Monday, June 19, 2017

The Prototype School

R' Nosson Tzvi Finkel (center)  in an 8th grade class picture
Last night I had the privilege of attending the Arie Crown Hebrew Day School 70th anniversary banquet.

Now I’ve been around the block a few times. I have attended more than my share of banquets and frankly I have had enough of the ‘same old, same old’. And if I never saw another banquet again, it would be too soon. Last night I had kind of the same feeling before I went to the banquet. Even though I am a huge supporter of this alma mater of my children… a banquet is a banquet is a banquet.

But because I have so much gratitude to the school for what they did for my children and for what they do for so many others… and the fact that the sole honorees for the evening were the principal, Rabbi Eli Samber and his wife Ahuva, both of whom  I have tremendous admiration for, I attended. And I must say I am glad I did.

It not only reminded me why I love this school so much, it did so much more.  The evening began with the national anthem and the Hatikvah. The tables were mixed seating. I got to sit with my wife for a change. That is becoming an increasing rarity as the Orthodox Jewish world continues to move to the right.

Women in Arie Crown are not invisible.  Every video that evening featured both the men and the women of Arie Crown. Including an interview with Mrs. Samber.  It also featured many other such images. Including Rebbetzin Esther Levine. Who has been teaching there for decades and happens to be the wife of Telshe Rosh HaYeshiva, and Agudah Moetzes member, Rav Avrohom Chaim Levine. The evening included several female speakers, including some of the 8th grade graduates.

The women of Arie Crown are respected! This is not to say that the more right wing institutions in Chicago don’t respect their women. I know that they do. But women  never appear before an audience where men are present. Nor are they of late featured in any video presentation or print ads for their institutions. Not so Arie Crown.  Arie Crown not only appreciates their women, they make sure that they are not made invisible.

Even that was not the highlight of the evening. The tribute to Rabbi and Mrs. Samber was filled with genuine love by the entire Arie Crown family, the administration of the school, the Vaad HaChinuch, the teachers (both religious studies and secular studies) the members of the board, the parent body and the students - both past and present all expressed the love and admiration they have for this couple.

But for me, even that was not the highlight of the evening.  The highlight was in one particular video presentation of what this school is all about. (Now available for viewing below). If I were to create a school based on my Hashkafos, it would be Arie Crown. If there were a school logo it would be “Chanoch L’Naar Al Pi Darko’. Educate the child according to his way. Each child has their strengths. Arie Crown is not a cookie cutter school. In Arie Crown there are no strong or weak students. Each student brings to the table their own personal strengths. Arie Crown seeks to find those strengths in each child and teaches them accordingly. In Arie Crown ‘No child left behind’ is more than preached. It is practiced.

The video presentation last night showed what happened to some of the former graduates of the school. It was a sort of ‘where are they now’. Well they are all over the world excelling in a variety of fields – having chosen their fields based on how they could serve God best. Rav Gedaliah (Gilly) Finkel is one such graduate that is currently one of the Roshei Yeshiva at Mir Yerushalayim. He praised his education at Arie Crown. (What was not said in the video is that his older brother was the late Gadol and  Rosh HaYeshiva of Mir, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel who was also a graduate of Arie Crown. That should not be overlooked.) Another graduate interviewed that praised the Chinuch he recevied in the school is R' Chaim Soloveichik, Rav Ahron Soloveichik’s youngest son.

Various other highly successful people were interviewed that had graduated Arie Crown. Among them graduates that have decided to make Aliyah and are currently serving in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Included were female physicians, nurses, teachers, principals Roshei Yeshiva, an NCSY leader in Israel… and leaders of business and industry, from to traditional to high tech.  

All of these people expressed gratitude to Arie Crown and the kind of education they got that influenced their life decisions. It was not only about the philosophy of the school, it was (and still is) about the personal interest taken in each student by the teachers, the principal, and the two vice principals (religious and secular studies) that made all this possible for them. Among other things, how many principals know the first name of every single student in the school (over 700 students)? That’s why  the vast majority of Arie Crown graduates have only the fondest memories of the school, their teachers, and their principal.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Rabbi Samber’s  predecessor, Rabbi Meir Shapiro who was at the banquet and was one of the presenters to the Sambers last night. It was Rabbi Shapiro who set the tone for the school over his many decades as principal there. And who is the role model Rabbi Samber tries to emulate. That said, Rabbi Samber has not only tried to live up to Rabbi Shapiro’s legacy, he brought his own personal strengths to the job and helped the school grow to even greater heights.

I could not be prouder of what I saw last night. 

Even though I love Arie Crown, I don’t usually fawn over it this way. But I can’t help it. They deserve to be fawned over. And if this sounds like a free ad for Arie Crown… well I guess it is. 

But it is more than that. Arie Crown should be seen as the prototype for every Orthodox elementary school in America. If you love your child and want to see you child grow due to his own personal strengths, Arie Crown is the school for you.