There are many things that differentiate Epstein Hillel from other independent schools on the North Shore; interdisciplinary studies, state-of-the-art technology and low student-teacher ratios are among them. At a time when most schools are drastically cutting the arts, students at EHS are fortunate to be the benefactors of the Eunice and Sherman Seeche Cultural Arts Initiative.

Established in 2016 by board member Sharon Seeche Rich and her husband, Howard Rich, in memory of her parents, the goal of the initiative is to cultivate an appreciation of theater, music, art and dance, while also increasing self-esteem and confidence by developing students’ skills and experience with public speaking. Sharon credits her parents with instilling in her a deep love of the arts. When she made the decision to create this endowment, she had every confidence that EHS faculty were poised to take advantage of the opportunities this funding would make possible.

During its inaugural year, the Seeche Initiative sponsored an Artist-in-Residence program, which brought the Actors’ Shakespeare Project of Boston to school. “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” came to life for our seventh- and eighth-graders. Students were given synopses of scenes and were tasked with projecting what came next, and acting out character monologues from various key scenes. The result was a deeper understanding of the play, as well as Elizabethan English. Concurrently, fifth- and sixth-graders read the play in class and did some of their own original scene work. The final act was a field trip for all four grades to see the Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s production in Boston. The students loved it and reported that they understood, enjoyed and appreciated the play on a much higher level than had they only read the book.

Later in the school year, all students in grades five through eight auditioned for roles in a full-length production of the show “Twinderella.” After auditions and several months of rehearsals and set design, the production met with rave reviews during its performances.

EHS students at Boston Symphony Orchestra
EHS students at Boston Symphony Orchestra (Courtesy photo)

Now in the Initiative’s second year, students experience arts-related programming that would not be possible without the Seeche Endowment. The fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders enjoyed a behind-the-scenes look at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which included an instrument demonstration with a member of the orchestra. Through a highly regarded outreach program of Museum of Fine Arts Boston, first-graders learned, by way of creative hands-on activities, how a piece of jazz music inspired a painting hanging in a current exhibit.

The Seeche Initiative is directed by teacher Debbi Finkelstein, whose degree in education and lifelong love of acting, directing and community theater make her an ideal choice to implement the new program at EHS. Debbi lauds and appreciates how the Seeche Initiative provides a unique opportunity. She can integrate curricular lessons with public speaking and debate skills while building self-esteem and confidence.

“I feel so lucky for the opportunity to bring cultural and performing arts to life at EHS for our students through this endowed position,” she said.

Through the combined efforts and vision of Sharon Seeche Rich, Head of School Amy Gold, Cultural Arts Specialist Debbi Finkelstein and Music Instructor Noa Shimshony, the cultural arts are not only alive, but thriving, at Epstein Hillel School.

Epstein Hillel School is the Jewish independent school north of Boston educating children in grades K-8. For additional information, please contact Jennifer Stam Goldberg, Director of Admissions and Marketing, at jgoldberg@epsteinhillel.org or 781-639-2880.

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