A Reflection on Heilicher's Strong and Welcoming Community

A Reflection on Heilicher's Strong and Welcoming Community

Second grade welcomed a classmate from Israel in late October. Pictured: The students made family posters in Hebrew class.

By Dr. Dan Ahlstrom

As we close the school year, I’m prompted to reflect on the past nine months. A highlight for me was the incredible welcome our community offered to three families who sought refuge in Minnesota after fleeing the Hamas attacks in Israel. Far from home, Heilicher was able to offer a safe and inclusive space for these children.

Our students welcomed each child enthusiastically, including them in every facet of life at Heilicher. The visiting students settled in immediately, and their parents expressed their gratitude on a regular basis.

The Heilicher community is a welcoming space by design, and it is an increasingly unique space in a world that, for many, doesn’t feel safe. I’m so proud of our students, staff, and faculty who welcome, connect, and include new families — making them feel part of our community from the moment they pass through our doors.

Increasingly, we are seeing more families seeking a safe place — emotionally and physically — for their children to attend school. And that desire for a safe and welcoming community is driving enrollment here at Heilicher. Our school not only offers safety but also a level of excellence that other schools simply can’t deliver. Our students are well-prepared for whatever future they wish to pursue through our rigorous educational offerings, robust interactions with faculty, leadership opportunities, and deep Jewish values. Our school offers an international connection that stems organically from our student population, exposing students to cultures from South Africa to Israel.

Amid this backdrop of community and support, we have seen significant contributions from our Board of Trustees, which has been instrumental in shaping our environment. Robyn Schein, a Heilicher parent of three, has served as our Board chair for the past three years. Her leadership has been vital in maintaining the emotional safety and Jewish identity expression that are cornerstones of our educational approach. As Robyn steps down this spring, we are delighted to welcome Esther Goldberg-Davis as our new chair. Esther, a mother to four Heilicher grads, has been deeply involved in our community, developing connections with faculty members and forming deep friendships. Her experience as a parent here has been uplifting, and she embodies the Heilicher difference that we all cherish.

I share the value both Robyn and Esther place on the importance of a Jewish day school education to create literate Jews equipped to make choices from a place of knowledge. I look forward to continuing to work with Esther and the rest of our community in the years to come.

In an unsettled world, we continue to see a growing interest in Heilicher as a school that is more than just an educational option; it has become a true refuge for many. People have heard me say that the cost to attend a school like Heilicher is “not nothing” — it often involves financial sacrifices made by parents who put the needs of their children first. I try to remind parents who might be struggling with sticker shock that this is a short-term investment for long-term gain. The students who leave Heilicher enter the world with a level of preparedness and excellence that other schools simply can’t offer. We continue to live up to our school motto: You will be proud of the person your child becomes.


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