Switching our three children into Solomon Schechter from their Modern Orthodox day school four years ago required a literal leap of faith. Our oldest was going into 7 th grade – Bar/BatMitzvah year – and we worried that he would feel isolated in his Shomer Shabbat observance of not driving on Shabbat.
Turned out, all that worry was for naught. We were pleasantly surprised to find each grade had a few Shomer Shabbat families; and the families that were not Shomer Shabbat went out of their way to make sure that the Shomer Shabbat kids in his grade were fully accommodated so that they could participate in each simcha. Gabriel and his crew of four dubbed themselves“The Shomer Crew” and enjoyed Friday night dinners together and Shabbos sleepovers in homes within walking distance to shuls all over Nassau County, trudging to shul during one particularly snowy Shabbos morning, and, in the Spring, enjoying the sunshine of a beautiful Shabbos afternoon at a local park in Great Neck.
My son is in 11 th grade now, and when I asked him recently if he wished we had sent him to a Modern Orthodox high school, he shook his head and explained that being at Schechter,surrounded by kids of all levels of observance, allowed him to determine for himself the kind of Jew he wanted to be, and the level of observance he wished to have without feeling it forced on him from above. For my son, that means continuing to self-identify proudly as a Modern Orthodox Jew. And it also means getting a top-notch secular education, which was our number one reason for transferring our children into Schechter in the first place. Schechter is a small school, but it is mighty. Opportunities to shine and succeed are in abundance, encouraged by teachers and administrators who go out of their way to bring out the best in their students. We knew Gabriel would never be invisible, that he would never fall through a crack. His teachers at Schechter have always understood his strengths and weaknesses, applauding his successes,supporting him when he struggles, and holding him accountable for his failures when he could have, and should have, done better. Through teacher encouragement, Gabriel also joined, and has flourished, as part of the high school’s drama club, and was also persuaded to participate in after-school sports. When not at drama practice, Gabriel has enjoyed playing baseball, soccer,ultimate frisbee, and competed in track for the Schechter Lions.
We couldn’t be happier with the excellent foundation Gabriel and his two younger siblings have received in both secular and Jewish studies, and with the incredible bonds they have formed with many of the faculty, which have helped them to develop perspective and confidence. We have found the other parents in the school to be understanding, respectful and mindful of our Shabbat and Kosher observance. My children couldn’t be happier; and neither could we.