives to develop and maintain a love of learning was essential to our family.”
In the end, Lior said the decision was actually very simple. “We wanted to enroll ourselves!”
Adrien Maxx Khelemsky is the Director of Community Engagement, Admissions, at The Rashi School. She can be reached at 781-355-7316 or AKhelemsky@rashi.org.