This time Ha’Ikar is about relationships. Relationships are the foundation of a vibrant school, and one of our school’s goals this year is to strengthen relationships and build community. As someone new, I am forming new relationships with so many of you and your children. It’s very important to me that I know every child in our school, and not just by name, but also by his and her likes/dislikes, strengths and challenges. My goal is to get to know the parents, as well, so we can work together and create the best possible experience for the children.
My faculty and staff know that relationships are a priority.  During the August professional development week with faculty and staff, I showed them a short TED talk which underscored the importance of building strong relationships with students (see the note on the bottom). You can probably recall the name of a teacher who made all the difference in your life; my hope for your child and your family is that it won’t be just one teacher, but rather the entire experience of a Cohen Hillel education that makes a difference. If you were at the Annual Meeting, you heard multiple people speak about how a teacher or staff member from our school touched their lives. Cohen Hillel makes that kind of an impact because of relationships.  

In this age of technology, where we can find information and learn anything via the Internet at any time, in any place, what makes school a unique experience is that children are exploring, experimenting, and synthesizing in community with their peers and their teachers. Relationships are ha’ikar; they can’t be replaced or substituted by technology no matter how powerful. Technology is a tool that this year we are using to connect students to each other and our content during and outside of school hours. Technology is also being used to connect parents with the content and learning that is happening in their child’s classroom every day. The CHA Commons enables parents to see, hear, and read about a child’s experiences. Parents, I hope you’ve had a chance to visit your child’s classroom site; there’s so much to see and learn.

A dear friend, rabbi, and teacher of mine once said, “At Jewish day schools, we are all teachers of Torah.” This phrase was meant to inspire every one of us, Jewish, non-Jewish, teacher, or staff member to get involved and model kindness, compassion, and justice in all our interactions.  So too, is my charge to our faculty and staff. Relationships know no boundaries. It’s why our business manager, Will Potter, joined us for Tashlich and found himself holding hands with a kindergartner as they walked to the beach for Tashlich. It’s our 4/5th grade and 6/7th students forming friendships that aren’t confined by age during electives, tefila, and PE. It’s why our middle school leadership team welcomed every new student personally to our school with a card on the first day. These are small moments that make a big difference and will ultimately define how our students feel and remember our school in years to come.  Relationships are ha’ikar and our students will learn, be inspired, and have the courage to stumble and soar in a school community where they feel supported, known, and connected to the adults are around them. What more could we want?