Up on the roof, Freshman Orientation turns reflective

ROOFTOP: Ninth graders carrying folders with their new schedules get head to the spiral staircase to tour the building at Freshman Orientation Aug. 26. Most of the program was held on the rooftop patio under Chinese lanterns.

“It’s not about rules, it’s about values,” said Principal Reb Noam Weissman at Freshman Orientation on Aug. 26.

Although the new facility was the star of the evening, introducing the students to Shalhevet culture was the real focus of the night

“The heart and soul is what matters,” said Judaics teacher Rabbi Stein, reflecting on how the school had held together even while renting space at the JCC last year. Though the new building is amazing, he said, the people in the Shalhevet community are the heart and soul.

With their parents and the entire faculty, the 62 members of the class of 2019 arrived at 7 p.m. and were greeted by students from different grades in the echoey main entrance of new building.  They were given name tags and directed up the spiral staircase to the roof.

There, they met on the Astroturf patio with white Chinese lanterns hanging overhead.

There was excitement in the air.  Students laughed, met new people, recounted their summers and enjoyed tours of the new building with groups led by older students.

Reb Weissman told the incoming class that in the new school culture they would be joining, the “why” as important as the “what,” with examples ranging from Just Community procedures to dress code.

The program began with an exercise, led by Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal, where people were encouraged to learn from others and from their past. Listening silently, freshmen heard parents share what they liked most about high school. Then the parents were silent as students shared their aspirations for the next four years.

After that, freshmen and parents went into separate rooms, led by students and faculty members.

In the new Beit Midrash, Reb Weissman told parents the school’s philosophy towards extracurricular activities. Since these activities are important to building character, the school has renamed them “co-curricular” activities, he explained.

Later, Dean of Students Jason Feld led the parents in a mock Town Hall.

Meanwhile in the Beit Knesset, upperclassmen told the newcomers about the Just Community, a Shalhevet tradition that works to ensure that students are treated fairly and have a say in how the school is run.

“I feel like I have a voice,” said freshman Hannah Merritt, after hearing from the leaders of the Agenda, Fairness and Student Activities committees.

There were also discussions of academic integrity and why plagiarism is so important to define and avoid.

The topic of tzniut, or modesty, was brought up in the context of the dress code, which Reb Weissman and General Studies Principal Daniel Weslow said was an especially sensitive issue that will always be a work in progress.

Reb Weissman even discussed slouching, saying it is important that students should instead sit forward and always be engaged in the topic at hand.

At the end of the evening, as much as everyone was excited about the fabulous new facility, it was the discussion of Shalhevet values that inspired students and parents to keep sitting forward.