The vision for Solomon Schechter Day School of Metropolitan Chicago began in the late Mel White's basement with a group of committed Jewish lay leaders from the Midwest Region of United Synagogue of America. The group believed that a school like Solomon Schechter would lead to a stronger future for Judaism. In 1962, through their efforts, a new Jewish day school opened with 27 students in kindergarten and first grade at Beth Hillel in Wilmette.
During the early years, Solomom Schechter grew thanks to the steadfast nurturing of pioneering parents and teachers, rabbis, members of boards and committees, United Synagogue leaders, and members of congregations that housed the school. Some early leaders included the late Lou Winer, the late Mel White, Rabbi Stanley Schachter, Dr. Lifsa Schachter, Israel Ribner, Dr. Alfred Soffer, Dr. Izzie Weinzweig, and the late Robert Rice. The late Harry Kessler served as the first educational director.
These trailblazers presented a vision of a new kind of day school - a modern, religious setting, guided by Conservative Judaism, where general and Judaic learning, Western ideals, and Jewish values could connect and emerge as a powerful force in the development of human character.
Their vision has remained alive for five decades. During this time, Solomon Schechter has had many homes including Beth Hillel, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Ezra Habonim Niles Township, 350 Lee Road, Sharp Corner School, and Sager Solomon Schechter Day School, named after long-time supporters, the late Florence and Ben Sager.
Today Solomon Schechter is a PreK-8th grade Jewish day school, with the Early Childhood Center with the Marvell D. and Stanley J. Ginsburg PreK Program in Skokie, and the Sager Solomon Schechter Day School in Northbrook. The school serves 550 children from 30 communities in the Chicago area. Schechter's diverse community includes families who attend more than 40 synagogues and represent a wide spectrum of Jewish observance.
Below are reflections from Schechter leaders and alumni.
"When I first became involved with Schechter I didn't know what a day school was," said Dr. Charlotte Glass, Head of School Emeritus, "and neither did most of the people around me. It was a new concept for the non-Orthodox community that there would be a school where children would learn their General and Jewish Studies side-by-side, integrated, where boys and girls would study all subjects together. Some of these ideas were revolutionary at that time."
At Solomon Schechter, in addition to receiving an outstanding education, we learned values, the importance of family, and Tikkun Olam," said Dr. Aaron Epstein, Class of 1989. "That's what we are trying to do at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital's Emergency Department, case by case, patient by patient." "There's not a better gift you can give your children than sending them to Solomon Schechter," added Dr. Rachel Dorfman Rubin, who graduated from Schechter in 1989 with Aaron and currently works with him at the hospital.
"Giving children the gift of a Jewish education gives them the foundation to learn about the importance of being a member of the Jewish community," said Robert G. Gerber, Schechter Board President. "I cannot think of a better way to enrich my life than serving on the Schechter Board."
"Schechter changes our students lives, because it helps them see that their place in this world is intimately connected to being Jewish, and they can look at social issues through a Jewish perspective," said Dr. Lena Adler Kushnir, Class of 1989, Sager Principal, and a current Schechter parent. Dr. Kushnir met her husband, David, when they were Schechter students.
"We are indebted to our founders and those who followed them for the legacy they left us," said Linda Foster, CEO/Head of School. "We have been able to build upon that legacy to create a strong, exemplary education. This is only possible with the tremendous support of our community, and for that we are sincerely grateful."
Solomon Schechter is a partner in serving our community, supported by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation. Solomon Schechter appreciates the generous assistance provided by the Bernard Heerey Family Foundation Seventh Grade Scholarship Program for Schechter families. Solomon Schechter admits students of any race, national and ethnic origin.
Solomon Schechter's Jubilee Celebration will be at Sager Solomon Schechter Day School, 3210 Dundee Road, in Northbrook, on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 at 8:00 pm. For more information firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tami Warshawsky is the director of Marketing and Communications at Solomon Schechter Day School. Holly Rosenberg is Director of Information and Media, and Special Programming at Solomon Schechter Day School.