What Does it Mean to Be a Mensch?

What Does it Mean to Be a Mensch?

What does Schechter Manhattan teach? It teaches a love of learning, a love of Judaism, a love a tradition, and a love community. Throughout it all, there is a value that underlies all of the content, and that is, what does it mean to be a mensch? On one hand, you can’t necessarily “teach” menschlichkeit, but what I have learned, is that you can live it and reinforce it. The following is one of my first memories of being a Schechter parent, and still, one of the proudest.
It is hard to believe that first grade was four ago already, but there was a moment during that year that I will always proudly recall. Our son had come home from school and we were having a regular dinner conversation. Nothing out of the ordinary. He was talking about his day when he mentioned that a classmate was sick but that he knew he was coming back the next day.

“How do you know that?” we asked.

“Oh, the caring committee told the class.”

The what? The caring committee? Our son explained that whenever a child was out sick, it was someone’s responsibility in the class to go to the school office and call that child to see how they were feeling. You see, just as the students have responsibilities to be a chazzan for tefillah, or to be the teachers’ helper, or to help clean the physical space in the classroom, so too, there was a community builder as well.

To me, this story gets to the essence of Schechter Manhattan–there is a shared sense of responsibility to care for one another in the context of the school community and beyond. As I now sit on the board of Schechter Manhattan and think about how its values are lived in the classroom experience, I can proudly see how the value of menschlichkeit is lived, each and every day.

Rabbi Rachel Ain is the proud parent of two Schechter Manhattan boys, Jared and Zachary, as well as a board member for the school, serving as chair of the Rabbinic Advisory Committee. Rachel is the Rabbi of Sutton Place Synagogue.