By School Rabbi and Middle School Principal Fred Elias
…You shall take of the first of every fruit of the ground that you bring in from your Land that your God gives you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that your God, will choose…(Deuteronomy. 26:2 – ספר דברים)
In the first few weeks of the school year, we read Parshat Kee Tavo, which describes the ritual of Bikkurim, first fruits. At the outset, Moses instructs the Israelites regarding Vidui Bikkurim, the story that one must tell upon bringing first fruits into the Land of Israel. Each year, when our Eighth Graders read this Parasha, I get goosebumps from knowing this will be the same Torah portion they will read on Yom Ha’atzmaut [a national Independence Day tradition] during their upcoming Annual Israel Encounter. As someone who has led this immersive journey for a decade – and has witnessed this transformational event first-hand – I always note the moment that our graduating Eighth Graders come to fully understand and appreciate the culmination of their deep learning and pure joy of what it means to be part of a Kehillah [community]. This realization is something they will not only take with them when they graduate, but that will become a focal point of their personal Schechter journey. They learn to be role models to our Kindergartners through Binyan Buddies [“Building Friends”], to mentor our incoming Sixth Graders; spearhead Hesed initiatives, and train to lead school-wide Lag B’Omer celebrations and run student organizations like Knesset HaTalmidim [student senate]. That is why the Vidui Bikkurim story they may share now and the one they will feel moved to tell next spring, continues to expand. As a school, we look forward to being part of this remarkable process as they create lifetime memories and begin to see themselves as future leaders and change-makers in the years long after they graduate from Schechter.