By Mariel Priven ‘19
One of the many unique qualities of Heschel is the personal relationships between teachers and students. A natural byproduct of this closeness is that many students know – and love – their teachers’ children. However, most students of Heschel faculty do not go to Heschel and are only seen on special occasions, such as the Shabbaton. In fact, of the approximate fourteen teachers with children of lower through high school age, only four send their children to Heschel.
For some, this is a religious choice; one or both of the child’s parents do not practice Judaism, and sending the child to a Jewish day school is thus not an option. For others, it is a matter of location. For younger children, the commutes that teachers make daily are too difficult. LQ teacher Benji Shiller, for example, said that he definitely would have considered Heschel for his children had it been closer to home.
Another major factor in these decisions is one of religion and denomination. Although Heschel prides itself on its pluralism, LQ teacher Rabbi Natan Kapustin explained, “I often say that I wish my kids had a Heschel education. The school is very appealing, but it would have been hard for my children. The way they’ve been raised, with the types of observance they practice, it would have been hard for them socially.” Like Kapustin, some teachers worry that the level of observance with which their children have been raised will make it hard for them to fit in socially at Heschel, where there is a much wider range of practices. Kapustin added that despite these differences, there are definitely appealing qualities of Heschel – ones that draw him here professionally. “It is a wonderful place to work. I like the engagement with all different types of Jews; there’s a vibrant religious and social atmosphere. I think that’s easier for someone of my background. It’s easier to go into that environment when you’re already educated and set your own practices than when you’re in formative stages.”
Though many teachers have chosen to send their children elsewhere, few are opposed to sending them to Heschel for high school, were they to express interest. LQ teacher David Riemenschneider explained that his children will probably want to stay closer to home and their communities, but that he would be open to showing them Heschel and having them consider it. Similarly, Shiller noted that if his daughter is looking for something different, after studying at SAR, he would be definitely consider Heschel. He also added that he values the religious environment at Heschel, and he always looks for opportunities, like the Shabbaton, to show it to his kids.