On our first date, my husband and I had many conversations considered inappropriate for a first date. One of which was about how many kids he wanted and how he would like to send them to a Jewish day school. (He denies we spoke about any of this; I stand by my statement!) Truth be told, whatever was actually said likely lies at the bottom of a bottle of wine, in a cozy cave at Shalel Lounge on the Upper West Side of NYC.
When Shoel and I got married, had kids and started thinking about school, my husband was adamant that his kids have the same education he had: an education that gave him confidence, and a happy baseline from which he could jump into everything life has offered him. Jewish day school was what he had, and that’s what he wanted for his kids. There was just one issue: we didn’t live in NYC anymore, we were now in Massachusetts, and knew nothing about the Jewish schools here. Which one was right for us? How would we figure it out? Reform, Pluralistic, Conservative…there were definitely options.
When the time came to apply for our older son, we narrowed it down to either our local public elementary or two Jewish schools. We visited and spoke to faculty, clergy and current and former parents from all options. We engaged socially with other families who had children of similar ages attending the schools. Finally, we decided that a private Jewish school was the right choice for us. Back and forth we went! In-person conversations, play dates, brunches, emails, phone calls—you get the idea.
For me, being Jewish has always been about tradition and culture more than religion. It was important to be sure that would be respected, in the same way I respect those who observe differently from us. With that thought in mind, The Rashi School in Dedham became our focus.
We made one last visit to Rashi, spoke again with teachers and clergy and felt confident that this was a place where our kids could thrive. A place where they would be loved, supported and educated. This was a place where Shoel and I could make friends. A place that would give us the community we missed since leaving New York. That is exactly what Rashi has given us.
This community—this kehillah—have embraced our children and us. We have friends who observe in many different ways, some keep kosher, some don’t belong to a synagogue, friends who are interfaith families, friends whose family makeup is different from ours. Our kids are learning to love being Jewish in the way that feels best for them, with no judgment, just pure joy!
Within the walls of the school, there is a lot of talk about the magic of Rashi. What makes it so magical? What is it that keeps us coming back? What is it that makes us want to tell our friends and family how this school makes us feel? I think the magic is different for everyone, and THAT is magical! Finding your place, your people and your community. Having kids who are different types of learners being embraced and met where they are, and encouraged to be the best humans they can. Having faculty, staff and administrators who love our kids like their own. Teachers who will laugh with you, be a shoulder to cry on, work through hard times and celebrate good times. Amazing academics and teachers who encourage kids to recognize that they CAN do anything they set their minds to. That is the special sauce that makes Rashi magical.
I never thought I’d send my kids to a Jewish day school, but now, I can’t imagine a world without Rashi. If you aren’t sure it’s for you, give it a shot. You won’t regret it.
Jamie Perelman is a former TV producer, New Yorker and current Rashi parent, residing in the Boston suburbs with her husband and two sons. When not momming, you can find Jamie spending time with friends, working out, or volunteering her time with local Jewish non-profits.
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