We ended the Schechter Manhattan model seder a few weeks the same way we do every year and the way Jews have ended the seder for centuries, by singing together לשנה הבאה בירושלים, next year in Jerusalem. Throughout the generations, this prayer represented a hope for a better future, a return to the Jewish homeland, a dream that most Jews never saw fulfilled. This year I noted to the students and faculty how blessed we are to live in a time when going to Jerusalem is more than a dream, a time when Jews have returned to the holy land and built the State of Israel. At that moment, at the end of the seder, the miracle of the existence of the State of Israel can not be taken for granted. To mark the moment in this 70th year of Israel, we all stood and sang Hatikvah together. It was a powerful expression of our appreciation for Israel and its central role in the Jewish identities we nurture at Schechter Manhattan.
I am a Zionist. I believe that Jews have a right to a sovereign country of our own in our ancestral homeland. I believe that the Jewish State is necessary for the national identity and safety of the Jewish people worldwide. And I believe that love of and commitment to Israel is an important part of a strong and meaningful Jewish identity in the 21st century. As such, in the context of helping my students to develop their own Jewish identities, I am very pleased that at Schechter Manhattan we celebrated Israel’s 70 years of independence in a variety of ways this week.
On Sunday, we joined the larger community at the Upper West Side Celebrates Israel program. Organizations from throughout our NYC neighborhood came together for a day of Israel activities, including speakers, concerts, and an indoor street fair. Schechter Manhattan’s table at the fair included a STEAM project- building a geodesic dome. The dome was made out of triangles, the basic shape of the Jewish star at the center of the Israeli flag, and decorated with blue and white Jewish stars. It was great to see many Schechter Manhattan students and parents at the event. We had a great time and were reminded that we are a part of a large movement of people who care about the Jewish state.
On Monday, and throughout the week, a special exhibit of posters from The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot in Tel Aviv hung in our school hallway. The photo display in honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary is titled Celebrating Israel: Snapshots of the People Behind a Young State, and showcases a selection of moments in the history of Israel, as seen through the eyes of its people. Each moment highlights the experience of a Jew who came from locations around the world to live freely in a Jewish state. For example, Lea Aurbuch, who was born in Poland in 1925, survived numerous concentration camps, including Auschwitz, and joined a group of illegal immigrants traveling to Palestine in 1947. Or Yafit Melaku, who traveled with her family from Ethiopia, across the desert on foot, to get to Israel in 1984. The stories of these and other Jews who made their way to Israel for a better life are truly inspiring and remind us of how vital Israel is for the safety of so many Jews.
On Tuesday, we welcomed a group of student dancers from the Kinneret Dance Institute in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. The dancers come from the 3rd and 4th grades of Jewish day schools in Rio and they meet together in an after school, Israeli dance company. The group performed Israeli dances and led our 3rd and 4th grade students in an Israeli dancing workshop. It was fun and inspiring to join with members of the international Jewish community in celebrating Israeli culture together.
On Wednesday, we marked Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s memorial day for those who died serving in the Israel Defense Forces and in acts of terror. To mark the day, we simulated the experience of hearing the national siren sound and stood in silence, just as is done in Israel each year. The blowing of a whistle signaled to the Schechter Manhattan community to stop our work and study, and to stand in silence. The experience reminded us of the high cost the Jewish people have paid to build and protect our state.
On Thursday, we turned from the sadness of memorial to the celebration of independence and had an amazing Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day. We started the day with celebratory tfilah, including hallel, the special Psalms of praise added on joyous holidays. During the day of special activities, we sang, danced, created art, and played games together. It was wonderful to mark this special anniversary in the history of Israel and the Jewish people with the Schechter Manhattan community.
Surely, Israel faces many challenges as we look to its eighth decade: Conflict with Palestinians, immigration policies for migrants and refugees, political corruption, and tension between Jews over religious issues, to name but a few. This Yom Haatzmaut we celebrated the Jewish people’s right and readiness to address those challenges as a free people in our own country. I am so grateful to live at this time when the dream of a Jewish state is a reality. And I pray that the coming years and decades will see Israel tackle the challenges it faces and move ever closer to the aspirations of Jewish tradition for a peaceful and just society.
Each week we will feature the written work of our students. We hope that you will stop back next week and see what they are writing and thinking about.
As part of our learning of the Hebrew letter ayin, we created ananim (clouds) and wrote about what we drew in Hebrew.
anan shel Judah. Yesh oogah b’anan. Anan
(Judah’s cloud. There is a cake in the cloud.)
Click here to view work by Judah
anan shel Bracha. Yesh gleehdah ba’anan ba’shamayim.
(Juniper’s cloud. There is an ice cream in the cloud in the sky.)
Click here to view work by Juni
anan shel Leah.
Click here to view work by Louisa
Anan shel Eitan heh. Yesh gleedah ba’shamayim b’anan.
(Alan’s cloud. There is ice cream in the sky in a cloud.)
Click here to view work by Alan
KITAH GIMMEL/KITAH DALET
We have just begun our poetry unit! For the past few days, we have discussed how poets provide strong imagery in their poems by making comparisons using literary devices such as similes. In these work samples, students explored similes by using this type of comparison to help readers visualize their subject, whether that was the rainforest animal they studied last unit or a small event like watching the snow fall in class.
As a lead into a roller coaster design challenge, 6th-grade students answered the following prompt: Why is it important to understand physics if you are designing a rollercoaster? In their responses, students explained how different physics concepts pertain to a roller coaster’s motion and safety