Congratulations to Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford on reaching the 40th anniversary of its founding. Having sent three children through Schechter from preschool to grade eight, and having worked there as a teacher and administrator from 1985-2009, there are five people who stand out in my mind who should be mentioned for their dedication and lasting influence on the school. Moshe Zwang was the director in the 1970s and 1980s. Moshe was an artist and a master teacher. His love of children and Judaism permeated the school. I remember Moshe’s kind and gentle nature, and the way young students would run up to hug him! Moshe was followed by Mervyn Danker in the 1980s and 1990s. A South African Jew who had led schools in South Africa and Australia, Mervyn brought a strong sense of klal Yisrael and Zionism to the school. The next director, in the 1990s and 2000s was Dr.Carl Mandell, who brought a new level of administrative expertise to the school from his experience in the Hartford public school system. He raised standards of accountability for both staff and students. It was during his tenure that the annual eighth grade trip to Israel was initiated and that the school was first accredited by the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools.
Two more people must be mentioned: Jamie Klein directed the pre-school for many years. Nervous young parents about to leave their children at school for the first time were soothed by Jamie’s presence. She was a warm and energetic role model and supervisor to her teachers, and strengthened the general and Judaic studies curricula for the three- and four- year old students. Finally, Phyllis Siegal is the staff person who has been at Schechter for the longest time, currently in the position of director of pupil services. Phyllis has been the lifeline for dozens of students and parents, as well as for teachers who constantly seek her guidance and advice. Her ability to diagnose a learning challenge and to figure out how to help each student succeed according to his or her individual needs is beyond compare.
I wish success to incoming Head of School Rabbi Goldberg in guiding Schechter forward to be a model of exemplary 21st century Jewish education.