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Fri, 10 Jun 2022 08:03:00 -0400
Remarks by Shira Deener, Head of School Erev Tov, JCDS! Did you know that we have a tradition of saying goodbye to a section of Torah when we finish learning it? This prayer, Hadran Alach, actually reminds us that we never really say goodbye. Rather, we will return to it, again and again. Like we say, “L’hitraot” – “I will … More School Sparks: End-of-Year Celebration 5782

Remarks by Shira Deener, Head of School

Erev Tov, JCDS!

Did you know that we have a tradition of saying goodbye to a section of Torah when we finish learning it? This prayer, Hadran Alach, actually reminds us that we never really say goodbye. Rather, we will return to it, again and again. Like we say, “L’hitraot” – “I will return to you soon.” – it’s never really goodbye.

While our students, staff, and families are not sacred texts, we are each holy – souls that have experienced the beginning, middle, and now (almost) end of another chapter, another school year.

Throughout the past two plus years, we have craved connection, and we were thrilled to have been able to – slowly, slowly – bring back gathering together, in person, as a community. We began the year on this very blacktop. I remember looking out at the parking lot which was jam packed with cars. Cars that carried new members of our JCDS community, returning students and families, and faculty and staff eager to roll up their sleeves and start a new school year. It is fitting that we have returned to this spot as we celebrate the tremendous growth and learning of the 2021-2022 school year.

If you can try to remember way back to the beginning of this year, our students and staff gathered to film the singing of a new song written and taught to us by Natan Kuchar. The song is called: Hadran Alachan – a riff off the Hadran Alach prayer: “I will not forget you. Nor will you ever forget me.”

Like the song, we will not forget the amazing moments of this year and tonight we celebrate all of us, all of you – members of our JCDS community. Some highlights include that:

  • We welcomed back – mixed-grade groupings, all-school gatherings, and weekly live Kabbalat Shabbat gatherings. 
  • We watched in awe as our students, as young as GN, stood up in front of the entire school at the Talent Show, where the magic of JCDS was highlighted. We celebrated students who wanted to demonstrate something uniquely special about themselves – like the very important skill of making a strong pot of coffee.
  • We gathered with Nitzanim as they explored “Mi Ani,” who am I, for their Milestone, and witnessed 2nd graders who further learned about who they are, where they come from, and how Jewish immigrants fit into the story of American pluralism as part of their Immigration Unit. 
  • We had many firsts this year:
  • 4th graders took on the challenge of debating the best renewable energy source for their generation and learned to compete with grace.
  • We had our first annual 6th Grade Day of Service to the school. 
  • We enjoyed our first communal 7th Grade Celebration of Writing.
  • We piloted an 8th grade Israel Curriculum, where students were challenged not only to engage actively with multiple perspectives on the history of our Jewish homeland, but also to wrestle with the many differing views. 
  • We were inspired by the reflections of those students who participated in the three-year-long peer-to-peer exchange program between the German International School of Boston and JCDS.
  • We piloted an ELL program to support the transition of our Israeli families, and are so excited to expand upon this program next year.
  • We deepened connection to one another through TEVA, NYC, MLK service projects, a student craft fair raising over $3300 for Ukrainian refugees, adding to our understanding of an expanded world.
  • We had reading and T’fillah buddies, all-school lunch and recess, and many joyful chaggim celebrated as a community.
  • We celebrated our Chidon HaTanakh and Math Kangaroo national winners.
  • And so much more.

We can’t wait to see what next year brings.

I’d like to take a moment to thank some of the amazing people who have made all of this possible:

Our amazing faculty and staff, our principal, our school nurse, those who work behind the scenes and the front desk. It has been an amazingly successful year because of your dedication and love of our school. Thank you to the Board, led by our intrepid board chair, the parent volunteers, and the Va’ad who constantly fill our stomachs with delicious treats and our hearts with your notes of gratitude. It truly takes a village.

Hadran Alach, after a much deserved summer break, we will return to one another. It is not goodbye. We will return once again next fall!

In the meantime, Kayitz Naim, have a great summer.

Fri, 03 Jun 2022 16:42:00 -0400
By Naomi Greenfield, 2nd Grade General Studies Team Teacher and Social Justice Cohort Member This year at JCDS, the Social Justice Cohort and the Vaad chose a social justice theme that was integrated into programming and learning throughout the year. The theme this year was around Refugee Support and Education, and we highlighted learning opportunities … More School Sparks: Refugee Support and Education

By Naomi Greenfield, 2nd Grade General Studies Team Teacher and Social Justice Cohort Member

This year at JCDS, the Social Justice Cohort and the Vaad chose a social justice theme that was integrated into programming and learning throughout the year. The theme this year was around Refugee Support and Education, and we highlighted learning opportunities while supporting Afghani refugees, Somali refugees, Ukrainian refugees, and more. Social Justice programming this year included a Parent-Child Book Discussion, a panel of local professionals supporting refugees, service projects on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and an “Action Station” every Friday where students made welcome signs for new arriving refugee families and listened to read aloud stories. Friday, May 20th was the culminating event of the Refugee Support and Education programming, the 1st ever JCDS Student Craft Fair. The goal of the Fair was to enable students to see they have the power to make an impact, and that they could raise money for tzedakah that makes a difference in the world.

What we didn’t plan for were all the other remarkable experiences that emerged from the event—students finding their creative voice, students interacting and working with students who they don’t usually, parents working with their students on crafts and finding an opportunity to combat hopelessness with action, students developing a deep understanding of Tzedakah, and an event that brought together nearly the entire student body from Gan Nitzan through Eighth Grade to sell and shop together.

Abundant and colorful crafts filled the gym—bookmarks, keychains, bracelets, pottery, soap, slime, magnets. Crayons, notecards, and JCDS spirit items. In total, more than 40 students created over 620 craft items. We sold out of every craft in the first hour of the fair!

Equity was also top of mind in the planning and execution of the fair. Every Friday since the fall, students have had the opportunity to create crafts (keychains, cards, and bookmarks) with school-sponsored supplies at the Action Station, where students created nearly 100 items over the course of the year. Families were asked to make a donation in advance of the craft and then students were given the same number of tickets to shop regardless of the donation amount. Every craft, regardless of size and complexity “cost” one ticket.

In the end, we received more than 70 individual donations ranging from $3 to $180 and in total, raised more than $3,300 for Cash for Refugees, a local organization founded out of the Boston Jewish community that is getting support directly and immediately to refugees in Ukraine. The fair was imbued with meaning by Ukrainian music and heartfelt personal words from JCDS parent Mark Beloborodov, P’16, ’22, (’26).

Enjoy these photos of what we hope will be a new annual tradition at JCDS, an afternoon filled with creativity, community and tzedakah.

We are grateful for everyone’s support and interest, and are very much looking forward to diving into our second year of Social Justice theme programming! Here is a preview. Please reach out if you are interested in volunteering to help with programming initiatives for the 2022-2023 school year.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 27 May 2022 11:26:00 -0400
By Avraham Sosa, Middle School Science Teacher וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים הִנֵּה֩ נָתַ֨תִּי לָכֶ֜ם אֶת־כׇּל־עֵ֣שֶׂב ׀ זֹרֵ֣עַ זֶ֗רַע אֲשֶׁר֙ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י כׇל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וְאֶת־כׇּל־הָעֵ֛ץ אֲשֶׁר־בּ֥וֹ פְרִי־עֵ֖ץ זֹרֵ֣עַ זָ֑רַע לָכֶ֥ם יִֽהְיֶ֖ה לְאׇכְלָֽה׃ וּֽלְכׇל־חַיַּ֣ת הָ֠אָ֠רֶץ וּלְכׇל־ע֨וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֜יִם וּלְכֹ֣ל ׀ רוֹמֵ֣שׂ עַל־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־בּוֹ֙ נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֔ה אֶת־כׇּל־יֶ֥רֶק עֵ֖שֶׂב לְאׇכְלָ֑ה וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃ God said, “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, … More School Sparks: JCDS STEM and the Environment

By Avraham Sosa, Middle School Science Teacher

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים הִנֵּה֩ נָתַ֨תִּי לָכֶ֜ם אֶת־כׇּל־עֵ֣שֶׂב ׀ זֹרֵ֣עַ זֶ֗רַע אֲשֶׁר֙ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י כׇל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וְאֶת־כׇּל־הָעֵ֛ץ אֲשֶׁר־בּ֥וֹ פְרִי־עֵ֖ץ זֹרֵ֣עַ זָ֑רַע לָכֶ֥ם יִֽהְיֶ֖ה לְאׇכְלָֽה׃ וּֽלְכׇל־חַיַּ֣ת הָ֠אָ֠רֶץ וּלְכׇל־ע֨וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֜יִם וּלְכֹ֣ל ׀ רוֹמֵ֣שׂ עַל־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־בּוֹ֙ נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֔ה אֶת־כׇּל־יֶ֥רֶק עֵ֖שֶׂב לְאׇכְלָ֑ה וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃

God said, “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food. And to all the animals on land, to all the birds of the sky, and to everything that creeps on earth, in which there is the breath of life, I give all the green plants for food.” And it was so. (B’reisheet 1:29-30)

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“Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why.”
– Bernard Baruch, American financier

The year of science and STEM education has been filled with asking “why,” helping students to make discoveries, and integrating secular subjects with Jewish learning. It’s been such an exciting year. Please enjoy an overview of our year of learning in seventh grade science:

As a foundational lesson, seventh graders learned about the role that plants play as a principal resource in all of the ways that they support life on Earth. Students examined how plants release oxygen into the atmosphere, absorb carbon dioxide, provide habitats for wildlife and humans, regulate the water cycle, and play an important role in feeding the Earth’s life, including humans, all while using the energy of the sun.

Seventh graders then learned how photosynthesis in plants works by first understanding the nature of light, including the spectrum of electromagnetism. They also learned about how colors have different energy levels that plants use in order to create their own food.

Seventh grader Laila F. shared:
“I got to learn in a way that explained how things happen rather than just what happens. For example: photosynthesis. I first learned how plants use the chloroplast in what is used to photosynthesize, then I learned how the different kinds of light affect the plant and go into the chloroplast in different ways, then I learned what it really means when photosynthesis happens, and learning all this stuff and putting it together taught me only one tiny piece of biology, but somehow, I managed to learn everything else this exact way. I was able to put all the separate pieces together and now I have the ability to understand so much more. I didn’t just learn science but I learned how to understand science.

With the frame of light, electromagnetism, and photosynthesis, seventh graders began working in the JCDS garden, bringing together several subject areas. First, they began growing plants for the summer harvest, including pumpkin, tomato, basil, watermelon, cucumbers, and cilantro. Seventh graders also learned about composting as a means for creating healthy growing conditions, as well as its positive environmental impact. Rose N. shared, “Composting takes hard work and time. We have to take food scraps and weeds from gardens and decompose them, but in the end, we must compost to make a better earth for us and everyone who comes after so that our world can be healthy.”

Their learning about plants and the importance of gardening rippled out as they brought their knowledge to younger children, teaching them about the importance of gardening by transplanting the indoor plants to the outdoor garden. Frieda N. wrote, “I learned about the importance of being able to do science projects with younger kids, because you are helping them learn, and that is important.” Amitai Z. also shared the power of “helping the little kids to understand the joy of planting, and ultimately creating life.”

Further supporting the garden, and as part of their final project, the JCDS Robotics Club set to work on an irrigation system to help plants grow in an efficient way. Using the inputs of humidity, temperature, water and light sensors, students determined the most efficient way to care for the plants and built a system to do so.

Finally, the seventh graders will bring it all together, a meaningful representation of STEM integration, by ending the year with a design challenge. Students will design and build a model city for the future, ensuring a healthy balance of water, carbon and nitrogen cycles, urban compost, green areas, healthier environments and improved lifestyles, green energies, and energy efficiency in companies, offices, schools and homes. Thinking about a better future for our families and the roles that schools play, Jordana K-T. shared, “We are role models and our legacy will be passed down.” It is our responsibility to protect the environment, and JCDS seventh graders are taking the lead.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 20 May 2022 09:57:00 -0400
By Shira Deener, Head of School. In her book, The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain, Annie Murphy Paul makes a strong case that learning is a “deeply social act.” She explains how schools for centuries have viewed socializing as something relegated to recess and over lunch in the cafeteria. Real academics … More School Sparks: Harnessing the Social Brain at JCDS’ Middle School
8th Grade Trip: boat ride in the New York Harbor

By Shira Deener, Head of School.

In her book, The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain, Annie Murphy Paul makes a strong case that learning is a “deeply social act.” She explains how schools for centuries have viewed socializing as something relegated to recess and over lunch in the cafeteria. Real academics is what school is really all about. But the challenge, she continues, is that human beings are social creatures, and the social part of our operating systems never turns off. Therefore, it is best to figure out ways to “harness a social brain” while learning, teaching, and growing.

What our JCDS middle school students experienced this past week is an excellent example of doing just that – harnessing the social brain in the service of learning and growing. The 6th, 7th, and 8th graders had an exciting week of learning outside the classroom and, perhaps, “outside the brain” as well in three distinct ways.

The 6th graders had two days of service inside JCDS. As part of a larger JCDS community, they were asked to think of ways to contribute to the needs of our school facility. What resulted from their dedication, work ethic, and collaboration were newly painted bulletin boards, a much-needed clean-up of our Beit Midrash, painted doors and signage, and filled in potholes around the school.

The 7th grade safely returned from an amazing TEVA trip at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut. Reflections from our students best describe their special learning experiences:

“TEVA is an awe-inspiring experience. When you first get off to the campsite, immediately you start to relax because of all the nature that surrounds you. In TEVA, you go on hikes and you sightsee. You also get to spend time with friends, hang out by the campfire, cook, filter water, and you don’t use any electricity. My favorite part would have to be the campfire every night. Sitting around the campfire is magical and really strengthens bonds within communities through singing. I love how when you go hiking and you get to the top, you really get to enjoy the view with your friends. During TEVA, you can be yourself. I really love TEVA and hope I can come back soon.”

Solo Walk Reflections by many student voices:
“It was so quiet. I just heard the voice of the forest…[Reflecting on ‘Imagine You’re a Bird’ activity], I could really imagine that and I really liked it…I tried to combine them all; Imagine a bird seeing all the green…It’s very peaceful and I felt very thankful…It was a different view to look up and see the blue sky with all the trees over you. It didn’t even feel gross to lie down, it just felt peaceful to see all the leaves and hear the birds…I missed my friends even going on a 7 minute walk…I really liked walking alone and taking my time and feeling my thoughts…

Last Night Appreciation:
“Feeling accomplished after the hike…time to talk with my friends…Watching the waterfall was really calming after the hike…After the hike, I went to the bunk and laid in my bed and felt proud…Free time to talk and hang out with friends. Less structured time…Friends who helped me get through my big issues…Wasn’t raining during sundown and could see the sunset…Every walk that wasn’t a hike…Always surrounded by these wonderful classmates and I was always able to be with them which I am very grateful for…I really liked the hike and I love that we have rule number 5 to follow (Kavod)…Cooking our own food…Appreciated making the fire and it was fun…Making the fire, cooking the food, spending the with friends…I enjoyed the whole experience and getting to be outside for 2 days and I thought it was really meaningful to see us as a community working together…I appreciated the awesome nature, especially the stream…I enjoyed doling things I didn’t think I could do and feeling accomplished. When you’re all the way at the bottom you don’t think you can do it. I’m thankful that I got to have one full convo with everyone here. When I go home it will be sad because they all are my family…I appreciated the hike…All my friends when I got hurt and they all came to make sure I was ok…The hike was challenging but felt good to get it done…Not having my phone…Thank you to the staff.

Our 8th graders returned yesterday from an epic trip to NYC where learning came in the form of tours of the Lower East Side’s Tenement Museum and a boat trip in the New York Harbor over to Ellis Island, a visit to the historical marker Stonewall Inn, and the Broadway show Come From Away poignantly brought to life lessons gleaned from a visit to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Union Square, NY bagels, downtime together in the hotel contributed to deepening friendships and learning all outside the classroom.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 13 May 2022 10:01:00 -0400
By Shira Deener, Head of School. Matters of Taste: What Really Matters on Friday, May 6th was an unprecedented celebration, as never before have we had our entire student body join our supporters and extended JCDS community of friends and family for our signature fundraising event. The Book of Proverbs, also known as Mishlei, in … More School Sparks: JCDS’ Secret Ingredient

By Shira Deener, Head of School.

Matters of Taste: What Really Matters on Friday, May 6th was an unprecedented celebration, as never before have we had our entire student body join our supporters and extended JCDS community of friends and family for our signature fundraising event.

The Book of Proverbs, also known as Mishlei, in the Third Book of the Tanach, describes through imagery and poetry what it takes to build a house. Or we can think of it as “community.”

Proverbs 24:3-6
בְּ֭חׇכְמָה יִבָּ֣נֶה בָּ֑יִת וּ֝בִתְבוּנָ֗ה יִתְכּוֹנָֽן׃ וּ֭בְדַעַת חֲדָרִ֣ים יִמָּלְא֑וּ כׇּל־ה֖וֹן יָקָ֣ר וְנָעִֽים׃

A house is built by wisdom, and is established by understanding; by knowledge are its rooms filled with all precious and beautiful things.

Our sages must have been writing about JCDS – they just didn’t quite know it yet. A house, our special JCDS community, is built by understanding and wisdom passed down to your children and grandchildren in partnership with you and our extraordinary faculty and staff.

For wisdom and understanding to truly flourish, not only do you need effective teaching, but also you need an environment in which you know you truly belong. Imagine coming to school every day zipping up who you really are in order to fit in and feel a sense of belonging. That expends a lot of energy that could be spent on much better things. Our students deserve better. Our students walk through those doors every day and know that all of us truly see them. That is the magic. And, it is also a necessary condition in order for their understanding and wisdom to flourish.

At this year’s Matters of Taste, we wanted to find a way to demonstrate that very special ingredient, the special sauce that is so JCDS.

If you want to come into the school on any day, you are welcome to peek into our classrooms to get a taste of our academic rigor, the interdisciplinary points of connection, the pedagogical approaches which place students at the center so we hear more of their voices than our own as they develop their critical thinking skills. You will hear Hebrew spoken throughout the day and feel how joyful Judaism can be expressed and lived authentically. You’ll understand just how it is that we have students who win essay contests, rank nationally on the Math Kangaroo contest, and come in first place for the Chidon HaTanach.

But that still doesn’t get to the core of who we are as a community. I’m talking about the very thing that you know and feel when you think about our school. That special ingredient is what this year’s version of Matters of Taste was all about.

In an effort to help demonstrate what that special sauce is – we created an unscripted documentary-style film where faculty, staff, students, and an alumni tried to capture what fills our rooms with such beautiful and precious things.

Thank you to our community for your generosity and philanthropy that helps sustain us from year to year. Thank you to everyone who helped bring us to this moment.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 06 May 2022 13:49:00 -0400
By Shira Deener, Head of School. Zionism. It is a concept rich in history, perspective, hope, and dreams. It is also a concept steeped in complexity, weight, challenge, and debate. Zionism means a great deal to many, both within the Jewish community and beyond. And despite its collective significance, it remains a concept that is … More School Sparks: Teaching the History of Israel Through JCDS’ Habits of Mind and Heart

By Shira Deener, Head of School.

Zionism.

It is a concept rich in history, perspective, hope, and dreams. It is also a concept steeped in complexity, weight, challenge, and debate. Zionism means a great deal to many, both within the Jewish community and beyond. And despite its collective significance, it remains a concept that is unique to the individual. A key foundational lesson of our school’s new Israel history unit is that there is no single definition of Zionism. Replete with complexity, sometimes it can be hard to talk about, let alone teach. Yet at JCDS, our time-honored Habits of Mind and Heart continue to support our students as they build their knowledge of our history while honing critical thinking skills throughout the process. Perspective taking, evidence, curiosity, and humility will guide their experience over the next few months.

When we began teaching our brand new 8th grade unit on the History of the State of Israel, we made it clear that we wouldn’t – couldn’t, actually – do so through a binary narrative. We emphasized that each version of this history would come paired with another, sometimes many others, and that those versions would not always agree. Over the course of this unit, students would be challenged not only to engage actively with multiple perspectives on the history of the Jewish homeland, but to wrestle with the contemporary implications presented by those differing views.

Students were split into five groups which were each assigned a different Zionist philosopher from the late 1800s when the movement first began: Theodor Herzl, Ahad Ha’am, A.D. Gordon, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and Leon Pinsker. The assignment culminated in a panel discussion with students representing the views (and spirit) of their assigned thinker.

After spending several class periods immersed in primary sources written by these men, and secondary sources written about each of them, the students quickly learned that while all could be identified as Zionists, each one had their own definition of what that meant. learned how each thinker’s individual life circumstances informed their opinions, and how they differed in their approaches to, and opinions about, the prospect of a Jewish state. Questions about the Jewish State’s preferred location, who it would be for and, most importantly, why it should exist, were all up for debate when these men were alive.

As we watched the finished product of this panel come together, we looked on with pride as our students – armed with research and public speaking confidence – spoke with clarity, specificity, charm, and wit. They brought each thinker back to life by boldly stating their beliefs about Zionism. They were able to disagree respectfully, find points of agreement and ultimately paint a more nuanced picture of this critical era of Jewish history.

Yesterday, on Yom Ha’Atzmaut יום העצמאות (Israeli Independence Day) students took a trip to Israel, making their own passports and moving through a Middle School run El Al security. Students were filled with ruach as they participated in Chidon Tanach trivia, singing, hearing personal stories from Israeli parents, and ending with a raucous outdoor school dance party. We had so much fun learning and celebrating on Israel’s 74th birthday!

Yom Ha’Atzmaut Sameach!

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 29 Apr 2022 11:33:00 -0400
By Shira Deener, Head of School Yom Hashoah V’Hagvura, The Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and Heroism, which falls annually on the 27th Day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, marks the beginning of many Yoms (days) on the Jewish calendar. Next week, Yom HaZikaron (National Remembrance Day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) … More School Sparks: JCDS Personalizes the Month of “Yoms”

By Shira Deener, Head of School

Yom Hashoah V’Hagvura, The Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and Heroism, which falls annually on the 27th Day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, marks the beginning of many Yoms (days) on the Jewish calendar. Next week, Yom HaZikaron (National Remembrance Day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) will both be commemorated and celebrated in communities in Israel and locally.

Personalizing any one of these Yoms is the secret ingredient to student connection. And yet, with respect to Yom Hashoah, distance poses a challenge. With 75 years between us and the Shoah, the days of sharing personal stories through survivor testimony are dwindling. On this day, I think about my dear friends from Boston’s survivor community and I can picture them in our sifriya over the years, sharing intimate details about their survival with JCDS students. For years, Rena Finder, one of the youngest on Schindler’s List, and Dr. Anna Ornstein, who survived Auschwitz along with her mother, left students spellbound as they spoke honestly and openly, honoring our students’ capacity to bear witness to their stories.

Our challenge is to ensure that we continue making Yom HaShoah V’Hagvura meaningful to the next generation. This is where descendants of the survivor community – sons and daughters, along with grandchildren – play a crucial role in the process of transmitting memory to the children of today.

This year, JCDS 3rd-8th graders gathered in the sifriya for a short tekes (ceremony). The ceremony included lighting of the six yizkor candles (to commemorate the 6 million lives lost), reciting El Maleh Rachamim (a memorial prayer for victims of the Holocaust, see below), and singing Eili, Eili while Kayla Shechter ’23 accompanied the students on her cello. As the tekes concluded, students were instructed to zachor, to remember.

We are so grateful to Natty Hoffman P‘28 for sharing her personal family story with our community to help our students remember. With three newly bound machzorim (bookbinding performed by JCDS alumna, Rachel Jackson ’06), Natty shared her grandparents’ remarkable story of survival. She also shared the successful retrieval of the buried machzorim, hidden for safekeeping during the Holocaust, and extracted decades later in Slovakia.

2nd through 8th graders had the privilege of listening to Natty tell her story in age-appropriate ways. In the 2nd grade, students listened and asked so many questions such as: Why were the books so important that her grandparents wanted to bury them? Why does Natty prefer to pray with these books and not new ones? How do we learn from objects from our history? How did the grandparents cover the hole in order to hide the books? Through maps, photos, and Natty’s openness, our students honored the history of the Shoah while remembering the 6 million Jews who lost their lives. Together, students fulfilled the intention of this day: zachor, remember.

El Maleh Rachamim (God, Full of Mercy)
A memorial prayer for victims of the Holocaust

God full of mercy
defender of widows and father of orphans
be not be silent or restrained regarding the blood which was spilt like water
grant proper rest beneath the wings of Your Presence
in the great heights of the holy and pure
who like the brilliance of the heavens give light and shine
for the souls of multitudes of thousands, men, women, boys and girls
who were killed, and slaughtered, and burnt, and suffocated, and buried alive
in the lands touched by the hand of the German oppressor and its followers
all of them holy and pure
may the Garden of Eden be their resting place
therefore may the Master of mercy shelter them in the shelter of His wings for eternity
and bind their souls with the bond of life
God is their inheritance
and may they find peaceful repose in their resting place
and let us say: Amen

אל מלא רחמים
דיין אלמנות ואבי יתומים
אל נא תחשה ותתאפק לדם שנשפך כמים
המצא מנוחה נכונה
על כנפי השכינה, במעלות קדושים וטהורים, כזהר הרקיע
מאירים ומזהירים
לנשמותיהם של רבבות אלפים
אנשים ונשים, ילדים וילדות
נהרגו ונשחטו ונשרפו ונחנקו ונקברו חיים
בארצות אשר נגעה בהן יד הצורר הגרמני וגרוריו
כלם קדושים וטהורים
בגן עדן תהא מנוחתם
לכן בעל הרחמים יסתירם בסתר כנפיו לעולמים, ויצרור בצרור החיים את
נשמותיהם
יי הוא נחלתם
ינוחו בשלום על משכבם
ונאמר אמן

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 01 Apr 2022 11:38:15 -0400
You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your G-d: I am G-d. (Leviticus 19:32) Our tradition teaches us that an essential part of קדושים תהיו (You shall be holy) is the imperative of honoring the elderly. JCDS’ fifth grade students are learning … More School Sparks: Learning from the Elderly

You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your G-d: I am G-d. (Leviticus 19:32)

Our tradition teaches us that an essential part of קדושים תהיו (You shall be holy) is the imperative of honoring the elderly. JCDS’ fifth grade students are learning this lesson up close and personally. Pre-COVID, our students were given the gift of visiting members of our senior community at Hebrew Senior Life in person. During the pandemic, we did everything we could to continue this tradition. This year, we pivoted, once again, in order to form relationships with the residents of Hebrew Senior Life – we met over Zoom. Each meeting, students prepared questions to ask the residents about universal topics like their favorite holidays and foods. Students encouraged their new friends to think way back to their fifth grade experiences in order to compare and contrast with the learning they are experiencing today at JCDS. Students learned about “ancient artifacts” such as rotary telephones and adding machines and watched commercials and advertisements from their childhoods.

COVID prevalence reached a safe enough level last month making it possible for a face-to-face visit. We realized when we went last month that we were not meeting strangers – we were connecting with friends! Fifth grade can participate in this program because of a generous grant called Better Together from the Legacy Heritage Foundation. Each year they sponsor an essay contest, asking students to write about the impact that the program has had on them. Each school chooses one internal winner and then all the essays are submitted to a national contest. Our very own Eve Menzin won the internal contest! Kol Hakavod, Eve! You are invited to read Eve’s very personal reflections here:

Learning from the Elderly
by Eve Menzin ’25

The Hebrew Senior Life (HSL) program has helped my relationship with the senior citizens which will connect me more to elderly people in general. I think that if I had not done this program I would never have really interacted with seniors at all. I used to not know many seniors. I was a lot more shy with people. Now, I am much less shy with seniors. And I learned how to ask questions more. I also realized that seniors are just normal people.

Before I started this program the only elderly people I really knew were my great aunt and uncle. (My uncle passed away a few years ago, so really only my aunt.) I had heard a lot about my other family members who had lived a long time ago. I had so many questions that I wanted to ask my extended family but being the shy kid I was I didn’t ask. One example of when I was really shy with elderly people was when I was in fourth grade. I was going to a nursing home with my Girl Scouts troop on Halloween. When I got split into my group with two other people, I was too shy to say anything. I just stared at the floor until it was time to go. If I hadn’t done HSL, I feel like all of my interactions with seniors might have been like that.

HSL has taught me that I should not be afraid to ask questions. This is important because you can understand more about people.

Also sometimes people really like it. For instance, the Gemara says, “If his son is wise and knows how to inquire, his son asks him. And if he is not wise, his wife asks him. And if even his wife is not capable of asking or if he has no wife, he asks himself. And even if two Torah scholars who know the halakhot of Passover are sitting together and there is no one else present to pose the questions, they ask each other.” This is one of my favorite quotes from the Gemara because it shows that no one knows everything. Part of being wise is asking questions.

When I was asked to write questions I always put my time and thought into them. I was usually the last one to turn them in. When I started HSL in school I had a huge interest of World War II and the Holocaust. I had read 10 books that took place then. I also read five factual books. I read many articles in fourth grade. I even did a big project on FDR. That’s why when I started this program I sort of thought of the seniors as “personal history question “answerers””. They could tell me exactly what I need. What could be better for me? Well, they were also friendly and I could talk to them like normal people.

After HSL I can understand how seniors are just normal people. (Though, at first they kind of felt like aliens). Rabbi Akiva says to treat people how you want to be treated. HSL helped me treat elderly people, and think of the elderly, more respectfully. Also It says that “In the presence of an elder you shall rise from your seat and respect that elder.” HSL has helped me respect Elderly people more. Which was actually really important because, looping back to what I said earlier about asking questions, the Misha says that we should learn from everyone, especially the elderly. That is another reason it is important to ask questions to elderly people.

In conclusion, HSL has taught me that asking questions to seniors is good. Also I learned that I shouldn’t be scared to ask questions because most of them like when I do ask questions. HSL has also shown me that seniors are normal people and have similarities to me. I learned from HSL to respect elderly people more. From HSL I have learned many helpful lessons which will help me for the rest of my life.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 25 Mar 2022 18:35:00 -0400
By Shira Deener, Head of School. This week JCDS Middle School students cut the ribbon and inaugurated the long-awaited, newly-constructed single-stall gender neutral bathroom. Our 5-8th grade students gathered in the Chadar Ochel to do something familiar to all: learn, reflect, and bless. In this case, we reviewed the words that Rav Abaye, the 4th … More School Sparks: Asher Yatzar (Who Formed)

By Shira Deener, Head of School.

This week JCDS Middle School students cut the ribbon and inaugurated the long-awaited, newly-constructed single-stall gender neutral bathroom. Our 5-8th grade students gathered in the Chadar Ochel to do something familiar to all: learn, reflect, and bless. In this case, we reviewed the words that Rav Abaye, the 4th C. Talmud scholar, famously crafted – Asher Yatzar.

As Jews, we are given so many opportunities to stop, pause, notice, and show gratitude. When one sees the wonder of a rainbow, hears the roar of an ocean, or notices something beautiful in nature, we have a blessing to recite. Asher Yatzar is a blessing of thanksgiving for the workings of the human body, without which we would not be able to live our lives healthfully and in service of God.

The text of the blessing is as follows:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר יָצַר אֶת הָאָדָם בְּחָכְמָה, וּבָרָא בוֹ נְקָבִים נְקָבִים חֲלוּלִים חֲלוּלִים .גָּלוּי וְיָדוּעַ לִפְנֵי כִסֵּא כְבוֹדֶךָ, שֶׁאִם יִפָּתֵחַ אֶחָד מֵהֶם, אוֹ יִסָּתֵם אֶחָד מֵהֶם, אִי אֶפְשַׁר לְהִתְקַיֵּם וְלַעֲמוֹד לְפָנֶיךָ אַפִלּוּ שָׁעָה אֶחָת. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי, רוֹפֵא כָל בָּשָׂר וּמַפְלִיא לַעֲשׂוֹת:”

“Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, who formed humans with wisdom and created within them many openings and many hollow spaces. It is obvious and known before Your Seat of Honor that if even one of them would be opened, or if even one of them would be sealed, it would be impossible to survive and to stand before You even for one hour. Blessed are You, Adonai, who heals all flesh and acts wondrously.”

At JCDS, living healthfully not only means biologically or medically, but also living with dignity, comfort, and an acceptance of our full selves. Having a gender neutral bathroom is an important step towards ensuring a safe and positive learning environment for our community. The importance of maintaining a daily regimen for our physical health is widely understood. Movement is medicine. The need to stay fit, exercise, and eat healthfully is accepted and embraced by many. What isn’t always as obvious is the importance of social-emotional health and wellness and how bathroom choice is a part of that experience. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, our new single-stall bathroom will help continue our journey to safeguard the dignity of each member of our diverse community.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 11 Mar 2022 09:30:15 -0500
By Sarah Langer, 6th-8th Grade Math Teacher; Social Justice Coordinator. One of the 7th grade math units addresses percent change. In the unit, we learn how to calculate how much a value has changed over time. This topic easily lends itself to real world contexts such as tax, tip, sales, and commission, but the 7th … More School Sparks: Using Math to Make Sense of the World

By Sarah Langer, 6th-8th Grade Math Teacher; Social Justice Coordinator.

One of the 7th grade math units addresses percent change. In the unit, we learn how to calculate how much a value has changed over time. This topic easily lends itself to real world contexts such as tax, tip, sales, and commission, but the 7th grade math team, Yaara David, 6th-8th Grade Math Teacher, and I wanted students to go one step further.

For the past week, students have worked in small teams to analyze average ocean temperatures since 1880, average seasonal temperatures since 1880, unemployment data from the last 8 years, the Minneapolis police department budget, or oil prices in 2021. Students thought about historical events related to or coinciding with their data, came up with a question that their data could answer, found the percent changes over time, and analyzed those changes. Through their analysis, students discovered that a sharp increase in unemployment correlated to the beginning of COVID. They discovered the small percent changes in seasonal temperatures during the first half of the 20th century, and then the relatively larger percent changes in temperatures in the last 50 years. One group even researched and then analyzed their own topic: the market price of bitcoin during the week of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, as Russia was buying bitcoin and the West was sanctioning Russia.

All this analysis connected to two of our Habits of Mind and Heart – curiosity and evidence. Through this project, students saw how their math evidence provided a lens into the news. One group shared how surprised they were that the percentage change in ocean temperature over the past 50 years was only around 2%, which felt small to them given the impact on our oceans. Another group explored COVID rates data so they could compare the data more directly with that of unemployment rates.

All groups saw how data can give some answers to their curiosity, and ended with asking further questions, since data can only tell us part of the story. One group wondered, “What were the unemployment rates during the Spanish Influenza?” Another group asked, “Why did the temperatures sometimes decrease, as well as increase, even as overall they increased?” And finally, “What could humans have done differently, so that the temperatures would not rise?” As we concluded the presentations, one group noted, “This is a very important topic in our world today and we were able to learn a lot about it by looking at this data.”

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.