Before SAR’s athletic teams were known as the Sting and before SAR High School students thrived in the Hive, SAR Academy welcomed students to their first day of school with the sweetness of honey.
For 50 years, the SAR journey has begun with this prayer, with first graders gathered around their principal on the first day of school, being welcomed into the community of Torah learners with this bracha and the sweet taste of honey. From their first moments in the big building, the students understand that they are, in the words of former principal Rabbi Yonah Fuld, “sweet children,” and that their years of learning and growing at SAR will be sweet. This beautiful custom is based on a tradition that was common in the cheders of old, described in the SEFER ROKACH – HILCHOT SHAVUOT, where it describes that the Rebbe would put honey on the letters of the ALEF BET when he first introduced seminal passages of the Torah.
This tradition was adopted and brought to SAR by founding principal Rabbi Sheldon Chwat z”l, and has been continued through the years. Former principal Rabbi Joel Cohn commented that, “this speaks volumes, for as much as SAR wanted to break new ground educationally, there was and is an openness at SAR to take the best of what was and to incorporate it.” Over the years, the tradition has evolved, and today the first graders gather with Rabbi Binyamin Krauss (AC ‘84) under a chuppah made from a beautiful tallit that is embroidered with their names, and which accompanies them to their Siddur Play, Chumash Play, and beyond.
The sweet taste of honey plays a role in the start of the school year for SAR’s faculty and staff as well. Throughout SAR Academy’s history and continued by Rabbi Binyamin Krauss today, and by Rabbi Tully Harcsztark at SAR High School as well, principals have taken time during the busy beginning of the school year to personally deliver a jar of honey to each teacher and staff member, with brachot for the New Year. These personal connections are moments that are looked forward to from year to year, and reflect the value that SAR places on each individual member of our community.