A great privilege of my more than twelve years at Schechter Manhattan has been watching our students grow. The 5-year-olds who join us in Gan mature into self-reflective, motivated, and thoughtful teenagers. And while I am always sad when our students leave us, I am also super proud of each and every one of them. I am impressed over and over by these accomplished, menschlich, strongly Jewishly identified young people – the Schechter Manhattan alumni.
Our alumni are doing many amazing things. Younger alumni are thriving in a diverse array of excellent NYC high schools and colleges. Older alumni are studying in professional schools and moving into the workforce. It is always great when alumni come by to visit and share what is going on in their lives. Recent alumni visitors included a high school senior, who was proud to have just been accepted early to the college of his choice. Another, who is working at a university abroad doing academic research on artificial intelligence, only had a few days in New York and chose to spend some of her time visiting Schechter Manhattan. She told me she was nostalgic for where she had grown up, and she was thrilled to sit in on some classes and join me for Kabalat Shabbat with the Gan. The Gan students thought is was fun to have her visit, too.
This was not the first time that an alum came by while traveling through NYC. Last fall an alumnus who had moved to Israel with his family after graduation was traveling in New York after finishing his service as a medic in the Israel Defense Forces. Before he headed off for post-army travel in India, he came by to catch up with me and the other Schechter Manhattan faculty members who worked with him. He said that he wanted to visit because during his time at Schechter Manhattan, he felt part of a community and that those years had a profound and positive impact on him. He attributes core values that he carries in his adult life to experiences he had and things he learned here at Schechter Manhattan.
This is true of many Schechter Manhattan alumni. They share with us how their Schechter Manhattan experience shaped their skills and values. When alumni are in touch with me, they often reflect about the impact of their Schechter Manhattan education. Some of the things they have shared…
- My Schechter Manhattan education truly gave me the skills essential to my growth outside of the school. It gave me a view of who I am as a student and what helps me to best reach my full potential.
- In some classes we have socratic seminars every couple of weeks in which the teacher puts a broad question on the board, and we simply have the entire class period to discuss the question and argue with each other. The way that Schechter Manhattan helped is that I notice that many kids are not used to this type of classroom environment and structure and are too afraid to speak, while we were already having these types of discussions in elementary school.
- Schechter Manhattan instilled within me a deep love for Judaism and the Jewish people, that has propelled my involvement with Hillel on campus.
- Schechter Manhattan has been a huge part of who I am. As an elementary school student, I was nurtured with a love of learning. As a middle school student, I was prepared to face the academic and personal struggles of high school.
- Schechter Manhattan nurtured my intellectual curiosity, my critical analysis skills, and my sense of mindfulness towards the world around me, and helped lay the foundation of my present interests and passions.
I am very pleased that our pride in the Schechter Manhattan alumni is being given new expression in the Schechter Manhattan Alumni Leadership Award. The Schechter Manhattan Alumni Leadership Award honors alumni who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in the areas of Jewish communal engagement or social action. This award recognizes the alumni who are living out the Schechter Manhattan mission: confidently going forth to meet the intellectual, social, and moral challenges of today’s world, poised not only to do well in life, but also to do good in the world.
Last spring we honored Avital Morris (Class of 2008), who, among other accomplishments, founded a teen beit midrash at Chicago’s Congregation Rodfei Zedek while she was in college, to share her love of Torah learning with young people in her community. The award will be presented this year at the Schechter Manhattan Gala on Monday, April 8, 2019. We are now accepting nominations for the 2019 Alumni Leadership Award. Nominees should be 18 years of age or older and either Schechter Manhattan graduates or Schechter Manhattan students for at least 5 years. Schechter Manhattan alumni, parents, faculty, or any other member of the community are invited to submit nominations through February 4, 2019. Click here to access the nomination form.
I hope that you will join in expressing our pride in Schechter Manhattan alumni who live out our school’s values and aspirations. They are forging the Jewish community of the future.