‘Yachad’ unites three Jewish day schools


Students from three St. Louis Jewish schools — one Orthodox, one Reform and one Conservative — came together to learn and celebrate the 60th birthday of the State of Israel.

Yachad – Day Schools Unite brought students from H.F. Epstein Hebrew Academy, Saul Mirowitz Day School – Reform Jewish Academy, and Solomon Schechter Day School into the gymnasium of the Jewish Community Center on May 8, as part of the KaleidoFest week of activities.


“This is unbelievable. It’s a dream that came true,” said Rabbi Uria Teperberg of Torah Mitzion Kollel, which organized the event.

Teperberg, his wife, Vardit, and the Sherut Leumi teachers, Shany Batit and Eliana Smith, worked since January on creating the day-long program for Yachad, which divided the students into groups that stopped at six stations — each representing a different decade of Israel’s history.

“We tried to have the kids experience a little bit from each decade, with arts and crafts and presentations by our volunteers and teachers,” Rabbi Teperberg said.

So, after making passports, complete with photographs, the students heard about the Entebbe raid at one station. At another they heard about Israel’s absorption of Ethiopian Jews.

At Solomon Schechter Day School teacher Ophira Melnick’s station, the students heard about the plight of current residents in Sderot, and about living under the daily threat of Kassam rocket attacks. After practicing an “air raid” drill, students wrote notes and drew pictures to give to residents of Sderot.

Although the day was split, with elementary students taking part in the morning, and middle school students in the afternoon, for a noon assembly and for lunch, all of the students from all three schools were present — almost 400 students in total.

Among the adults, the symbolism of Yachad was a consistent topic of conversation.

“I think today is fantastic. All of the schools together having a great time, and united the way we hope and pray the Middle East will become united,” said Chelle Medow, who has taught at SMDS-RJA and Epstein Hebrew Academy.

“I think Torah Mitzion Kollel is an incredibly unifying factor in our community,” she said.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for all of the students of all of the schools to come here and celebrate together this important holiday,” said Rabbi Shmuel Kay, head of school at Epstein.

“It’s the most natural thing in the world, to see a room full of Jewish people together,” said Rabbi Allen Selis, head of school at Solomon Schechter.

Selis said a program he attended at Young Israel marking the end of Yom Hazikaron carried a similar lesson. A former Israeli soldier spoke about his experience in Lebanon, Selis said.

“He described his military unit, and people from all different walks of life, with different Jewish practices and different Jewish identities. They all stood together. Their backgrounds and their differences didn’t make a difference. If anything, the differences made his combat unit strong. The differences made them understand that they were working for something bigger than themselves,” Selis said.

“And that’s what this is about. There’s a bigger picture, and we’re here to serve the bigger picture.”

Rabbi Brad Horwitz, director of the Helene Mirowitz Department of Jewish Community Life, said seeing the students from different denominations coming together was a highlight of the weeklong KaleidoFest.

“Of all of the things that have happened through KaleidoFest, the day schools coming together is what I feel most proud of,” he said. “The community in St. Louis has not had a history of coming together in these types of forums. This is the first time ever that three different denominationally-based Jewish schools in St. Louis have come together and I can’t emphasize enough the importance of that as we move forward together as a community,” Horwitz said.

For Rabbi Teperberg, who will be leaving St. Louis in July, after heading Torah Mitzion Kollel in St. Louis for the past four years, Yachad was a perfect capstone for he and his wife’s work in St. Louis.

“This is our ending, and this is a great way to finish,” he said.