Schechter Chai-lights is a monthly newsletter for parents of alumni, alumni, current families, and friends of Schechter connecting you to all things SSLI, the latest news, events and more.
We hope you will share your thoughts and stories with us.
November 18, 2021 / 14 Kislev 5782
There is a strong and interesting relationship between certain Jewish prayers of Thanksgiving and the holiday of Thanksgiving we are about to celebrate.  I’d like to share a bit about that with you for this edition of Chai Lights, which focuses on thankfulness. I’ll start with the mundane, and then move on to something more substantive.  

Jews, as we know, have lots of specific foods that we eat at various holidays: Matzah on Passover, apples, and honey on Rosh Hashanah, hamentashen on Purim, and fried foods on Chanukah, to name just a few.  Some of these foods are eaten for core ritual reasons (like Matzah on Passover), but others are eaten for reasons of custom more than law, such as eating fried foods on Chanukah to represent the miraculous cruse of oil that lasted eight days. On one reading, it could be claimed that the relationship between turkey and Thanksgiving has a Jewish foundation as well.  In Hebrew the word for turkey is tarnigol hodu (or simply hodu); tarnigol means chicken and hodu means India, so this translates literally as chicken of India. The interesting coincidence here is that the word hodu has a homonym in Hebrew that actually means give thanks: many of the Psalms in the Book of Psalms contain that very word, such as Psalm 107 which begins in Hebrew Hodu l’Adomai ki tov, ki l’olam chasdo (Give thanks to God who is good; his lovingkindness endures forever).  The fact that the word for turkey in Hebrew is the same as the word for Thanksgiving gives supportive weight to Thanksgiving’s nickname of Turkey Day!

Okay, now that we’ve gotten the food out of the way, I want to talk about Thanksgiving itself, and its core idea of thankfulness.  As we all know, the Pilgrims were fleeing religious persecution in England when they came to the New World. When they came, they brought along their principal source of religious inspiration and comfort: namely, the Bible. As recounted by Moshe Sokolow, one particular edition of the Bible from that time period is really interesting.  It was used by William Bradford, who later served as governor of Plymouth Colony. Shortly after their landfall in November 1620, Bradford led the new arrivals in thanking God for the safe journey that brought them to America by reciting verses from Psalm 107, the very Psalm I mentioned just a minute ago that starts with the word Hodu: Give thanks.  

In his annotations to verse 32 of that Psalm, it says the following:
And from this Psalme, and this verse of it, the Hebrues have this Canon; Foure must confess (unto God): The sick, when he is healed; the prisoner when he is released out of bonds; they that go down to sea, when they are come up (to land); and wayfaring men, when they come to the inhabited land.  

Interestingly, this annotation is taken almost word for word from one of the most important codes of Jewish law called the Mishnah Torah, written by Moses Maimonides, which reminds us of the four conditions under which Jews must publicly recite a blessing of Thanksgiving, a prayer called Birchat haGomel.  In other words, the very first prayer that the Pilgrims recited immediately upon their arrival in the New World had its origins in a distinctly Jewish ritual practice. Some scholars, therefore, consider this prayer service to be the original "Thanksgiving." For Jews, who are after all a very small minority in America, the possible linkage of the original Thanksgiving with a Jewish ritual practice should be a source of great interest and I suppose even some pride.  But I think what is really important here is the universality of the human impulse to thank God for our good fortune, even in the face of misfortune.  Like the Pilgrims certainly understood, the natural and manmade worlds can often seem harsh, cruel, and random. We certainly have plenty of examples of this today, especially during the pandemic.

And yet, it is our human and humane responses to these difficulties, our resilience in the face of tragedy, our willingness to help one another, and our resolve to rebuild and to recreate which reminds us of those who made shore in Plimoth all those years ago seeking a better life and those here already who helped them in their early struggles.  It is these creative and altruistic drives which I believe reflect God in each of us. 

We at Schechter have much to be thankful for: our students, our families, our faculty, our staff, and our ability to remain strong and resilient in the face of all our recent difficulties. This year as we reflect on all we have to give thanks for, let’s be sure to think about Hodu, and not just the one that goes in our stomachs!

Dr. Scott Sokol, Head of School
True gratitude requires an affirmation of the goodness you receive and an honest accounting of what you have. This will allow you to acknowledge the many blessings which are a part of your life.

Though Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, there is no special occasion that needs to take place for gratitude to occur. We can easily reflect on the paths we’ve taken, on the conversations we’ve had with others that have inspired us, on the people who have contributed to our lives and so much more. Gratitude places us in a position to not only recognize how far we’ve come but to recognize and thank the people who’ve helped us get to where we need to be. 

Gratitude tunes us into the present moment – it grounds us and allows us to recognize how we got to the “here and now”. It also blocks negative emotions such as envy, frustration, resentment, and regret. If you really think about it, those emotions cannot exist alongside gratitude. 

As part of this issue, we asked three individuals in our extended Schechter LI community to share their thoughts on “gratitude.” Enjoy the following articles written by an alumna, a parent of 3 alumni who has recently joined the Board of Trustees, and our new Lower School Administrator.

As I move through my last two weeks at the Schechter School of Long Island, I am mindful of the opportunities I have been given, and the warm and special relationships I have formed over the last 15 years.  

Please see my “goodbye to the community” later on in this issue.
With my very best wishes for a healthy, blessed and Happy Thanksgiving.


The Importance of Saying Thank You

One of the core values at Schechter Long Island is Gemilut Chasadim, namely engaging in thoughtful acts of loving kindness, generosity, and world repair, Tikkun Olam. This trait is further embodied by our Matriarch, Leah. Leah had the tradition that there would be exactly twelve tribes representing the future of the Jewish nation. She also knew that these children would come from four distinct women, including herself, Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpeh. Therefore, Leah anticipated that she would be blessed with exactly three children. When she had her fourth child, she was so overjoyed in this additional blessing that she decided to name him Yehudah, from the word Todah or thanks. Leah was especially grateful for receiving above and beyond her share so she outwardly expressed her appreciation by naming her son, Yehudah. 

We continuously emphasize these and other valuable Torah lessons to our students throughout the school day. It is especially meaningful to make such connections of how Gemilut Chasadim may be expressed in our daily lives. For example, Veterans Day is an opportunity to express our gratitude for those who bravely serve our country. When we see a person in uniform, approaching them and thanking them for their service is a great way of letting them know that the sacrifices they make for our country are greatly appreciated.

Next week we will be celebrating Thanksgiving with our families and friends. This is a perfect time to go around the table and for everyone present to express one thing that they are thankful for in their lives. Although we may feel a sense of appreciation to our family and friends, it is necessary to actually verbalize and express our feelings of gratitude to one another. 

Simple words of recognition are crucial in the growth and development of our children. Even something as small as saying “thank you”, “please” or “your welcome” can make a profound impact on the recipient. By learning to continuously express our gratitude and appreciation, we model the ways of our Matriarch Leah and demonstrate the core value of Gemilut Chasadim in our lives.

-Dr. Boaz Tomsky, Lower School Administrator
Dear Schechter,

Forgive me for the cliche, but I think I have truly come to understand the saying “you do not know how valuable something is until it is gone.” Not that you are gone. You are just a little more distant now than you were during the seven years that I grew in your classrooms, made friends in your halls, and developed skills that would guide me through life in the comfort of your walls. I do not know how I could express my gratitude to you for all that I have learned about myself, my community, and my Judaism while being a student in your middle and high school.

You gave me an incredible opportunity to explore my passions in an open and accepting environment. With overwhelming support from the faculty I realized that I wanted to become a teacher. I began to help out at math extra help every Wednesday and quickly developed the skills I needed to start tutoring. At the end of my senior year, I was given the opportunity to teach a middle school algebra class for an entire period. As a college freshman, I have been asked to become a Calculus tutor for the Math Department at Union College, which is a rare occurrence even for seniors. Without your amazingly committed faculty that inspired me to become a professor and without the experience I have built up through the different opportunities you have provided me, I would not be in the position I am today.

I am also eternally grateful to you because you taught me to embrace my Jewishness. When I was applying to college I was worried about how I would manage to fit into a diverse college campus after spending seven years “in the Schechter bubble.” Fortunately, there was no reason for me to be worried. Throughout my first term in college, I participated in stimulating conversations about the differences in religions. The Jewish education I received at Schechter allowed me to answer all questions that my friends had about Judaism. It also allowed me to learn more about other religions and communities that I was not as familiar with before coming to Union. I would never have had the courage to have these important and meaningful conversations without the lessons that you have taught me.

I started this letter by saying that you do not know how valuable something is until it is gone and I do not think I will ever be able to express how grateful I am for all the invaluable experiences and memories that you have given me. Luckily, you will never truly be gone from my life because I know I will always have the open arms of the Schechter community to come back to. I cannot wait to visit you after my first term in college ends.

Thank you for everything,

Mayah Teplitsky (SSLI '21), First-year student, Union College
More than one person has commented to me, “you’re joining the Schechter Board of Trustees now? You do know that you don’t have any more kids in the school, right?”  “True,” I reply, as my youngest child, Shira, just graduated from SSLI in June 2021, but in many ways, I believe that puts me in a perfect position to serve on the Board. 

            I recall sitting in one of the portable classrooms at the Jericho campus for kindergarten orientation in 2005 for my twin sons, Ira and Jeremy (SSLI ’18), when an Upper School parent came in to speak to us.  I don’t recall who it was, but I do recall him being so at ease, and friendly with the teachers and administration.   He spoke effusively about the school and the journey we were starting and the fact that Schechter was more than just a school with top-notch academics, but also a community, a family.  “How cliché” I thought.  “You could stop the hard sell,” I wanted to respond, “we’re already here, our kids are enrolled.”  But now, 16-years later I know, and many of you reading this know, he was correct.  

Schechter is not for everyone and every family.  The financial commitment is high; the distance from our homes is surely greater than the public school around the corner; and a dual-curriculum is not easy on our children.  Yet, for those who believe a strong, solid Jewish education is equally as important as a rigorous, secular education, we know it is all worth it in the end.  Our children graduate confident in their Jewish identity, with a love for the State of Israel and well-prepared to succeed in college and beyond.
Back in 2005, the “plan” for my wife, Beth (herself an SSLI alum – before there was an SSLI High School), and I was to enroll our kids at Schechter, but then send them to public high school.  As our boys were in the middle school and the time approached to make that change, it soon became obvious that was not going to happen.  Witnessing the incredible education they were receiving and experiencing the small-community atmosphere ourselves, there was no way we were leaving Schechter and not enrolling them in the high school. 
So now, as the proud parent of three SSLI K through 12 alumni, with gratitude for all this community has given our family, by serving on the Board I can hopefully help direct the school into the future so you, and future families, can benefit from all the school has to offer.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to do so.

Michael Kohler, SSLI parent and member of the SSLI Board of Trustees
“What does Kindness look like, feel like and sound like at Schechter?”
Answering these questions was the starting point of our Professional Development day early last week.

Dr. Sokol opened the day by reading the Mission and Vision statement of our school which reads:

SSLI is a Jewish day school whose dual curriculum of excellence educates and empowers its students to be critical thinkers, ethical leaders, and globally engaged citizens, striving to achieve their full potential and ensuring a vibrant Jewish future.

Our Core Values, which support our mission, become the essence of our students’ identities and guide them through every stage of life.
  • Torah – We instill a love of lifelong learning where questions are as valued as answers.
  • Ahavat Yisrael – We foster a love and commitment to the State, language and People of Israel as central to Jewish identity and continuity.
  • Kehillah – We celebrate the individuality and diversity within the SSLI family, and foster an inclusive and caring community.
  • Mitzvot – We sanctify God’s presence in our lives through the observance of Jewish practice.
  • Tefillah – We encourage all students to find their unique voices in prayer.
  • Gemilut Chasadim – We engage our students in thoughtful acts of loving kindness, generosity and world repair, Tikkun Olam.

We are a mission based organization and at the center of our core values is our Kehillah - the community we inhabit and the community we create. Through identifying who we are at our core as a community, we are able to examine all aspects of our school. Our community includes all of the stakeholders who contribute and influence who we are on a daily basis. These are our students, their immediate and extended families, our parent body, our faculty and their families, our administration, our donors and supporters and all of the organizations, JCCS, synagogues and businesses who serve and are served by our community. And, in order to truthfully and authentically examine and be deliberate about who we are and who we want to be, we need a common goal and a language to express ourselves as we aspire towards our finest.

Social Emotional Learning “is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

The first of the 5 competencies identified by CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) is Self -awareness. Self-awareness is defined as the ability to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts. This includes capacities to recognize one’s strengths and limitations with a well-grounded sense of confidence and purpose. ( 
Imagine what it would be like if all of our stakeholders in the SSLI community had the opportunity to learn to identify their own emotions, thoughts and values - using a mutual language? Imagine how our conversations would look like, feel like and sound like?

Our faculty and staff spent some of the morning together considering our shared values and core mission. And then in the afternoon, we were able to meet again to share some of the incredible work in this area that is already taking place both in our lower and upper school classrooms. We completed the Professional Development day experiencing our own sense of self awareness, the incredible power and opportunity our beloved facility has to nurture and inspire our student body and dream about what more we can accomplish by learning about, experiencing and modeling the tools and techniques that are possible by teaching, engaging and leading through a lens of social emotional integration throughout all of the Schechter School of Long Island.

Leora Y. Cohen, MSW
Social, Emotional, Spiritual Learning Specialist
With gratitude to Leora Cohen for sharing her wisdom, expertise, and passion with our faculty and staff.
This month @Schechter LI

To see more pictures and events, please follow us on
Facebook and Instagram and visit us at
Let’s give a shout out to all our students that participated in Fall Sports this season.

The 5th and 6th grade Soccer team came together for a huge victory over The East Woods School. This exciting win took place during their Homecoming. Let’s give a round of applause to Sam J. and Jacob S. for their goals.

Girls Varsity Volleyball finished the season in 2nd place overall in the PSAA League. Meira D., Talia B., and Milla Z. were selected to All Conference.

Varsity Soccer also placed 2nd overall in the PSAA League. Cheers to Sam S., Jacob B., and Benjamin Y. on being selected to All Conference.

Varsity Cross Country came in 3rd place overall for the season. CONGRATULATIONS Logan H. for qualifying for the NYSAIS Championship meet.

Please stay tuned for our Winter roster of Junior Varsity Hockey, Junior Varsity, Girls Basketball, Varsity Boys Basketball as well as 5th - 8th grade competitive Sports.
NEWS from Admissions
Admissions season is in full swing! We were more than happy to open our doors for the first in-person Kindergarten Open House in two years on Veterans Day. We welcomed 20 prospective families to see our campus, meet our teachers and experience the “Schechter LI Community.”

On November 14, we were excited to host our High School Open House, welcoming 23 families, including our own 8th-graders and new students who came to experience SSLI for the first time. We are deeply grateful to our busy helpers, the HS Student Ambassadors, who greeted families in the parking lot, offered support throughout the day, and shared their love for Schechter.
Please join us in welcoming
Lori Kantorowitz to our team.

Lori is an alumni parent with a 20-year history with Schechter LI.

She is going to be a terrific addition to our group!
Letter to the Community 11/10/2021
Dear Schechter Community,

I am writing today to share news that Eileen Bohrer, our Director of Institutional Advancement and former Executive Director of many years will be leaving Schechter at the end of the month. Eileen has had enormous impact on the overall programs of the school, and has seen it through many transitions and changes. Her talents, insights, compassion and relationship-building skills have been key to many of our greatest successes over the years. She will be missed by all of us. Nonetheless, we are excited for Eileen and for the opportunities that are likely to open up for her in the Jewish and non-profit worlds as she embarks on this new chapter in her professional life.
In her last few weeks with us, Eileen will be helping to transition and train our new advancement staff to take over her roles and responsibilities. Going forward, Elizabeth Kahn, who has been doing exceptional work as our Director of Admissions, will be moving laterally into Eileen’s position as Director of Institutional Advancement. In this position, Elizabeth will be focusing on development and strategic planning, and will collaborate with the Advancement team to support the school’s work in admissions, marketing and communications.
I am excited at this time to announce that Lori Kantorowitz, Schechter alumni parent, will be taking on a significant role at SSLI as our new Director of Recruitment and Engagement. In this role, Lori will be our principal admissions professional, and will also work with the Advancement team on a set of collaborative projects. Lori and Elizabeth will be working especially closely with one another to advance SSLI’s mission.
Please stay tuned for the ways in which we will be honoring Eileen’s many contributions to Schechter, and please read her beautiful letter below.

In appreciation and admiration,

Dr. Scott Sokol, Head of School
Dear Schechter Family,

Many years ago, I was given a plaque as a birthday gift from three senior administrators that lives on a wall in my office and says, “What would you do if you were not afraid?” No one can remember why they gave it to me, but I look at it multiple times every day and in the last year the words began to tease me, provoking me to take a new fork in the road, and accept the risks that accompany major change.

After almost 13 years as Executive Director, followed by nearly 2 years as Director of Institutional Advancement, I have made the decision to step down from my position at Schechter. This is an exciting chapter as I prepare for new challenges, but it is a profoundly bittersweet time as well.

Reflecting on my tenure at SSLI, the credit for any success goes to many people, but first and foremost to my team, those currently part of the staff, and those no longer employed at SSLI, but part of my Schechter history. This group of skilled, dependable, and hardworking people are fiercely loyal to Schechter, and each other - they make things happen. They have been my home away from home adopted family, and I will yearn for their playful behavior and good humor, the camaraderie and caring.

I have missed seeing our students, some of whom I first met in the womb and whose height was intermittently measured and marked on the walls and doors in my office. Before the merging of the Jericho and Cross Street campuses they came to my office at the end of the day for treats and to share a piece of information that was
pressing on their minds. We racewalked together, giggling down the halls and I was able to email their parents and share an anecdote about something that happened only minutes earlier. Many have graduated and are creating brilliant futures. When they reach out to update me on their lives or come for a visit, I can see they are accomplished, resourceful, and compassionate adults.

My thanks go to our creative, committed, and talented faculty who shared their concerns with me frankly and succinctly, and who made themselves available when I looked to collaborate on an initiative. Schechter LI is fortunate to have incredible educators who throughout the pandemic have worked tirelessly to ensure that our students received the education that will prepare them for the intellectual, moral, and social challenges that lie ahead.

I have so much appreciation for the donors, philanthropies, funders, and organizational partners who have strengthened Schechter with their faith and generosity and whose continued commitment will safeguard Schechter’s future. My thanks go to the Board and committee members who hired me, supported me, and shared their wisdom and experience, and to the Heads of School who provided autonomy and partnership in equal measure.

Over the 15 years, I have been blessed to get to know many in our community beyond superficial niceties. The
conversations and connection to parents, grandparents, volunteers, and alumni provided depth, grew trust, and gave meaning to the work. The kindness and care the community has shown me and my family as we moved through life’s trials and simchas will never be forgotten. In this group I must mention my Development Chairs who pushed incessantly, I say that twice – pushed incessantly, because they are so invested in our school. However, they are also some of the kindest and most emotionally supportive people when things
were difficult, and struggles seemed insurmountable.

This is not goodbye as I hope to continue to be a part of the larger community and available to assist if called upon. I care very deeply for the Schechter School of Long Island and believe that it will continue to thrive with the combined wisdom and critical, impactful investment of longtime and new generous donors, and with strategic, mindful, energetic, and menshlich leadership, both professional and voluntary.

With gratitude and best wishes,

Eileen Olan Bohrer
Mazal Tov
Mazal Tov to Katherine (Appelbaum) (SSLI '10) & Yoni Abrahamian on the birth of their Son, Levi Abrahamian born September 4th
Mazal tov as well to proud grandparents Eulampia & Mort Appelbaum and Tina & Shem Tov Abrahamian

Mazal Tov to Grace Southworth (SSLI '10) and Amir Weiner on their engagement!
Grace and Amir met in 2015 at a Shabbat dinner. Since then, they have shared their love of Israel, travel, and the outdoors. They will be getting married this summer in Israel.
Mazal tov to Fortuna Southworth, Robert Weiner, and their families on this joyous occasion!
Mazal Tov to our Third Grade General Studies Teacher Mrs. Cynthia Cohen and her husband Matthew on the birth of their Son Lucas Sean born October 25th (8lbs 1oz).
Mazal Tov to Amelia (Bayroff) (SSLI '12) and Ethan Krell who were married on October 16, 2021.
Mazal tov to proud parents Margo and Adam Bayroff!
Mazal Tov to Jordan Katz (SSLI '11) and Andrew Golden who got engaged on November 6, 2021.
Mazal tov to proud parents Judy and Jason Katz!
Mazal Tov to Jordana (Skurnick) Langhaus (SSLI '06) and Evan Langhaus on the birth of their daughter Hailey Madison born on September 21, 2021. Mazel tov also to big brother Mason and to proud grandparents Mindy and Bruce Skurnick!
Mazal Tov to Josh Meyerson (SSLI '12) and Danielle Meyerson on the birth of their daughter Sophie Hannah born on August 29, 2021 (6 lbs 13 oz).
Mazal tov to proud grandparents Mitchell and Tami Myerson.
Mazal Tov to Rebecca (Goldberg) Segal (SSLI '08) and Miki Segal on the birth of their daughter Mila born in August 2021.
Mazal tov to older siblings Sofia and Liam, and to proud grandparents Judith and Mitchell Goldberg.
Mazal Tov to Emily Goldberg (SSLI '10) and Howie Schwartz who were married on June 6, 2021.
Mazal tov to proud parents Judith and Mitchell Goldberg.
This month's tributes:
In Honor/ In Memory

If you would like to honor a person's memory or mark a celebration with a contribution to Schechter LI, you may make an online donation, or send your donation to the Development Office. The family will be notified of your contribution.
To discuss making a donation to Schechter LI, please email Eileen Bohrer, Director of Institutional Advancement to or call 516.935.1441 ext.1131.
Coming Up:
GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement. It was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Since then, it has grown into a year-round global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

Join the movement and SSLI on 11/30/21