Last month I had a chance to spend some extra time with our religious school families, teachers and staff at both the May family service and the teacher appreciation ceremony on the last day of religious school. On both occasions, I was reminded of the amazing effort put forth by our teachers, our madrichim, our musicians, our staff and administration, and our Rabbi to make our children’s and families’ experiences so rich.
On Friday night, the sanctuary was full (literally full!) of families, sometimes three generations deep, who were there to celebrate Shabbat, sing along with Seth and Eitan, and to encourage their children as they led prayers and songs from the bimah. The joy on the faces of adults and children alike was truly infectious. But what struck me the most were the teachers. Whether they were kneeling in the aisle coaching the littlest ones through their song, or directing kids on and off the bimah, or sitting proudly in the pew while the older ones led a prayer, their commitment to our children was palpable.
On Sunday morning, as thank you’s and presents were being handed out, it was again clearly apparent how much our teachers love their students and their work. As each teacher or madrichim received their award, a roar went up from the kids in their particular class, further expanding their joy. When Toby Koritsky, our Education Director, thanked the teachers for giving up their Sunday mornings to teach our kids, I was reminded of the many Sundays when I brought my own kids to religious school. I thanked the teachers for making it easier to get them out of bed and to school on time — they created a learning atmosphere that was worth getting up for! These teachers continue to create an atmosphere of positive energy that excites and inspires their students.
I had the special honor on Sunday, along with Toby and Rabbi, of recognizing and thanking Debbie Cooper for her incredible efforts as the school’s administrator. In that role, Debbie has gone above and beyond to make the school run seamlessly, managing countless tasks behind the scenes while making children and parents feel welcome. Debbie planned to retire last year but offered to stay on one more year to ensure a smooth transition between Lauren’s and Toby’s leadership — another example of her dedication!
As we address our financial issues this year, including seeking ways to manage our expenses, several people have asked me about the religious school. The concern is usually about the congregation ‘subsidizing’ the cost of the school. And, it’s a great question. Religious school fees cover about 70% of the expense of running our school. We have bumped up tuition by 2% for the coming year and we’ve increased class fees for preschool classes. The rest of the school’s expenses are covered by a portion of each of our annual commitments. This support of the school fulfills our sacred responsibility as a congregational family, to instill in our children a Jewish identity and a love for Jewish learning. It is also consistent with one of the goals of our strategic plan — to enrich the Jewish education of families with children from birth to 18 years. Watching the children and their parents on that weekend in May reminds me how very fortunate we are to have a school that is fulfilling that responsibility. Please join me in thanking Toby, Debbie, and all of the teachers and staff for making that possible, and in wishing them a wonderful, well-deserved summer break!
If you’re interested in helping out, by volunteering your time or offering other support to the school, I’m sure that Toby would love to hear from you.