Marlene and Jim Bukstein at Heilicher with their grandchildren (R to L) Delilah R., Sylvia R., Ilsa R., and Reuben B.
The day Marlene and Jim Bukstein’s oldest grandchild was born was Special Person’s Day at Heilicher. After spending the morning at Heilicher with a friend's son, Marlene went to the hospital and told the brand new parents she had put their son on the school’s waiting list.
“I don’t think we even knew his name yet,” Marlene said.
The Buksteins, Heilicher’s Annual Fund Grandparent Co-Chairs, have seen the school grow from the beginning. Their youngest daughter, Cari Rohe, graduated from Heilicher in 1994, 10 years after the school was founded. Now four of their Minnesota grandchildren attend Heilicher — the fifth will start kindergarten next year.
What stands out to them about Heilicher is the community. They emphasized Heilicher’s all-school lunch, where students across grade levels get to know one another and the older students act as examples for the younger students, as well as the buddy program for kindergarten and eighth-grade students. Eighth graders buddy up with kindergarteners, acting as mentors and playmates to welcome the new students into the community.
Along with the student community is the Heilicher community of parents, grandparents, and friends. People come back to Heilicher from generation to generation: “Our friends have their grandchildren at Heilicher too,” Marlene said.
Jim noted the intergenerational community when he volunteered as a doctor at Heilicher’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic last year.
“The continuity of generations was pretty obvious,” he said. “It was clear almost everyone knew other families and the kids knew other kids. There were a lot of parents who I drove in carpools when they were kids, and they were bringing their kids in. It was joyful; it was real community.”
They also noted that the school nurtures students and prepares them for life: “You can tell which kids in the community went to Heilicher because they look you in the eye, and they talk to you, and they’re confident,” Jim said.
He referenced a quote by Israel’s fourth prime minister, Golda Meir: “Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”
“This is what Heilicher does with our kids on a daily basis. Heilicher helps develop that unique little spark in each of them and the confidence to grow to achievement in all aspects of their lives,” Jim said. “They learn who they are, and they have the confidence and skills to pursue their interests and achievements.”
He added that Heilicher prepares students with lifelong skills from the beginning: how to learn, present themselves, speak in public, address adults, and “be little mensches.”
“I feel the same way now as I did when Cari graduated from Heilicher: that it’s a really valuable experience,” Marlene said. “I would love to see it be accessible to the whole Jewish community. So I think the fundraising and scholarships are an important part.”