Musings with Rabbi Moshe Volume 3
When we think about a school, we usually try to highlight outstanding students, programs or initiatives but I’ve always believed that the true greatness of a school lies with its classroom teachers. Nowhere is this more evident than at KSDS. Here, that greatness comes with even greater significance and nuance and is best captured through four short stories.
In May of 2015, after having accepted the position of Head of School, the transition committee hosted a get-together so that current and former faculty could meet me, the new Head. Seventy people filled the room! What a profound moment.
In the fall of 2017, a new security guard questioned me about a woman who was permitted to enter through the school doors several mornings each week but lacked an official school issued ID. I explained “that’s Barbara Cohen, retired Lower School Judaic Head. This is how we show kavod [honor] to Morah Cohen.” Morah Cohen retired a decade ago and has been volunteering in our 1st grade to support the development of Hebrew reading skills ever since.
In August 2019, just two weeks prior to the start of school, a part-time teacher resigned to take a full-time position elsewhere. Our Lower School Head Wendy Gelber came to my office the next morning to reassure me “Hedy is on board and ready to go!” Mrs. Hedy Goldstein is a retired teacher, the mother of our current Director of Admissions, KSDS grandparent and co-chair of our “Grands” committee representing the grandparents of Schechter. Mrs. Goldstein had retired as our 3rd grade teacher in 2012 and immediately came forward upon hearing the news, wishing to start our 3rd grade year off on the right note by being our teacher until we found the perfect candidate. Mrs. Goldstein hit the ground running, albeit after a crash course on new technology, bringing fresh ideas and boundless energy to her students and to the dynamic third grade team.
This fall, the mother of recently retired faculty member Shuli Raffel passed away and both the funeral and the shiva period took place in Israel. Upon returning to Baltimore in late September, Morah Raffel sponsored breakfast for the Chizuk Amuno Congregation daily minyan and shared reflections on her mother’s life. I joined more than a half dozen retired faculty and a current teacher (who assured me it was her prep period) who had come to minyan to support their friend and colleague. Morah Raffel herself just spent a week as a substitute as one of our lower school Judaic teachers flew to Israel to deal with a health emergency for a relative.
Words cannot fully articulate how deeply moving and energizing these moments, and so many others like them are for me. Krieger Schechter teachers educate and model far beyond the classroom and well beyond their formal tenure as teachers. Their actions teach us about the importance of transmitting knowledge and values to the next generation, about the importance of camaraderie and community, about providing support to others in need, and living one’s values through action.
What we create here at Krieger Schechter goes far beyond our students. These short stories are the essence of sacred community and speak directly to a strong and positive culture among faculty at the school. Our community exists and continues beyond the walls of our school, after graduation for our students, after employment has ended. With regard to our retired and former faculty, they currently have an active book club, a weekly yoga class and several ongoing social and educational opportunities.
Outside the faculty room is a large plaque dedicated on the occasion of the 36th anniversary of the school. The inscription reads “presented to Krieger Schechter faculty and staff in gratitude and appreciation of your hard work, dedication, and commitment.” It includes the verse from Proverbs 22:6, “Educate each child in his or her own way, and even when old, he or she will not depart from it.”
It is clear that teaching is both a career choice and a calling. Teachers are educators at their core and it is a way of life, not just their profession. They are not tied to specific hours or a technical calendar. No place is this more true than here at Kreiger Schechter.
This article is written with admiration, kavod, respect and honor for Dr. Paul Schneider, Head of School Emeritus of Krieger Schechter Day School of Chizuk Amuno Congregation and the visionary leader who hired each of the faculty members referenced above (with the exception of Hedy Goldstein the second time of course!).