“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny… Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I-it” relationship for an “I-thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and awful.” Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter From a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963
Writing on the margins of newspaper in a jail cell, Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated a cogent argument and compelling vision for equal rights in America. As we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy this weekend I believe that much of what he continues to teach us resonates with Jewish values and the aspirations we have for students at Schechter Manhattan.
Dr. King wrote of the importance of treating other human beings with the care and respect that they deserve. That is a deeply Jewish ideal. We teach students at Schechter Manhattan that every human being is created בצלם אלהים, in the image of God, and as such each person needs to be accorded the positive regard that such holiness calls for. The focus on menschlichkeit, caring and respectful interaction, starts with the day to day interactions students have with each other. We ask students to work together all the time, and when working on challenging learning tasks it is not uncommon for disagreement to arise. Teachers take advantage of those moments to help students develop the skills and dispositions to treat the other human being sitting across from them with caring and respect, even and especially when they disagree. We teach our students that our differences make for a stronger and richer community; that our varied perspectives and ideas help us all to learn more; that everyone has something meaningful to contribute.
When social concerns arise in our classrooms, whether between individuals or impacting the larger group, we take time to address them and help students to cultivate their social and emotional skills and to build supportive learning communities. At times this means putting aside academic tasks and concerns, since we know that learning will only be maximized within an emotionally safe environment. A teacher will, for example, ask two students to stop talking to each other about math, to spend some time attending to how they are talking to each other about math.
This focus on menschlichkeit leads to a culture of acceptance and appreciation of others within the school. At the same time, Dr. King’s message, that all human beings are interconnected and impacted by each other, animates our efforts to give students opportunities to reach beyond the walls of our school into the larger community. Starting in Gan students are asked to think about how we can contribute toward efforts for helping others through the yearly tzedakah roundtable process, in which they review a variety of charitable organizations and weight different factors in considering how and where to give. Through the process they are enculturated to their responsibility for giving to others in need. Starting in the upper elementary grades and continuing through middle school Schechter Manhattan students also participate in regular community service projects, including visiting senior citizens, cleaning up in city parks, stocking shelves in a food pantry, and reading to younger students in a local public school. These ongoing experiences of helping in the community reinforce the important ideal that we can and should be in partnership with other people to build an ever more compassionate and just society.
Dr. King’s ideals of respect for other human beings and connections to other people in the larger community come together in powerful ways for Schechter Manhattan students through interfaith learning experiences. Our 5th grade students recently began their Interfaith Living Museum project, along with another Jewish day school and two Muslim schools and under the auspices of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Over the coming weeks and months the students will meet and get to know Muslim peers as they all work on developing the living museum exhibit of artifacts from their respective cultural heritages that they will present in the spring. The 6th and 7th grades will participate in an interfaith Seder with students from Catholic and Muslim schools through a partnership with the Anti-Defamation League. At the model seder our students will share their knowledge and experiences of Passover and the Catholic and Muslim students will share elements of their faith traditions. These interfaith experiences help our students to strengthen their Jewish identities and build menschy relationships with people who are different.
We aspire for our students to internalize the value of care for others that Dr. King fought so hard to actualize. Dr. King’s life and teachings are an inspiration to us to redouble our commitments to that value and to teaching it to our children, so that they can be the leaders who one day will bring his beautiful vision into full reality.
THIS WEEK WE ARE FEATURING WORK BY SOME OF OUR STUDENTS IN GAN, KITAH BET, KITAH DALET, AND KITAH CHET
Gan students wrote about what they did over winter break.
IOETtOLCHOOENHICP (I went to a place to how see how to make a cup.)
I Hat COCO (I had Hot Cocoa)
Kitah Bet came up with some advice for younger students on how they might become better readers.
If you read with punctuation you will read the book beder. You can also read out lowd and say to your self dos that sound rite?
A good reader reads books that are just rite for them. They also read with punctuation. good readers also find a just rite place to read. Readers ask questions as they read.
A good reader always says exression (expression) with its punctuation. There are a few smart strategies you can use to become a better reader. One way is to read slowly. Another way is to sound out the words.
My advice is: you should know what’s uphill, downhill, and just right. You should read just right books carefully, and in a just right reading spot. You should always be making questions, connections, predictions, and visualazation. Last but not least, you shouldn’t care if someone is in a higher level than you because you’ll get there someday.
Kitah Dalet has been learning about Jacob’s dream. After reading and discussing the dream the students wrote about what they visualized as they read the story.
In torah class i visualized a very long later reaching up to the sky and a angel climbing up the later. the later reached all the way up to the sky! The angles where going up and down up and down up and down the later bring tons of food to some one ( it might be god).The angles had halos over there heads and soft fethery wings. my perditshon is that god wants Jacob to talk to him. but why did the angles use the later insted of fiying up?
When we were talking about Jacob’s ladder, I visualized a lot of different things. For example, I imagined some angels going up the ladder and some going down. Even though this is not at all talked about in the text, I imagined God looking through the clouds at all his angelic messengers. I also visualized, again coming from nowhere in the text, Jacob not knowing that he was dreaming. In my mind, it played out like this: Jacob wakes up. He sees a ladder coming down from the sky with with angels travelling on it. He looks up. He sees something that, even though he’s never seen anything like it, he unmistakably knows is God. He wonders why this is all happening, but at that point he starts to get tired even though it’s the middle of the day and all he’s been doing is watching angels travel on it. He goes back to sleep. When he wakes up, he realizes it was all just a dream. There were other smaller things, like my visualization that he was in a forest, but mostly that’s it.
I imagine Jacob on a beach with angels in the sky with a ladder. The beach has soft, brown sand. The ocean is the blue and the waves make noise. Jacob is wearing clothing from olden days. He is laying on a rock to see the sky. There are other rocks near by. The ladder is in front of him and it is purple. Angels are going up and down the ladder really quickly.
Kitah Chet read a story in Hebrew about an event that takes place between a son and his father in which the son’s trust is betrayed. The students were asked to answer: “Why was the son angry with his father?”
ילד הוא כועס אם האב , כי הילד רצה לרוץ לקיוסק עם האבא שלו , אבל
האבא לא רצה . האבא רץ חצי הדרך לקיוסק ואמר שהוא היה מהיר יותר
מהילד . האב הוא לא ממש מהר יותר מהילד , אבל הוא אמר את זה. הילד
כועס, כי הוא עשה הרבה להיות בקיוסק לפני האבא.
Michael S. —