5782 Hebrew School Year in Review.
It is hard to believe but the school year 5782 is coming to an end. We are concluding a great year with a fantastic group of kids, the IJC Hazak! Team. Eight kids, three languages, five different schools and ages ranging from 10 to 13 all in one class.
We started our year amid another Covid wave. We learned, sang, discussed, and prayed with our masks on, the windows open a crack and keeping our distance from one another.. The kids were extremely accommodating and flexible; I, on the other hand, found it really challenging to teach with only minimum visual feedback. I remember finally seeing one of the students, Jude, without a mask and I didn’t recognize him!
It's not a secret that ‘community building’ is high on my priority list. So, we worked all year on building a sense of micro-community within the IJC community. We learned new prayers to sing along with the community. We made posters to hang in the lobby about different Jewish values, art, and songs. We rapped about Hanukkah and planned a party that was moved online, last minute. We learned about the Yad beYad/Hand in Hand School Galil in Israel, where Jewish, Christian, and Arab kids go to school together and receive a bilingual project-based education. We wrote an old-fashioned letter to tell them about our school and asked them our difficult questions.
We sang a song for peace at the kiddush after the war started in the Ukraine. We didn’t shy away from difficult subjects and had many discussions about religion and Jewish values, life skills, soul, spirituality, God, different beliefs, gender and how to live in multicultural groups. We linked the festival Tu Bishevat to our own personal environment and talked about not polluting our class with gossip or teasing, about conserving your own personal energy etc. We enthusiastically participated in games and team-building challenges to learn about different festivals. We shared our freshly baked mini-challot (thank you Sarah Struglia!) with Kita Aleph and teacher Amit when we learned about shabbat. We made hamantaschen for Purim and gave gift bags to the little ones, the rabbi, and the students in the Giur class. We even co-led a musical evening service in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the first Bat Mitzvah in the States. To see all of the students sitting together at the table hanging out was just wonderful.
I have seen the confidence of our students grow as the year has progressed. The dynamic shifted as the Hazak! team spirit grew, and as they felt more and more comfortable in class, at services and the IJC. They know they have a role to play in the community and we should honor and encourage that as much as we can. Their enthusiasm to learn and eagerness to ask deep questions (I love questions!), their willingness to try out anything really, made me leave every session on a high. The continuous feedback and support of the parents was also very much appreciated and helped us also get to know each other better.
I hope that the Hebrew School will continue to go from strength to strength, with you, the parents in partnership. Our children perceive how we relate to things Jewishly, how much importance we place on rituals at home, on the holidays we celebrate and how much time we invest in community. Be brave like our Hazak! kids have been this year. Try out a prayer at home for the first time, study Hebrew, learn something new, sing a song, build community in tiny steps, come to services. Do you see a kid standing around in the lobby? Go up to them, introduce yourself and ask them a question. Get to know them a bit better. Before you know it, they will be standing at the bimah leading a bar/bat mitzvah service and you will feel as proud as if it was your own child. They will forever be part of our growing International Jewish Community.
A very special thanks to the best team: Matt, Matia, Raphaël, Jude, Zev, Felix, Liesl and Lilly.
"Be strong, be strong and let us strengthen each other."
- by Anneke Silverstein