MMSC: A ‘haimish’ place to learn

Editor’s Note: As the year draws to an end, parents are beginning to think about how they will educate their kids in the fall. Private school application deadlines are looming, so The Jewish Sound has met with each of the primary Jewish day schools in the Seattle area to learn about what they offer, including class size and tuition rates, and how they differentiate themselves. Note that the base tuition, that is the amount families would pay for a single student after the school receives tuition assistance from the Samis Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. We will cover the high schools in early January.

The Menachem Mendel Seattle Cheder (MMSC) Day School was founded in 1974 to provide a meaningful Jewish education to the families of Seattle in a setting that encourages understanding, leadership, and deep relationships. The private school is open to Jews from every denomination, but is based in the religious teachings of the Chabad movement.

Tziviah Goldberg, who works in MMSC’s business office, explained the Chabad movement as being concerned with the underlying spiritual benefits of why people do what they do.

“From a psychological standpoint, it’s a commitment that everything that happens to a person is for his benefit,” explained Goldberg. “Whether it seems good or bad to a person is not relevant; God sees it’s good for you even if you yourself cannot see that it’s good for you.”

To support this cultural and religious learning, MMSC offers speakers and religious programming throughout the year. Students spend half the day in general studies, and half the day in religious education.

MMSC’s programs are split into three schools: The Montessori-based Early Childhood Center (ECC), which serves children from ages 2-1/2 through kindergarten; the elementary school, which serves children from grades 1 through 8; and the high school, which is girls only, and serves grades 9 through 12. All three programs offer multi-age classroom settings, and classrooms are segregated by gender beginning in grade 5. The small class sizes help teachers easily identify and help struggling students, though the school does not have support staff for students with special needs.

Though there is no dedicated science lab on campus, MMSC does have science equipment and offers general science classes as part of its secular curriculum. The school also has a small library. In their current location in Greenwood, MMSC students take daily trips (weather permitting) to a park and a playfield at the Boys & Girls Club.

MMSC encourages students to use their education to help others through service and charity. That messaging is worked into MMSC’s entire curriculum. Families are also expected to be involved in the school and their children’s education — they ask parents to commit at least 25 hours of volunteer time per year.

Chava Edelman drives her 8-year-old son from Olympia to attend classes at MMSC, and is looking forward to her daughter starting MMSC’s kindergarten program next year. She cited the school’s strong academics in both Judaics and secular subjects and its ability to balance education and a “haimish” quality — the Yiddish word for a homey, family-oriented feeling — as the most important things to her family, and the reason they make the trek to Seattle.

“The staff always exemplifies that loving, caring, family-type of feeling,” Edelman said. “And the kids have these really close, comfortable friendships. It’s a very hard thing to find a balance between the professional and haimish, and they have that balance.”

For more information about MMSC and the programs they offer, visit mmscdayschool.org.

This piece originally appeared on The Jewish Sound.

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