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Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union (SSDSEU) is a private Jewish day school that offers primary and religious education for Jewish children from pre-K through 12th grade. It has two campuses in West Orange, and primarily serves families in Essex and Union counties, but attracts students from all over northern and central New Jersey and also New York.
The school was founded for the school year that started in September 1965 in provisional facilities co-located with Congregation Beth Shalom in Union, New Jersey with a first grade consisting of 18 children. A class was added each year for the initial class, and there were nine remaining to graduate from high school in 1977. This was the first high school affiliated with the Solomon Schechter Day School Association.
The school moved into its own facilities in 1979 for the first time with the acquisition of the former Roosevelt School in Cranford. Classes were held in various locations in Union and Essex counties. That was followed seven years later in 1986 by the purchase of the Irving Laurie Building in West Orange. In September 1991, with a great deal of pride and celebration, the Upper School moved into a newly constructed building on Pleasant Valley Way in West Orange, which in 1995 became the Eric F. Ross Campus.
Some highlights of a Schechter education include trips to Israel and travel abroad opportunities.
Ninth grade students at Schechter visit Israel for 10 days in September. There they participate in numerous group activities aimed at getting to know Israel better, exploring the students' relationship to the country, experiencing Judaism in an inspiring Jewish atmosphere, as well as allowing students to get to know their friends in the grade in a non-academic setting. The 9th grade trip is a part of a plan to strengthen the connection between SSDSEU teens and Israel by building a living bridge between students and their peers in Israel during the high school years. Students collaborate with their Israeli peers throughout their high school years in various programs. The experience culminates in a get-together during the Neshama program in 12th grade.
Schechter students complete the rigorous and challenging High School curriculum in seven semesters. By the end of their seventh semester they have submitted their college applications, completed their academic requirements for graduation and chosen a last semester program.
Students have the option of participating in Neshama, a semester-long educational program in Israel and Eastern Europe that provides students with a meaningful experience. This trip has become the highlight experience for all Solomon Schechter students. Students who do not elect to participate in Neshama stay in the area and participate in an intensive work-study experience.
Other travel opportunities include a 10th Grade Chilean Exchange Program, which pairs each SSDSEU participant with a Chilean student who attends Instituto Hebreo, in Santiago, Chile. Students in 6th grade participate in an annual Teva trip, a four-day camping excursion, which allows students to learn about ecological matters in a Jewish values context.
Inspiring each student to be a lifelong learner, Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union - a Conservative Jewish day school - guides each student to achieve his or her unique intellectual, creative and social potential. We nurture every student to be a proud and motivated American Jew, true to the traditions and values that will drive an enduring worldview and purpose in living a life of. A well-rounded environment and academic excellence encourage our students to be intellectually curious, analytical and independent thinkers; to contribute to the advancement of the arts and sciences; and to serve proudly as citizens and leaders of their communities. We are building a modern kehillah - an exciting, responsive and ethical community. We teach our students to live joyously as knowledgeable Jews, committed to a personal relationship with God within rigorous study of texts, Hebrew literacy, observing mitzvot and a love of Israel.
Head of School
Dr. Joyce Raynor holds a BA from Rutgers University, an MA from the University of Judaism (now the American Jewish University), and a PhD from Duke University, Dept. of Religion. She began her affiliation with the school in 1983 as a Bible teacher, and became principal of the High School in 1992. In January 2007, after serving as Interim Head of School for one year, Dr. Raynor became the school's permanent Head of School. Both of Dr. Raynor’s daughters graduated from SSDSEU.
Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union is accredited by the Solomon Schechter Day School Association and the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools. We meet or exceed New Jersey Core Curriculum Standards. SSDSEU is a beneficiary agency of the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey, the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
Gloria Kron is the principal of the Lower School. She joined SSDSEU in 1979 as a Lower School general studies teacher. She was the general studies curriculum coordinator from 2000 to 2001, planning and overseeing the implementation of changes to the language arts, math, science, and social studies curricula. Mrs. Kron became Assistant Principal in 2001 and Principal in 2004.
Nancy Leaderman, the Upper School Principal, earned her BA and MA in English from the University of Maryland at College Park. She has been a teacher and administrator for 20 years and has worked at the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, Baltimore Hebrew University, Goucher College, the Cardin School, and Beth Tfiloh Community Day School. She joined Schechter as Upper School principal in August 2007.