About 33 years ago, Erica Berman (née Sanieoff) and Erika Torbert (née Davis) sat in Judi Rapaport’s kindergarten classroom together. Unbeknownst to them at the time, the relationship they formed in the halls of Schechter Boston launched them to a lifetime friendship that now includes having their kids occupy the same space they once filled. Each has two children at the school.
“There’s something really special about Schechter and your friendships from Schechter,” Torbert says. “I have close college friends, I have close high school friends, but really the friends that I’ve stayed closest in touch with are the friends that I met at Schechter. Reconnecting with other people from our class, who are also now Schechter parents, it’s such a special connection. We’re picking up where we left off.”
Clearly this feeling was mutual as seven total students from Schechter’s class of 1997 now send their children to the school.
“I had such a positive experience, and it’s been so incredible to watch my kids have the same kind of experience,” Berman says. “I got emotional when I took a tour of the school [as a parent] because it brought me back to my days there. At that point, I couldn’t imagine my kids not going to school here.”
Torbert took it a step further, moving closer to the school when her eldest child was just 6 months old, specifically with the goal of sending her offspring to the same school she attended.
“As a parent, I feel like I’m doing my job to the greater Jewish faith of raising little Jews who are going to make more Jews,” she says. “It feels like I’m fulfilling some sort of mitzvah or obligation to raise educated and proud Jewish children.”
Those Jewish values remain the driving force behind why they are so committed to the school.
“Schechter didn’t give me an idea that everybody in the world was Jewish; it gave me the idea that you’re part of a minority group and you should be so proud of that and this powerful history that we have,” Berman says. “The good values that Schechter has given us: to be good people, to always be doing the right thing, being nice to everybody, why wouldn’t I want that for my kids?”
That concept, called derech eretz (acts of kindness), is something that resonates with Torbert.
“One thing they would always talk to us at school about was derech eretz and respecting one another and being kind and thinking about the community,” she says. “I think that made a nice environment for children and that really helped me a lot as an adult to see how to be a good person in the world.”
More than anything, though, Berman and Torbert keep coming back to the community—even in the middle of a pandemic.
“My husband is constantly telling people what an amazing school it is and how much Schechter helped everybody during the pandemic when we thought the world was ending, yet our kids had a sense of normalcy being in school with their friends and teachers,” Berman says. “After starting at Schechter, my son had the most incredible transition and transformation; he was like a different kid. He said he got to do all these fun things and really thrived there.”
“We are so blessed not only to have had a Schechter education ourselves when we were kids, but now to be able to come back—together with our classmates—to give this opportunity to our children and to partner with the school, just like our parents did so many years ago,” they said.
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