Sunday, September 23, 2012

Animate - Divided BrainAre you a left or a right brainer?

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift & the rational mind is a faithful servant." ~ Albert Einstein

In a recent RSAnimate video clip, renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist explains how our 'divided brain' has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society.

Dr. McGilchrist claims that our previous notion of the clear division between the functions of the left and the right hemispheres does not stand in reality anymore. Our worship of the left hemisphere (the sound of reasoning, accuracy and details) in today’s world is dangerous and should be rebalanced by allowing the right side of our brain to chime in (beauty, imagination wholeness).

The ultimate Science must have a beauty at its essence. Following formulaic methods does not result in great (or efficient, for that matter) achievements. An artifact must resonate in both hemispheres.

These words resonate well with Sir Ken Robinson’s talk towards inductive reasoning and how often during our education we were forced to believe there is only one answer/solution rather than taking a closer look at other options, or once again seeing the “big picture”.

What is the reason for this complexity? What is the origin of this “big picture”? It comes from the recent realization that our brain is not necessarily linear, rather a web of neurons that are all interconnected and influencing each other (images can be seen here) . This understanding, which resembles the discoveries of food webs (rather than food chains) is beautifully discussed in a recent  lecture by Manuel Lima from Microsoft Bing, who compares the neuronal network to other recently discovered (or created) networks, such as the web of life and the information and social networks.

During our back to school nights we have tried to share with the community our own vision of education at KSA:

  1. The emphasis on balancing the left and right hemisphere, bringing back into the academic life subjects such as art, music and experiential learning and encouraging curiosity, innovation and creativity.
  2. The power of networking - connecting disciplines and subjects while learning, connecting students to work collaboratively (physically or virtually) and connecting teachers to create together.  
  3. Last but not least - eliminating the hierarchy tree and creating a network of teams/task forces among staff and board members that work towards a common goal - growing together from good to great.

We invite you to join our network in any capacity you can - academic, social or professional.

I wish you and your families

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Growing the Grass Greener

In his book “The No Complaining Rule” Jon Gordon offers 3 methods to approach life with a positive attitude:

1. The But → Positive Technique. This simple strategy helps you turn your complaints into positive thoughts, solutions, and actions. It works like this. When you realize you are complaining, you simply add the word “but” and then add a positive thought or positive action.  

  • I don’t like driving to work for an hour but I’m thankful I can drive and that I have a job.

2. Focus on “Get To” instead of “Have To.” Too often we complain and focus on what we have to do. We say things like “I have to go to work.” “I have to drive here.” “I have to do this or that.” Instead, shift your perspective and realize it’s not about having to do anything. You get to do things. You get to live this life. You get to go to work while so many are unemployed. You get to drive in traffic while so many don’t even have a car or are too sick to travel. Focus on what you get to do. Focus on feeling blessed instead of stressed. Focus on gratitude.

3. Turn Complaints into Solutions. The goal is not to eliminate all complaining. The intent is to eliminate the kind of mindless complaining that doesn’t serve a greater purpose and allow   complaining that is justified and worthwhile. The opposite of mindless complaining is justified complaining. The former is negative and the latter is positive. The different is intent. With mindless complaining, you are mindlessly focusing on problems; however, with justified   complaining you identify a problem, and the complaint moves you toward a solution. Every complaint represents an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.
Gordon’s book teaches us, simply, that the grass is greener where you water it. He posits that, in our work places and our communities, positive energy is the water with which we nurture our garden.  

So, how do we grow our grass greener at KSA?  How do we use all the positive energy and great innovative ideas to unite our community and help it grow to new heights?

We start with our teachers.  We create an environment in which teachers are constantly learning together and from each other.  We encourage teachers to share new ideas, work collaboratively on projects, and even observe each other's classrooms to help improve the teaching and learning in their own classrooms.  

For our students we continue to focus on their strengths and opportunities for growth (hence personal goals). It means celebrating successes in academic and social areas and encouraging our students to be positive towards themselves, their friends, teachers, parents and community. It means observing each child’s growth and the development of his or her passions. Our grass is greener when we encouraging our students to be curious and compassionate and to embrace new experiences.

For our parents, growing the grass greener means building a culture of transparency and partnership. It means that parents are, and will become even more so, part of the collaborative team; working together toward the success of the students, the teachers and KSA as a community.

How can you help us keep the shefa, the flow of positive and holy energy nurturing our garden and our children, vital?  Meet frequently with the Kehillah teachers that educate your child. Be aware of the goals that your child is working toward this year and be an active part of the educational team by continuing to work toward these goals at home. Celebrate successes and express gratitude, both to your child and to our teachers.

Teachers, students and parents are all gardeners of our little corner of Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden.)  What will your roll be in keeping the energy positive and growing the grass greener?  Tell us what you think in the comments.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi David and Dr. Resnick

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why do YOU value KSA?

Why do YOU value KSA?
You'd think that by now our building would be quiet and that most of our teachers would be sitting by the swimming pool enjoying their free days.

Amazingly, they are not!

The building is buzzing with hard workers.  In one corner of the school Lisa Grossman is surrounded by boxes slowly arranging the rooms of the 3-4 grade kehillah, smiling and humming, with Hana busily working by her side. In another corner, Batya, Kathy and Alicia are seriously discussing multi-age curriculum and designing the various center for their kehillah. Our 5th and 6th kehillah, with Sara Zenley, Richard Brancato, Michelle and Miriam also meet frequently to discuss science, technology and room arrangements and our 7th and 8th grade teachers are always here, from Anita to Ariel, Joan to Richard Waldman and many others.  

So why do we value KSA – we value KSA because of the complete dedication of teachers and their commitment to outstanding teaching even if it means that they have to give up their own vacation!
Our administrative staff, our development office, recruitment team, and business office tirelessly meet with us, planning new strategies for next year. So why do we value KSA – we value KSA because of the great collaborative team work, realizing that many brains put together are by far better than one!
In our office we are meeting with teachers to discuss science and math curricula ensuring that KSA continues to be the torch holder in STEM education among Jewish Day schools.  The Judaics teachers are working to solidify a Judaic Studies program that celebrates our Jewish identity and our love of Israel and honors the values of the scholarly Jewish learner.
As teams and as individuals our teachers continue to create goals for students, goals that by the end of the summer will be discussed with the teachers of the coming year. Why do we values KSA? Because each and every one of us believes that excellence is a habit and we strive to teach it to each student in his/her own pace and passion.
These are only a few reasons why WE value KSA.
But we want to know why YOU value KSA?  Leave your comments below on the blog or on our Facebook page!  What?  You haven't "liked" our KSA Facebook page?  Click here and do that right now!

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David and D-Res

By the way...did you know KSA is tweeting all summer long?  Today we gave a sneak peak of our new media production lab.  Follow us @kehillahschacad

Friday, June 22, 2012


There is one word to describe this week - INSPIRED!

On Monday, we were inspired by our teachers and graduates who spoke so beautifully about each other and our Kehillah.

On Tuesday we were inspired by the incredible talent of all of our students at a school-wide talent show.  We bid farewell to our 8th graders and honored our teachers with tribute books and beautiful inscribed bricks, which now dot our pathway.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we were hard at work preparing for next year.  Our staff attended  a webinar on differentiation and took part in SCRATCH training (SCRATCH is a programming language that allows for the integration of technology into multiple disciplines and subject areas.)

With the help of some borrowed Home Depot shopping carts (thanks Steve G.) we got to work re-organizing our classrooms to reflect and celebrate our new Kehillot (Learning Communities.)  Every member of our staff helped out (and had a little fun at the same time.)

This has been an inspiring week.  We are going to continue to work throughout the summer crafting and creating a school that grows from good to great.  We will continue to post updates on the blog throughout the summer so keep checking in.

Rabbi David and D-Res

Friday, June 15, 2012

Shai (Gift)

I will gather feelings that remain,
like the last fruits after the harvest
All that the hand of sadness hasn't destroyed from the root
And the fires of anger have not yet scorched within me.

I will line a wicker basket with memories of Kineret
And the pink of morning skies between garden trees.
The gold of noon on the tranquil expanse
And the evening lilacs on the Golan hills.

The memory of the night the crescent moon rose over still waters
This is my shout of joy as my days begin.
This is the shout of joy I'll bind the basket with
And send it to you - will you be happy for the gift?
( )

Rachel is a very famous Israeli poet that lived in Israel in the beginning of the 20th century. She lived for many years on the shores of the Kineret (the Sea of Galilee) and most of her poems mention the view of the Kineret and the Golan height.

Like in the poem, this last week at KSA was a gift.  Our week began with a great milestone (Author’s Tea for the first graders) where our young students presented their first “bikurim” – a collection of booklets that they wrote about themselves and topics that are close to their hearts. The week continued with our lively Zimriyah – a huge celebration of KSA spirit and connection with Israel, shared by students, teachers, parents, families and most preciously many of our alumni, who went on stage with our 8th gradres to dance and celebrate the ending of the year.

Our second graders journeyed to Borderland State Park and Morah Batya's home and our third graders trekked along the Freedom Trail in Boston.  So many journeys, so many gifts!

At our annual meeting we celebrated some significant milestones for our teachers.  We honored those teachers who dedicated endless amount of hours, days, weeks and years (many of them 20 years) of hard work, passion and love to KSA.

For 5 years of dedication:
Miriam Klausner
Alex Leo
Alicia Raines
Anita Rodriguez
Sarah Shay Davidson

10 Years of dedication:
Rita O’Brien

15 years of dedication:
Sharon Duman Packer

20 years of dedication:
Ken Faria
Claudia Michaels Brodsky
Marla Osberg
Bracha Oren
Marcia Shimshak

Our week also included some sad moments where we began the difficult process of saying "goodbye" to some of our most beloved teachers. Each of them leaves a stamp on our community and in our hearts. The teachers/staff members that are leaving at the end of this year are:
Ronit Amit
Carol Fanger Bell
Ghilly Einhorn
Julia Horowitz
Shira Horowitz
Sharon Jacobs
Stella Kamenetsky
Fran Kantor
Kathy Kats
Rabbi Joseph Meszler
Claudia Michaels-Brodsky
Bob “Moreh Shem” Minder
Marla Olsberg
Daiva Navickas
Mindy Schiller
Marcia “Morah Miriam” Shimshak
Saying goodbye is never easy. Doing so together as a community eases the pain just a bit. We want to encourage you to click here to leave a message in one or more of our tribute journals.  The journals are also available by Rita's desk if you'd like to inscribe them personally.

Our week is like the bikkurim basket – full of happiness, sadness, memories and looking into a great future – "will you be happy for the gift?"

Rabbi David and D-Res

Friday, June 8, 2012

Learning is a Never Ending Journey

“Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner; put yourself in his place so that you may understand… what he learns and the way he understands it.”-- Soren Kierkegaard

Phineas Gage was a cheerful builder until one day, in the 19th century, he fell from a ladder and a metal pole got stuck in his head. Phineas lived for many more years after the accident but what surprised his physicians was the complete change in his personality. Phineas became an angry and a violent man (who wouldn’t? With a pole stuck in your head). That was the first time scientists realized that our brain is in charge of our behavior and cognitive functions and that the brain is flexible and constantly changes due to the ability of our neurons to re-wire and make new connections. 

This is how our 7th graders are introduced to the science of the brain, where they design experiments to test how music and visuals (from optical illusions, to art, to video games) can affect our learning and our ability to conduct daily chores.

Over the past few weeks we've had the opportunity to meet many parents. Some, during our community meetings, some in school milestones, some in personal meetings in our office and others informally in the hallways. Again and again, these meetings reminded us that we, educators, need to continuously learn and put ourselves in the shoes of the learner, be it a child or a parent. They also showed us that honesty and transparency are crucial when building long term relationships and developing a partnership towards a great education of our children.

KSA, like our brain, is a dynamic environment. We have always striven to provide our students with an excellent education that is tailored to the needs of the individual learner. While this outstanding foundation remains the same, KSA is updating some of its internal wiring, based on our own reflections, as well as lessons we've learned from parents and students, so we can grow from good to great. By creating personal goals for students, an experiential learning environment and opportunities for students to become academic and social leaders we are inspired by the words of Thomas Jefferson “ There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people."

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi David and D-Res (Dr. Nitzan Resnick)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Teaching from the Heart

What are the virtues of a good teacher? That was the question that we were asked this past Wednesday, by a donor that came to our school and spent a few hours walking into classes and talking to some of our staff.

We explained that the virtues of a good teacher are very similar to these of a good student, as teachers are on a constant journey of learning.

I added that these virtues can be found in the list of 16 habits of mind:

• Persisting
• Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision
• Managing Impulsivity
• Gathering Data Through all Senses
• Listening with Understanding and Empathy
• Creating, imagining and Innovation
• Thinking Flexibly
• Responding with Wonderment and Awe
• Thinking about Thinking (Metacognition)
• Taking Responsible Risks
• Striving for Accuracy
• Finding Humor
• Questioning and Posing Problems
• Thinking Interdependently
• Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
• Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

As we started to walk around the school the eyes of the donor lit up - he actually saw these habits in our classrooms. We walked by the first grade (who were having lunch at that time) and I explained how our teachers create, imagine, innovate and connect the book of Bamidbar (Numbers) with a great math lesson on census.

We hopped over to fourth grade to look at the pie charts on the wall connecting self awareness and math. Then we moved to the explorers' unit where our fourth graders learn to see history through a variety of lenses, thinking flexibly and interdependently.

Just before our meeting ended Sarah Shay Davidson grabbed us by the sleeve and took us to her room. She showed our donor who had a major interest in linguistics the wonders of technology in her Hebrew classroom.

Once we left the room the donor approached me and said, "There was one habit missing in your list." "What is that?" I asked. "Excitement" he said. "Did you see how she (Sarah Shay Davidson) sat on the chair? Just like a middle school student? She REALLY loves her profession and is excited about it!"

When we ask God to give us the wisdom to teach in שחרית (the morning service,) we ask that this wisdom be imparted by God into our heart. Heart and not mind.  This is where passion and excitement are born.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Day of Inspiration

Inspiring Jewish souls is our primary goal as a Jewish school. Our school and our classrooms are sacred spaces that nurture our children's natural sense of wonder and radical amazement.  Today was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate that inspiration.

This morning, our Gan Bet families celebrated their milestone at which every student received their Torah journal at the foot of Mount Sinai.  The students proudly shared their work with their families and friends as we all celebrated their wonderful accomplishments.

We were inspired again at our Memorial Day assembly led by Mr. Waldman and our 7th graders.  Verses from Torah mixed with historical narrative and remembrances of fallen soldiers brought us together as a community, proud to be Americans.  A highlight of our program was when we welcomed Elliot Chefitz back to our school.  Elliot attended Kehillah Schechter Academy and is a veteran soldier of both the Iraq and Afganistan wars.  His service was honored with a standing ovation from our students.

Our 7th and 8th graders served on the Sanhedrin (the High Court) as Rabbis Barry Starr and Miriam Spitzer joined Rabbi David in a lively debate about the authority of Torah from Sinai.  (Rabbi David's position won!)

Our day ended with all of our students coming together to create a KSA Torah with words and images of all of the Torah we have received and learned throughout the past year.  Each grade gathered around a large piece of parchment (butcher paper) to record their memories and lessons.  A number of 8th grade "Kohanim" then received these Torah tributes and stitched them together into one long sefer Torah.

In the book of Sh'mot (Exodus) we learn:

וַיֵּצְאוּ כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, מִלִּפְנֵי מֹשֶׁה. כא וַיָּבֹאוּ, כָּל-אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-נְשָׂאוֹ לִבּוֹ; וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר נָדְבָה רוּחוֹ אֹתוֹ, הֵבִיאוּ אֶת-תְּרוּמַת יְהוָה לִמְלֶאכֶת אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וּלְכָל-עֲבֹדָתוֹ, וּלְבִגְדֵי, הַקֹּדֶשׁ.

"Then the whole Israelite community withdrew from Moses’ presence, and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to HASHEM for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments."

Before leaving, the students brought their bikkurim (fruit and vegetables) and placed them in baskets that are being given to the Stoughton food pantry.  There is no greater inspiration than seeing 200+ children all doing a mitzvah together!

Today was a day of inspiration - very much like every day at Kehillah Schechter Academy.

Please don't forget to join us for one of our two upcoming Community Conversations this coming week on Tuesday and Thursday at 7:00pm.  We look forward to seeing you and sharing with you all of the inspiration that is KSA!

D-Res and Rabbi David

Friday, May 18, 2012

Happy Grandparents' and Special Visitors' Day!

Happy Grandparents' and Special Visitors' Day!

It was so wonderful seeing so many generations of the Kehillah Schechter family here today celebrating our community's Jewish and academic values .  Thank you to the entire Grandparents' and Special Visitors' Day team for making today so special.  A special thank you also, to our teachers who welcomed our guests into their classrooms and shared with them the holy work that we do here everyday.

Today, we all celebrated as a school kehillah (community) cherishing our students' talents and reveling in the joy of Shabbat. Then we divided into smaller learning kehillot (learning communities) in which grandparents and special guests joined teachers and students in experiential learning. 

We, along with the entire leadership team and the teachers and staff, have been working hard visioning and dreaming for our future.  Learning in kehillah (community) is an idea that you will hear much more of in the coming weeks.

We are excited to share with you some of our thinking.  We also want to hear from you - your dreams, questions, your comments and insights.  Please mark your calendars and plan on joining us at one of two upcoming KSA Community Conversations - Tuesday evening, May 29th and Thursday evening, May 31 from 7:00pm-9:00pm.  You don't need to come to both but we sincerely hope you will join us for one or the other.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David and Dr. Resnick

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Wonderful Week of Learning

We have had a wonderful week of learning.  Mazal Tov to Gan Aleph who celebrated their milestone on Friday morning.  A special thank you to the board of directors and parents who provided such a beautiful and delicious lunch for our teachers and staff members on Tuesday.  It really was fantastic!

We thought we would share with you a beautiful story, just one of many, from this past week at KSA.  This story comes to us from Michelle Kwitkin-Close, one of our outstanding middle school Judaics teachers.
I'm doing hasheivat ha-aveidah, the laws of returning lost property, in 7th grade Rabbinics and a student came up to me after class last week and said he found $3 on the back table in the classroom. I was sure he was making it up as a test case for what the mishnah says but he assured me that it was real. So we agreed to stash the money underneath a box in the back of the classroom and see if anyone came looking for it. (since the mishnah says that money without any identifiable marks does not need to be "proclaimed.") 
I promptly forgot all about it until this afternoon, after class, the kid reported back to me that the money was still safe in its hiding place. I told him that according to the mishnah's rule, he got to keep it. He smiled and pocketed the cash. 
Then, 5 minutes later, he caught up to me on my way to the photocopying machine, and said that he'd changed his mind.  "You take it, Ms. Kwitkin-Close. Give it to the school -- I'm sure they could use the money for something." 
I came back with a counter-proposal. I asked the student if he'd be willing to go into a lower school classroom to talk to the kids about "lost and found" from a Jewish perspective, to share his story, and to contribute the $3 to their classroom tzedakah box. He was happy with this idea -- and so was Morah Miriam, when I asked her if she'd like Ross Shore, this wonderful middle school student, to come into her class to talk to her kids.
Thank you to all of the parents that stepped into our office to share their support, concern, questions and ideas. Please continue to do so so that our relationships with you can grow and strengthen. And, of course, a special thank you to our teachers who, together with us, are dreaming about the future of our school.  These are exciting times for us; innovation, creativity and spirituality are all coming together in our classrooms and our community!

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Apology and Happy Lag B'Omer

Dear Friends and Families,

This is just a short note to apologize. We had some technical difficulties with our new email address: I think we have them all worked out now. If you didn't receive a prompt response to a message you sent please forgive us. 

Since Thursday is Lag B'Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer, let us be amongst the first to wish you a very happy Lag B'Omer.

Lag B'Omer is a festive day on the Jewish calendar. It is celebrated with outings (on which the children traditionally play with bows and arrows - not at KSA though :), bonfires, and other joyous events. Many visit the resting place (in Meron, northern Israel) of the great sage and mystic Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the anniversary of whose passing is on this day.

Lag B'Omer also commemorates another joyous event. The Talmud relates that in the weeks between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot, a plague raged amongst the disciples of the great sage Rabbi Akiva, “because they did not act respectfully towards each other.” These weeks are therefore observed as a period of mourning, with various joyous activities proscribed by law and custom. On Lag BaOmer the deaths ceased. Thus, Lag B'Omer also carries the theme of the imperative to love and respect one’s fellow (ahavat yisrael).

We hope you'll join us along with many other Jewish communities in the South Area at the annual Lag B'Omer BBQ at Lake Massapoag Thursday evening at 5pm.  The sun should be shining by then according to  You can RSVP here.

If you'd like to learn more about Lag B'Omer, click here for a full and complete treatment courtesy of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

Rabbi David and Dr. Resnick

Friday, May 4, 2012

From Your Heads of School

(This is a longer version, with much more detail, of a letter sent to the KSA community on Friday, May 4, 2012.)

Dear Parents and Friends,

We are both honored and humbled at the opportunity to deepen our involvement with the Kehillah Schechter Academy school and community. We are also so appreciative of your support and trust. Indeed, the work ahead is sacred: To continue building a community of learners and menschen together with you, along with our teachers, our staff, our students, and our supporters. We feel blessed to stand on the shoulders of Jane Cohen and Marc Medwed. We believe that our work together will bring our school to heights we've only dreamed of reaching.

While we come to the table with our different opinions and backgrounds, we also also come with many similarities. Primary amongst them is that there is so much to celebrate about our school. We want to nurture and grow those strengths. At the same time, as the leaders of a Kehillah Kedosha (a spiritual community of learners), we are also committed to doing a cheshbon hanefesh (an honest accounting) of all those aspects of our school that could improve. We believe that growth and renewal are central tenets of Judaism and want to model this for our students.

We are dedicated and determined to teach our students that -- to paraphrase Aristotle -- excellence is a habit. We strive to help each of them become a Jewish citizen of the world that excels in his or her own way and time. We want to teach each child in our school as a whole person. We are devoted to challenging their minds, building their skills, opening their hearts and igniting their spirits.

Academically, we are planning to deepen our commitment to ensure the growth of the students based on their strengths, learning pace and style. The area of academics include content knowledge, skills and attributes (habits of mind). Only by mastering all three pillars can students successfully tackle challenges and confront problems - the answers to which are not immediately known. It is our hope to create personal measurable goals for our students in the areas below; goals that will enable meaningful growth for each student.

Note that these areas are interwoven in all subjects.
  • Communication: “How do I take in and express ideas?” This goal is to be a great communicator: to understand your audience, to write, to read, to speak and listen well, to use technology and artistic expression to communicate, and to be exposed to another language. 
  • Empirical Reasoning: “How do I prove it?” This goal is to think like a scientist: to use empirical evidence and a logical process to make decisions and to evaluate hypotheses. It does not reflect specific science content material, but instead can incorporate ideas from physics to sociology to art theory. 
  • Quantitative Reasoning: “How do I measure, compare or represent it?” This goal is to think like a mathematician: to understand numbers, to analyze uncertainty, to comprehend the properties of shapes, and to study how things change over time. 
  • Social Reasoning: “What are other people’s perspectives on this?” This goal is to think like an historian or anthropologist: to see diverse perspectives, to understand social issues, to explore ethics, and to look at issues historically. 
  • Personal Qualities: “What do I bring to this process?” This goal is to be the best you can be: to demonstrate respect, responsibility, organization, leadership, and to reflect on your abilities and strive for improvement. (Big Picture -
The second area where we hope to grow our academic program is Integrated Curriculum and Project Based Learning. Project based learning (PBL) is a “systematic teaching method that engages students in learning essential knowledge and life-enhancing skills through an extended, student-influenced inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks.” (

In today’s world boundaries between content disciplines disappear and great innovations result from crossing these boundaries. At KSA we want to teach our students to think innovatively and to promote creativity. In the past years students have been engaged in PBLs that integrated Social Studies and Science, Judaics, Hebrew and Science, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and Language Arts. Next year, our lower grades (K-2) will participate in Project Based Learning that integrates STEM, Judaics, Hebrew, Language Arts and Social Studies, with a strong emphasis on computation through robotics. The program, under the auspices of Tufts University and Prof. Marina Berrs, will bring new robotic systems into our K-2 classroom, and will be run by our teachers (following their summer professional development) with the support of students from Prof. Berrs’ lab.

We will continue to introduce similar Project Based Learning in other grades and some of this learning will be done collaboratively with other schools (nationally and internationally) using e-learning techniques.

Hebrew language, Tanakh (Bible), Torah She’b’al Peh (Rabbinics), T’fillah (Prayer), Hagim (Holy Days and Holidays), Mitzvah (Commandments) and Israel are all core elements of our Judaics curriculum and program. This summer we will be looking carefully at each of these areas of study. We will be asking how they integrate with other subjects, how they build and deepen year after year and how they inspire our students to living jewishly. We will explore how we can mesh traditional Jewish learning (Beit Midrash, Chevruta) with 21st century teaching techniques.

Educating the whole child also requires that we nurture our students’ social and emotional intelligence. In 1995, Daniel Goleman's book, Emotional Intelligence, provided exceptional reporting and culling of research on social and emotional competencies.

Goleman's work teaches us that children's emotional and social skills can be cultivated, so that the child will accrue both short-term and long-term advantages in regard to well-being, performance and success in life. He outlines five crucial emotional competencies basic to social and emotional learning:
  • Self and other awareness: understanding and identifying feelings; knowing when one's feelings shift; understanding the difference between thinking, feeling and acting; and understanding that one's actions have consequences in terms of others' feelings. 
  • Mood management: handling and managing difficult feelings; controlling impulses; and handling anger constructively 
  • Self-motivation: being able to set goals and persevere towards them with optimism and hope, even in the face of setbacks 
  • Empathy: being able to put yourself "in someone else's shoes" both cognitively and affectively; being able to take someone's perspective; being able to show that you care 
  • Management of relationships: making friends, handling friendships; resolving conflicts; cooperating; collaborative learning and other social skills (
Because we recognize the centrality of social and emotional intelligences in the well-being and success of our students we place a great emphasis on this at Kehillah Schechter Academy and will continue to do so.

Kehillah Schechter Academy inspires our children to dream, to hope and to believe. Whether we are benching after lunch, playing on the playground, working on our addition, walking through the Gallery of Understanding, or pouring over a novel, our goal is to ignite our students’ spirits. We want our children to love God and be empowered to find their place in the larger Jewish community and the world.

Ours is a diverse Jewish community and we seek to bring everyone from every corner into our sukkat shalom, our tent of peace. We are also dedicated to the principles of Conservative Judaism. We believe that serious Jewish learning, a life filled with mitzvot (commandments) and Jewish ritual, and daily prayer nourish the soul.

While these are some of our thoughts and our dreams, it’s important to remember that we are only two people, and we are not alone. We are part of a team - a team of amazing administrators and educators. Ivonne Krasnick, Richard Waldman and Russ Lavoie round out our Leadership Team and the five of us are working around the clock and bringing all of our skills together to lead our beloved school into the 21st century.

Our Leadership Team knows, with complete certainty, that each and every one of our teachers and staff members are vital contributors to our professional team. We value every single one of them and are working with them to craft an innovative, exciting and serious academic program.

Finally, we also look forward to continuing our partnership with you in this effort. We recognize the importance of good communication as we move forward. Everything possible will be done to keep you in the loop as we work tirelessly this spring, summer and into the new school year.

Toward that end, we have created a new email address: When you send a message to this address, both of us will receive your message. Unless your message is directed specifically to one of us, you will likely hear back from David. Of course, you can continue to reach both of us individually at our respective email addresses: and

In the past four days, we have learned much about each other. (Having shared many trips to Israel together, we did have a jump start.) David stays up very late and leaves dozens of emails in Nitzan’s inbox for the morning. Nitzan wakes up very early and returns the favor. We’re feeling a little bit like one of those mythical two-headed creatures and we’re loving it.

Friends, we have great things to celebrate and more great things to look forward to. It is a wonderful journey and we are proud to share it with you.

Dr. Nitzan Resnick and Rabbi David Paskin

Friday, April 6, 2012

Learning and Growing Through the Years--a Pesach Narrative

I am pleased to share this d'var torah written by Kaitlyn, one of our 8th graders and delivered to the Board of Trustees at its meeting earlier this week.  These words are a true testament to the impact of a KSA education.


           At each Passover Seder we say  ohrmn tmh tuv ukhtf unmg ,utrk ost chhj rusu rus kfc 
in each and every generation a person is obligated to see himself as if he had gone out of Egypt.

Looking back at my life before I came to Schechter, the entire holiday of Passover was just a story to me. It was something that I didn’t really connect with, and didn’t celebrate more than watching The Prince of Egypt. All Passover meant to me was a quick 10 minute service, where we skipped around and read everything in English. As my years at Schechter went on, I learned more and more about the holiday, starting with learning the plagues, then continuing to learn the whole Seder, and being able to read it in English as well as Hebrew. Since then, our family Seder has progressed from a quick re-telling of the story to a traditional Seder, including English and Hebrew readings and a real Passover dinner. In 6th grade, we made the final leap by deciding that we would keep fully kosher for Passover, using different plates, cleaning the house and only eating kosher food.

Since coming to Schechter all those years ago, I have learned so much about my Jewish identity. I have learned how to keep kosher, how to carry out a real Seder and how to connect the Passover story to real life, just to name a few. In 7th grade, we wrote about the connections of slavery in 1800’s America to the Jewish slavery in Egypt. It was then that I was finally able to fully connect with my Jewish roots to Passover. I can now read the Hagada each year and see myself as someone who has been brought out of Egypt, rather than an onlooker who didn’t fully understand. Had it not been Schechter, I would be waiting for another typical week of school, rather than scrubbing my house for Passover. I would be taking out my DVD of The Prince of Egypt, preparing to complete our one holiday ritual. Instead, I am preparing to lead my family Seder, as I have done since I learned to read Hebrew. I know that without the help of our school, my Judaism would be nowhere near as important to me as it is now, and I am so thankful that I have had the opportunity to connect with and learn about it. 

Wishing everyone a Hag Kasher v'Sameah,

Marc Medwed, Head of School

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Synthetic Biology Science Fair Project

I am excited to share this blog written by some of our 7th graders for the science fair! I am so proud of the amazing experiments that they are doing and look for more information about our school-wide science fair on April 20 and the Jewish Day School Science Expo on April 29.  Both events will feature the amazing work that our our students are doing this year in Science!

Marc Medwed, Head of School

by Emily, Sarah, Josh and Aaron
As students of the 7th grade at Kehillah Schechter Academy, we are participating in the school science fair.  This year, our grade’s topic is “Bacteriology in the 21st century”.  Our two science fair groups, consisting of Joshua, Aaron, Emily, Sarah, Mira, Leah, Erez and Jerry did a project on synthetic biology.  Synthetic biology is about engineering and redesigning biological systems to construct or produce new functions.
Our specific project is genetically engineered bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics and bioluminescent. We asked if we can reverse the ability of the DNA to bio luminesce by mutating it, using UV irradiation.  We transformed bacteria with DNA that was either not treated (control) or exposed to UV irradiation. Transformation means, making bacteria permeable so they can uptake foreign DNA. When the bioluminescent bacteria were exposed to a handheld UV light in the dark, we could see all of the different bacteria colonies light up (A- look below).  Bacteria that were transformed UV irradiated DNA did not glow (B-see below). We thoroughly enjoyed our science fair experiment, and we were extremely happy with our results.

Figure A - Control                                
Figure B – UV irradiated DNA

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Letter from the Board and our Head of School

Dear KSA parents,

We would like to communicate with you, our parents, directly, openly and honestly about important developments at KSA.

KSA is Academically Strong
We want to frame our comments with the fact that KSA is thriving educationally. Under the guidance of our outstanding faculty, our students are achieving magnificently and we maintain our reputation in the community as a school that serves a wide range of learners in innovative and engaging ways. As a result of our strong academics, we look forward in the coming months to sharing some exciting and significant initiatives we are undertaking as a school in the areas of educational technology, science, project-based learning and Judaic Studies.  These initiatives are products of our extremely creative, thoughtful and forward thinking faculty. 

We are Still Recovering from the Economic Downturn
Within the context of this warm and caring community, the school is facing financial challenges.  Much of this was explained in communications from the Board of Trustees, in parlor meetings, and on the school blog.  Since the turn of the economy in 2008, our school has managed to weather the downturn and support and retain all families who wanted to be a part of our school community, regardless of their ability to pay the tuition.  We did this with the hope that the economy would turn around and that the families who lost the ability to pay the full tuition would soon be able to do so again.  Unfortunately, although the economy is beginning to show signs of recovery, we as a school have not yet fully recovered and can no longer provide the kind of financial aid that was given in the past and still be fiscally responsible.  Because of this, the Board of Trustees instructed school leadership to create a sustainable budget moving forward to strengthen the foundation of the school and limit its vulnerability going forward. 

Each and Every Family is Significant to our Community
We hope every family in the community recognizes how valuable we feel each and every one is to the fabric of our school.  Russ Lavoie, our Director of Finance and Operations and Sandy Spector, our Business Manager, are meeting one on one with families to make every attempt to keep each family in the school.  The Board and the school leadership are working together to actively seek additional scholarship support from inside and outside the community; we have some promising leads. We realize that despite these efforts some families’ needs might not be met and they will feel the need to make the choice to leave.  This concerns us greatly and is a situation we bear with a heavy heart.

Ensuring Long-Term Sustainability
These circumstances will likely result in a lower overall school enrollment and therefore require a concomitant right-sizing of our faculty and staff.  Out of respect for our current faculty and staff, we have already been talking about staffing changes. We want to give as much notice as possible to those affected so that each can make the best decisions for him/herself and his/her family.  We are deeply saddened to see any of our faculty leave us and we well understand that it is upsetting for many in the community.  We recognize that in order for our school to emerge from this economic downturn stronger we must be fiscally responsible and sadly this is one of the areas where change will have to occur in order to provide for future sustainability. 

Honoring our Faculty and Staff
Later in the year, at the appropriate time, we will honor and more publicly express our deep appreciation to those who have given so much of themselves to our children.  We will always be grateful for their contributions to the life of our school.

Mobilizing Regional Support
With all of the challenges we are facing, we want to reassure the community that our school leadership and Board are working tirelessly to secure the future of the school.  Through our efforts, we have been able to open doors to supporters of Jewish education in the Greater Boston community.  Our unique role in the rich landscape of Jewish day schools in the region is highly valued by these community leaders.  We have made new inroads with these donors and are receiving significant interest and support. We are confident of the community’s commitment to our continued growth and success.

Looking Ahead
At KSA, our strength is our Kehillah, our community.  Although change is hard, we know that together we will secure our future as a premier Jewish day school in the greater Boston and greater Providence areas. Together we will continue on the path with an engaging and vibrant Jewish and secular education in a warm, nurturing environment.  Please know and remember that our core, our essence, and our mission are not changing. 

Call to Action
Finalizing our student enrollment for the coming year is critical for our planning efforts.  Our staffing is driven by confirmed matriculation (actual signed tuition agreements and financial aid awards). So what we are asking you to do is the following:
•             Complete and submit all necessary forms for enrollment now
•             If appropriate, schedule an appointment with Russ Lavoie to engage in the financial aid process
•             Join us at Chaijinks as we celebrate our community
•             Engage with us as we recommit to a culture of philanthropy

We look forward to a bright future together and as always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to be in touch with us, as we would love to speak with you.

Kol tuv,

Marc Medwed                                                            Michael Agus
Head of School                                                          President, Board of Trustees

Friday, March 16, 2012

8th Grade Israel Reflection: My Experience at the Kotel

On Friday night in Israel, every member of the class had a choice of to either pray at a Synagogue in Jerusalem, or, to pray at the Kotel. The teachers told us that it would be immensely crowded at the Kotel, and that it might not be the best experience. Putting that aside, I decided to go. In early evening, Jared, Wesley, Eric, Mr. Pankin, Rabbi David, Adam B., Gabe, Jonah, Sam R., Daniel and I began our walk to the Kotel. When we arrived and looked at the area surrounding the Kotel, we were all in awe. We saw hundreds and hundreds of Jews praying there. In fact, there were so many Chasidic Jews there; it looked as though the area neighboring the Kotel was completely covered with beautiful black carpet.
            As we entered the main area, in front of the Kotel, I started to feel more and more like I belonged. As I looked around, I noticed that there was so much spirit in those who were praying. For instance, I noticed one minyan with around 60 or 70 Jewish men, and they were dancing and singing with all their hearts, as if they were the happiest men alive. Once I saw this, I felt like I was just truly accepted into the most prestigious club that is Judaism. Once we arrived at the Kotel itself,  Rabbi David then told us to go out and find an area at the Kotel, or a minyan to join. Then someone asked, “Why don’t we have our own minyan?” and, since we were ten Bar Mitzvahs, we made our own minyan.  We started singing and dancing just like the other people around us, and I, for the first time in my whole life, felt proud to be Jewish. At that moment, I wanted to pray, I wanted to wear a kipah, and I wanted to be Jewish. 
            This moment meant just as much to me then as it does now. At the very moment when I was singing with all my friends at the Kotel, I felt the spiritual connection that I have been reflecting on since that very day. When I was at the Kotel, I just remember thinking about how much fun I was having, and how I should not take that moment for granted because it was such a unique experience.  In addition, I was thinking about why all the Chassidic Jews, wearing long black coats and black hats, were looking at us so strangely. We were Jews just like the rest of the Jews there; we just didn’t look like them. Perhaps, in their eyes, one has to look Jewish to be Jewish. This moment is important for me because it helped me connect with my Jewish identity, in the spiritual sense. It helped me discover what it is like to have a true connection to ones religion. This moment proves that all opinions can change, and that no matter how confident one is about his religion, all his opinions are subject to change. I will always think about my faith differently because of this moment. However, this moment has not made me feel more religious, it has made me feel more connected with my religion.
            Traveling to the Kotel is one of the most beneficial opportunities in life. This is so, because it is a site that can teach people how to understand themselves and their religion. Every person who visits the Kotel will have a different experience. One may discover his true Jewish identity and perhaps become more observant.  One may not have any meaningful experience at all. My personal experience, however, has taught me to feel pride in my religion, and to truly grasp the importance of being a Jew. The Kotel is a place where one can truly discover his true identity as a Jew and as an individual.   “The real meditation is... the meditation on one's identity. Ah, voil? une chose!! You try it. You try finding out why you're you and not somebody else” (Ezra Pound). Ezra Pound is saying that finding out who one is really, or finding one’s true identity, is the greatest source of meditation, and the Kotel is one of the places that helps accomplish that goal. 

By Jacob, 8th Grade Student 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Breaking Through the Wall

Late on our first Thursday night in Israel, the sky was dark but the Kotel was brightly lit and surrounded by Jews. With my friends, we made our way down to the women’s section of the Kotel. I stepped up to the holy wall, and placed a hand lightly on the cold stone. At that moment, I realized that the entire Jewish population is connected and we give each other strength. We all come from different backgrounds but we are all united by our beliefs, our history, and our home: Israel. 
            The Kotel is much more than the only remaining wall of the temple; it is the holiest place on earth for Jews. The scene can not be compared to any other; the joy and sadness can not be described with the words in the English vocabulary. Hope-filled notes poured out of the cracks of the sacred western wall and crouching women prayed silently, tears streaming down their faces. Standing a few feet away from the wall with my fellow classmates, I was starting to wonder if I should come closer. I felt God’s presence at the wall, and each step I took brought me closer and closer to God. This new feeling scared me; nevertheless, I pushed myself towards the holiest place on earth. I clutched my note, folded it twice, and made sure that I had remembered to include wishes for my entire family. Carefully, I placed my note into a crack that resembled a broken star. Studying the wall carefully, I noticed scratches that came together to take on the image of a chickadee on a perch. I ran my hand cautiously along the indents. The uneven, cold stones felt smooth against my palm. Quietly, along with all the praying women, I began to cry. For some reason, being close to God in a way that I had never been before was too much for me to handle. I closed my eyes, inhaled deeply, and began to pray. 
            At that moment, the amount of anxiety and delight of this new experience prevented me from understanding the connection I had found to my history and my home. Looking back, I can see that the Jews have made it, against all odds. Many others have tried to destroy our religion and erase our beliefs but we have always chosen to rise above them. Twice Israel’s largest temples have been demolished and yet we still have the Kotel and may freely pray there. In Russia, my family was denied freedom of religion and were kept from studying Jewish history. They were persecuted and robbed; nonetheless, they combined their strength and survived multiple pogroms. Prior to my visit to the Kotel, I was sure that there would always be certain obstacles that I could not tackle, situations I could not change. Now I know that Judaism gives one power to prevail.
            After long thought, I made sense of all that I have learned on my Israel trip: trust in God and knowledge of history lead individuals onward. Not only did I discover my relationship to Jewish peoplehood, I also discovered the link that I created between my family’s history in Russia and the new generation. Similar to the Kotel’s role in Judaism, I am the only piece of the puzzle that is left. Daily, I must feed information from the Torah to those family members who never had the opportunity to learn. Not unlike Elie Wiesel’s responsibility to share the knowledge of the Holocaust, I must be the messenger maintaining belief and hope.

By Sasha, 8th Grader

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Climb up Masada

            Who knew Masada could be so hard on your thighs? Well I sure didn't! Each step I took up the rocky, steep Masada killed. It was around 9:30 in the morning, deep in the Negev. Despite it being very chilly outside, as I was walking up Masada, I was sweating so much that I didn't even realize it. Talya and I were behind the rest of our class, which was about five minutes up the mountain from us. Climbing Masada made me realize the climb was the easiest part of Masada, and well of Judaism. The hardest part was ignoring the temptations of sitting down or drinking water. Similarly in Judaism the hardest part is ignoring the temptations of the modern world.
            We woke up very early at 9:30 in the morning and had breakfast at the Masada Guest House. We then proceeded to hike towards Masada, and then eventually, we were at Masada. It was very cold. I remember asking myself how could I ever scale Masada in this weather! As I took my first step I was overwhelmed with pride. I felt like I could do it easily. I was wrong. About 3 minutes in I fell behind my friends. I watched them continue their gossip without me. They were walking so normally, not even flinching, while I was struggling to keep myself walking at a normal pace. I found myself talking with Talya. I remember I could hear the wind as I got higher and higher up Masada. It was almost like I could feel the wind dancing around me, and at the same moment cooling me down. I refused to drink water while going up Masada because I felt it was immodest. I wanted to experience the full climb, without any help whatsoever. I could feel the sweat trickling down my head, but at the same time I couldn't feel it. It was like I was aware, but I wasn't. Those of you who have climbed Masada will know what I mean. Every step I took brought great pain to my body, but I knew I had to keep on going; I couldn't give in to the temptation, I had to keep a steady pace. So I decided to run ahead of my group, and then in less than 5 minutes, I was ahead and on my own. It felt so liberating, running up Masada.
            Running up Masada, and not giving into the temptations of sitting down, or drinking water really changed me. It let me know that I had the stuff in me. I thought to myself whenever I saw a nice looking rock to collapse on, "I can do this. This is nothing to what the Jews during the Holocaust had to suffer through." Since I am currently studying the Holocaust in Humanities with Ms. Novick, that statement I made was very powerful for me. I decided that I was going to do this climb for me, and also for the Jews who suffered through the Holocaust. I had to not think about the burning pain that I endured after each unbearable step that I took. 
            I feel that in our school we are very much sheltered. All we know is the Israel we are taught about in class. All we know is the Judaism we are taught in our class. But once you travel to Israel, the way you look about Israel and Judaism changes drastically. Israel becomes so much more than Israel. Israel becomes spiritual, and almost like a language. You have to learn it, speak it and you have to use it. And Judaism doesn't feel Jewish, it feels like history, unlike in America, where it is branded Jewish. In Israel ­it is easier to resist the temptations that are put in front of you. I was always one to ask why Israel was so important, and I always use to say that America is our home, but Israel is our home. I was not able to understand what that meant fully until I traveled to Israel. What I mean by this is that the meaning of the word home changes drastically once you travel to Israel. For instance, I have 3 homes; America, Israel, and Cambodia. When you travel to Israel you understand fully what home means, and you open your heart to Israel and really accept it as your home. 

By Gabe, 8th Grader

Monday, March 12, 2012

Each Flame a Soul

    “One candle for each child. One flame for each innocent soul lost forever.” These words, spoken by our tour guide as we neared the exhibit, are just one out of the countless ways to describe the children’s memorial at Yad Vashem.
            As I followed behind the rest of my class through the stone doors of the children’s memorial, each step I took brought me farther and farther away from the reassuring rays of sunlight. All side conversations between friends faded to a dull whisper as we soon became blinded by the unnerving darkness that filled the seemingly endless hallway. Struggling to navigate our way through the vast artificial night, I sensed the tension almost radiating from those around me. Even though we had just entered the exhibit, I felt the need to run back the way I came, back towards the comforting daylight and away from the sadness and misery of our history that hung in the air just as prominently as the silence. Despite my longing to escape, I acknowledged that bearing witness to the millions of lives portrayed in the exhibit was our obligation to the victims, the children, the Jewish people. My obligation.
            The instant that I walked into the main exhibit, I felt my heart momentarily stop beating. As my eyes adjusted to the newly-found light, I gazed all around me in awe. Everywhere I looked, flickering candles seemed to float in midair, glowing radiantly from their positions filling every inch of the room. They resembled stars, shining in the night sky and looking down on the earth from above. A deep voice began to speak, the names it mentioned echoing mournfully around the exhibit. “Sara, age nine. Murdered. Rivkah, age fourteen. Murdered.” Each name caused my heart to beat faster and faster. The ages of the victims seemed to become increasingly younger; some of the children mentioned being under thirteen and even small infants. I tried to assign each candle I spotted to one of the victims, but soon lost track of the never-ending list of names. Each flame a lost soul. Who might have the children been before the horrific events that cut their lives so unjustly short? Who might have they became if they had been spared? Had they also enjoyed reading, or drawing, or writing stories? Had they dreams for their futures, the futures that they would never have the chance to live?
            These were the thoughts that flowed through my mind in an endless stream, replacing those that I had first been contemplating on the way to the exhibit. The thoughts that now seemed to be shallow and unimportant, compared to all the misery and suffering that I had just became aware to. So many candles, so many souls. In this moment as I made my way through the exhibit by candlelight, I listened to each name spoken and resolved never to take life for granted again. How could I continue to live and breathe everyday and not think much of that blessing, especially now when I was beginning to understand just how many victims never had the chance to do so? Even the ground that I was walking on, Israeli ground, was something that so many longed to experience and longed to escape to. I was given the chance that so many others were not; a chance at life.
            All of humanity has an obligation to its past. History is not something that we should run away from, or deny, or believe to be separate from ourselves and our identities just because it hasn’t happened to us personally. Rather, we are obligated to learn from the past and keeping those memories alive. Through our connection to Jewish Peoplehood, we inherit our religious culture, but more importantly, we inherit the responsibility to Jewish history. We often focus more on the future rather than the past, never truly understanding the significance it has on our lives. By doing so, we are ignoring a large fraction of our identity. Visiting Yad Vashem caused me to further acknowledge my role as a listener and messenger in memorializing the Jewish past and gaining a better awareness of history. The knowledge that we obtain while bearing witness to  the past must then be imparted to others, fulfilling the burden that has been set upon the Jewish Peoplehood ever since the horrific occurrence that is the Holocaust.  Israel is a unique place where history becomes more prominent through learning and experiences that enable one to create a deeper connection to the past. Students should travel to Israel in order to create this connection. Israel has many learning opportunities for students and others who wish to discover more about themselves and the factors that make up their identity, including their religious roots. If one stops learning and passing down one’s history, than the past will be lost and forgotten. Consequently, without trips to Israel and other similar learning experiences, humanity and specifically Jewish Peoplehood loses knowledge of significant events in history and their identity. Humanity must keep those candles burning for all eternity, a memory preserved in a single flame, a soul living on through its golden light. 

By Avital, 8th Grade Student