Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The common trait of all the teachers who have had a profound impact on my life (and there weren’t many) was their sensitivity and kindness. I remember with love my fifth-grade teacher. His name was Rabbi Wolfson. Until then I really wasn’t interested in what my teachers were teaching me. It was he, with his personal touch and concern, who made me want to excel.

I recall as well the warmth and concern of my teacher in college, Rabbi Aaron Soleveitchik, zt”l. I was a freshman at Yeshiva University then, just returning from a year of study in Israel at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavne. He always impressed me with his brilliance and erudition. But it was his warm remarks and his sincere concern that made me want to please him.


But my teacher par excellence, under whom I studied for three years, was Rabbi David Lipshitz, zt”l. To me he resembled a prince. His dress was kingly and his stature was regal. He was the epitome of brilliance and royalty. But his greatest asset was his warmth and concern for his students. Never a day would pass that he wouldn’t ask me how, as a newlywed, I was doing. With his hand placed upon my shoulder, his warmth penetrated my entire being. I can still feel the touch of his hand today.

Today my teacher and rebbi is Rav Yosef Tzvi Rimon, the chief rabbi of the Gush. Once again, it’s not only his knowledge that impresses me, but his warmth in greeting everyone with love and concern.

Parents are often looking for guidance as to what defines a good Day School. Before registering a child, what should a parent look for in a school? What will determine the effectiveness of a school for their child?

There are many determinants. But I believe the most important is the warmth and the nurturing environment that is prevalent in the school. Do the administration and staff really care about the students? Is there true concern for the self-esteem of the children? Is there a friendly touch, a warmth that seems to permeate the very walls of the school? Does the school act as an extension of the family, giving love and attention to all of its students? Does the principal know the names of all the children in the school?

Let’s face it – most of the classroom knowledge we have acquired by the end of our formal education, we forget. But those special moments, the kind words, the warm touch, the nurturing feeling, stay with us and continually impact upon our lives.

A second measure of a good school is the validation of its excellence. Who says it’s a good school? If you enter its doors and you see a sign proclaiming “Excellence starts here,” who is proclaiming it? Schools that are self-proclaimers are very rarely what they say. Have they been evaluated by outside organizations? Have they won awards for excellence? Have they been accredited by a reputable accrediting organization? Are they tooting their own horn, or have other independent educators corroborated their self-evaluation? Are they truly striving for excellence?

A third benchmark of a good school is how much the school values parental concern and input. Can parents easily meet with the principal and teachers? Do the staff and administration feel that parents are active partners in the educational process, and are parents given credibility when expressing their concerns? Is the principal a visible person and does he or she interact with the students? Do the children address the principal with warmth and affection, or is there a coldness and strangeness that prevails?

And finally, a good school has tangible and realistic goals and objectives that it attempts to achieve. Is the curriculum sequential, and must teachers reach certain levels and attain specific standards? Are the teachers encouraged to be creative in their teaching and do they constantly seek ways to be innovative and exciting?

As parents, certain signs act as hints indicating a school’s success. If you can substantiate these, then chances are good that the school your child is presently enrolled in, or will be attending, is on the road to achieving excellence.


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Rabbi Mordechai Weiss has been involved in Jewish education for the past forty-six years, serving as principal of various Hebrew day schools. He has received awards for his innovative programs and was chosen to receive the coveted Outstanding Principal award from the National Association of Private Schools. He now resides in Israel and is available for speaking engagements. Contact him at [email protected] or 914-368-5149.