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Schechter Bergen: An Inclusive Community

Through our Jewish tradition and Schechter Core Values it is our goal to help our students to grow into knowledgeable, values-centered, action-oriented Jews who view others with respect and understanding.

Children learn through what we say and, more often, by what we do.  All too frequently Jews speak disrespectfully about fellow Jews who choose to live and practice Judaism differently from themselves. It is something I have never been able, or will ever be able, to understand. This intolerance also extends to varying political views and to people who look different or may have a different gender or sexual orientation. Our tradition demands that we do better, and I know that at Schechter, we aspire to do so. 

Recently, the Schechter Board of Trustees reaffirmed what kind of Jewish community we aspire to be each and every day. Schechter is a halachic and egalitarian Jewish community day school that fosters an environment where Jewish children and their families can come together to celebrate all that we have in common and to learn how to accept our differences in a non-threatening and respectful way. We remain deeply committed to halacha within the school environment to ensure the maximum inclusion of Jews wanting this educational experience.  We also respect each families’ decision to practice Judaism as they believe at home.

Egalitarianism remains a central part of who we are, understanding that there are different interpretations of what egalitarianism may mean to different people and groups. Schechter Bergen is the only school in our community that embraces this type of diversity and approach.

While the school community fully embraces a halachic and egalitarian approach to Jewish life and ritual, we also want to foster an understanding of the alternative approaches to Judaism and a respect for an individual Jew to choose their way of creating a meaningful relationship with God and the Jewish people. While we do not have to agree or embrace a particular approach to ritual, it is important to acknowledge and respect the rights of others. We all want to be respected for our choices, and we have an obligation to afford others the same respect. This is taught and promoted at Schechter Bergen.

The school environment is a place to have these discussions and to explore our collective story and our sometimes different approaches to God and Judaism.  The home is the place to clarify, with your children, your personal beliefs and practices and to guide your children as to how you approach God and Jewish practices.

Creating a diverse, yet respectful Jewish learning community at Schechter, is both exciting and wonderfully challenging. By offering different experiences and allowing our children to ask probing questions, we remain steadfast in our commitment to help our students grow into committed, knowledgeable, and practicing Jews.

We are proud that our inclusivity extends beyond Jewish Identity. Inclusivity, for us, means welcoming all Jews – for each individual is created B’tzelem Elokim (in the image of God). Last spring the Board of Trustees approved a broad and inclusive Statement of Welcome to Schechter to reinforce this. It states:

“Our school community reflects the diversity of the Jewish people. We are all races and ethnicities, gender identities and expressions, sexual orientations, socioeconomic classes, political views, abilities, and Jewish backgrounds. We honor the diversity of Jewish life and reflect it in our values, curriculum, and community.”

At Schechter we want our warm Kehillah to represent the ideals that while each person is sacred, that sacredness comes, in part, from our diversity. There is more than one way to be human – to be Jewish. We want to create an environment where children can grow confidently in their beliefs and values and see the wisdom in unity, not uniformity.  Ultimately, we hope that each person can see the kedusha (the holiness) in each individual – celebrating what makes us similar and different.

2 Comments

  • moshe edelman - November 4, 2021

    Mr Freedman and the SSDS Board

    KOL HAKAVOD.
    Beautifully stated.
    Well intentioned.
    Challenge to be initiated and inculcated in each grade and each child
    and to each family.
    Proud to be a Schechter Zeyde ( and Abba )

    Reb Moshe

    Reply
    • Steve Freedman - November 4, 2021

      Thank you!

      Reply

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