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Thu, 19 Nov 2020 09:35:44 -0500
Dear Friends and Fellow Parents,We hope you are well and that you and your kids are getting as much out of JCDS as our family is this fall. Some of you know us as Miriam’s (3rd grade) and Reuben’s (1st grade) parents. We are writing to ask you to reflect and act on what you … More A Message to Parents from Deb Gaffin and Richard Bennett

Dear Friends and Fellow Parents,
We hope you are well and that you and your kids are getting as much out of JCDS as our family is this fall. Some of you know us as Miriam’s (3rd grade) and Reuben’s (1st grade) parents. We are writing to ask you to reflect and act on what you can do as parents to sustain and advance the School. Specifically, we ask you to join us in giving what you can to support JCDS this year, and in particular to take advantage of the generous $100,000 match which has been offered by one of our donors.
We hope you have already seen Shira’s video message to the school community and understand that the School is seeking exceptional financial support to navigate this year’s special circumstances. Understanding how important parent giving is to the ongoing success of the School and the experience of JCDS students, we urge you to join us in supporting both the COVID and the annual parent appeals. Here are some reasons we believe it is important.
First of all, we pay tuition to send our kids to JCDS and this is a significant commitment for all of us. Education is expensive, and the intensive and intentional education JCDS provides, with multiple teachers in small classes, makes it even more so. We all appreciate that JCDS does not waste money on frills, but rather invests in great teachers and a nurturing learning environment. The reality is, however, that tuition does not cover the true cost. Every private school looks to parents’ generosity to deliver on its mission. It is even more important for a young, small school such as JCDS to raise financial support from parents over and above the cost of tuition. JCDS depends upon the generosity of parents, alumni, alumni parents, grandparents, families, and the wider community to survive and thrive.
This year, as we know only too well, COVID has changed everything. Shira and Gavi and the entire team have worked tirelessly to develop a sustainable mode of operation for the School, investing in new equipment such as filters, tents, computers and desks; new classroom layouts; new instructional strategies; and so much more, to make it possible for our kids to learn from each other and from their teachers, in a safe and nurturing environment. These costs have been and continue to be substantial, but are not reflected in our tuition dollars.
We feel very fortunate to be able to send our kids to school at this time, and to know they are being given every opportunity to learn and grow and have fun as children should. We are fortunate to have teachers and staff who care about each individual child and who build relationships with our children and serve as role models for them. We are fortunate that our children are able to learn to read, speak, and understand not just English, but Hebrew too; and that they are given insights into the values, wisdom and history of our Jewish traditions. We are fortunate that our children are encouraged to reflect on how their actions can help or hurt others; that they are given the opportunity to think about and the tools to solve problems of all kinds, from math and engineering to peer play and surprise emotions; and that they are educated to believe that if they persevere and stay brave they will learn new things and conquer new challenges.
Because we value these and so many other things about JCDS, we choose to give to the JCDS Annual Fund and to the COVID Campaign. Please join us in giving at a level that reflects the value you see in the extraordinary work of the School. 

Thank you!
Deb Gaffin and Richard Bennett

Thu, 12 Nov 2020 10:19:09 -0500
by Erin Lashway, Development Associate In this age of social distancing, JCDS has needed to be creative about the ways students can have fun and be active together. While the pandemic impacted signature experiences like the annual 8th grade New York trip, the current reality has given rise to new ways of building community. Thanks … More School Sparks: The Power of Ping-Pong

by Erin Lashway, Development Associate

8th grader Maayan enjoys a game of
ping-pong with her mother,
Head of School Shira Deener.

In this age of social distancing, JCDS has needed to be creative about the ways students can have fun and be active together. While the pandemic impacted signature experiences like the annual 8th grade New York trip, the current reality has given rise to new ways of building community.

Thanks to the fundraising efforts of Lisa Wasserman Sivan, as well as the support of parents and students from the Class of 2021, students are enjoying a brand new outdoor ping-pong table! JCDS is grateful to everyone who has helped provide students with new ways to have well-rounded social and educational experiences.

The Class of 2021 is putting this fun game to good use, and the school appreciates the positive difference the ping-pong table will make for students now and in the future.

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

Thu, 05 Nov 2020 10:27:56 -0500
By Shira Deener, Head of School We began the day after the election gathered as a whole school community. This rare treat included both Babinyan and Mekuvan students on Zoom, sitting 6 feet apart, masked, but together as a community. The day after the election warranted pulling the brakes on our usual schedules. Given this moment … More School Sparks: The Day After

By Shira Deener, Head of School

We began the day after the election gathered as a whole school community. This rare treat included both Babinyan and Mekuvan students on Zoom, sitting 6 feet apart, masked, but together as a community. The day after the election warranted pulling the brakes on our usual schedules. Given this moment in time, it was imperative for faculty and staff to help our students process the future of our fragile democracy. Focusing on our country’s heart and soul transcends traditional daily curricula.
Gathering Gan Nitzan through 8th grade for an all-community experience is not always an easy task, particularly because students span the spectrum of developmental awareness and understanding. And yet, there was something very simple and pure that had the potential to penetrate the minds and hearts of all the members of our community, from our youngest students to our faculty and staff members. Framing this moment around healthy community and healthy democracy, or, in John Lewis’ words, our beloved community, all participants could relate in their own individual, unique ways. They could begin to imagine what they personally could do to ensure that JCDS is living up to our ideals as a strong community.
In typical JCDS fashion, we set the mood with a communal “humming” of Hinei Ma Tov as Oren, our Madrich Ruchani, played the guitar and sang within the confines of his private office. As the familiar tune filled our figurative space with warmth and hope, I quickly scrolled through the faces of our children and was moved by their innocence. As David Brooks commented in this past weekend’s New York Times Op Ed section, that what is missing today is our “Floor of Decency. This was the basic minimum standard of behavior to be an accepted member of society.” By contrast, we were determined to remind our JCDS students of civil discourse, civility, connection, and shared values that we all believe in as a community, and to recommit to being members of our kehila (community) that is built upon a strong foundation of decency. 
In fact, the Prayer for our Country reiterated these themes with requests made to God to “Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit.”

I invite you to read the words I shared with our students:
Many of us sat pinned to our TV sets watching the election results way into the night. For those of you who learned about the electoral process – I, like you, was trying to do the math in my head to figure out how many votes candidates would need in order to win the election.
Many Americans voted early: many were just so excited to get it done, to exercise their power to vote, and to make their voice heard. Some went to their local libraries to cast their votes in the ballot boxes in order to stay healthy and safe, and to stay away from the crowds. Others just felt a sense of security by voting early. It may simply have been convenient to mail in their ballots rather than having to drive somewhere. 100 million people voted early and another 100 million cast their votes yesterday on election day.
I know many of you have been learning about the importance of voting in your classes. The right to say what you believe in, in the form of a vote, was something many people in our country have had to fight for for years. Voting is a privilege that we can’t take lightly. It is how we live out the values of our American democracy where our government is ruled by the people and for the people. 
What does that look like? What does it mean to vote according to our values?
It means we have to ask ourselves hard questions and pick a leader we think reflects those values. We have to think about things like: What is the right balance between what is good for me and what is good for us? What rights and privileges do I think need to be protected for me, my community, and my country? Who belongs here in America? What can we do to protect the Earth and our environment? How can we keep people healthy by helping them to easily visit doctors and nurses? How can we make sure children can have access to a great education like you do here at JCDS? How can we make sure people of color are treated equally in our country? That people understand that black lives matter and that we are made Betzelem Elohim (in God’s image)?
At the core we are asking ourselves to think about what it means to have a strong community, and a healthy democracy.
Around 20 years ago, a sociologist, a person who studies people and communities, wanted to see how strong communities were in the Chicago area. He addressed and stamped thousands of letters and threw them on the ground. He wanted to see who would stomp all over the letters and leave them there AND who would actually pick up the letters and put them in a mailbox. He learned that, the closer people lived to each other, the likelier they were to pick up the letters and put them in the mailbox. They cared about each other and they knew each other. 
When you know each other, you feel connected. You feel that you are part of a beloved community.


What does it take to be a part of a community? What does it mean to be a member of a community? Does it mean we all love each other? All agree with each other?


Writer Suzanne Goldsmith wrote: “Communities are not built of friends, or of groups of people with similar styles and tastes, or even of people who like and understand each other. They are built of people who feel they are part of something that is bigger than themselves: a shared goal. Like righting a wrong, or building a road or raising children, or living honorably, or worshipping a god. To build community requires the ability to see value in others; to look at them and see a potential partner in one’s enterprise.”


Today we are going to create a school-wide puzzle art project.


Each of you will receive a puzzle piece and draw, paint, glue, and cut out pictures of ways that you can personally make our community stronger. Examples from just this week:


Oren asked for people to come outside to help him pick up the white stools under the tent. Just like the experiment about picking up the mail on the ground. 4th and 5th graders not only agreed to help, but they actually came running outside to do this mitzvah. 
At the beginning of the year, we all agreed that as a community we would be sure to wear our masks because we wanted to protect our community from COVID-19.
7th grade has a garden project, where they are learning how to protect the earth. 


In this week’s parsha, Vayera, Avraham opens his tent to strangers and rushes to invite them in for a meal. I want to invite each and every one of you think about the ways you will run towards doing the right thing. Run towards justice. Run towards peace. Run towards appreciation of each other’s differences and similarities. That’s what it means to be in a 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.

Thu, 29 Oct 2020 09:42:09 -0400
by Andrea Silton, Middle School Teacher and Advisor What does Judaism teach us about our responsibility to care for the earth, and what can we do to act on this responsibility? This was the question that the JCDS sixth graders tried to answer during their TEVA experience, Camp TEVA-JCDS. TEVA stands for Togetherness, Ecology, Bal … More School Sparks: Camp TEVA-JCDS

by Andrea Silton, Middle School Teacher and Advisor

What does Judaism teach us about our responsibility to care for the earth, and what can we do to act on this responsibility? This was the question that the JCDS sixth graders tried to answer during their TEVA experience, Camp TEVA-JCDS. TEVA stands for Togetherness, Ecology, Bal Tashchit (do not waste), and Awareness.
While students were sad to not be able to go to travel to the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut for TEVA, facilitated by Hazon: The Jewish Lab for Sustainability, the sixth graders were thrilled to participate in a three-day, outdoor, experiential education program at Camp TEVA-JCDS.
Through text study, nature walks, and learning about how energy is produced and preserved, the students came to understand that we were given this planet not only to use, but also to care for and to maintain. 
As their follow-up service project, the sixth graders will work with Middle School Science Teacher Avraham Sosa to complete an energy audit of the entire school, and will give recommendations to Head of School Shira Deener about how JCDS can use less electricity. 
At TEVA, the students also sang songs, learned about fire safety, built a campfire, and created their own TEVA T-shirts and bracelets. There was also plenty of time for play, as students walked to Gore Place to climb trees and roll down hills. It was a fantastic three days!

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

Wed, 14 Oct 2020 19:46:09 -0400
Shira Deener, Head of School To understand how a JCDS student experiences our commitment to pluralism of engagement is to peek into a classroom and observe it organically unfold. Pluralism, the lens through which we strive to teach our children to view their world, happens with intention, planfulness, creativity, and mindfulness towards making connections.  Indigenous Peoples Day, still officially … More School Sparks: Indigenous Peoples Day

Shira Deener, Head of School

To understand how a JCDS student experiences our commitment to pluralism of engagement is to peek into a classroom and observe it organically unfold. Pluralism, the lens through which we strive to teach our children to view their world, happens with intention, planfulness, creativity, and mindfulness towards making connections.  
Indigenous Peoples Day, still officially called Columbus Day in Massachusetts, offered our classes an opportunity to practice our Habits of Mind and Heart, our compass leading to a pluralistic worldview. Learning how to make room for multiple perspectives was top of mind this week as both Lower and Middle School students explored another narrative related to the traditional one associated with Columbus Day.

Miriam Hodas, 3rd Grade Teacher
On Indigenous Peoples Day, Kitat Erez (3rd grade) learned that the word “indigenous” means originating in a particular place, so Indigenous People are people who have lived in a specific place for thousands and thousands of years. They were introduced to the many different nations in the United States and around the world, and that most Indigenous People prefer to be called by their specific nation’s title (for example an Algonquin woman). 

Students compared what they knew about Christopher Columbus and the Indigenous People he encountered, and listed questions generated from this discussion. This article led to new information about Columbus landing on Hispaniola where he encountered an indigenous people named the Taino. They were exposed to another narrative about enslavement, mass murder, survival and resiiliency. The Taino who survived continue to live and celebrate their unique culture.

Interested in learning more about the diverse Indigenous Peoples living in America today? Check out Google Earth where you can listen to greetings in many different Indigenous languages around the world. You can also check out Matika Wilbur’s blog, Project 562. Her goal is to photograph each of the 562 federally recognized nations in the US.

Danielle Smith, 4th Grade Teacher
Kitat Alon (4th grade) students learned about the reasons why Indigenous People’s Day is important to celebrate and honor. We also learned that when Columbus landed on the shores of North American, there were many people already living here. We looked at this interactive map showing the many different groups of Indigenous people living across North America. Students were excited to learn that Indigenous people’s across the continent have speak different languages and have different customs.

Josh Mocle, 6th grade humanities and 7th & 8th grade social sciences teacher and Oren Kaunfer, Madrich Ruchani and 7th Grade Advisor
During 7th grade Social Studies, after a week and a half long exploration of Indigenous history and culture, students discussed the responsibilities we have as Americans to honor the people who lived on this land prior to our European ancestors. They not only identified reasons WHY we should be doing this important work, but took the next step to brainstorm HOW we can go about doing it. This included making land acknowledgments, teaching the stories of important Indigenous leaders like Chief Standing Bear, engaging with local tribes to hear their stories first hand, and respecting the land and the environment in the same way as many Indigenous cultures. 


This important topic was also woven into a discussion in 7th Grade advisory around civil discourse. The class discussed multiple views of Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day through a close read of the White House Proclamation of Columbus Day. The students’ ability to bring their learning to the conversation certainly enriched the experience.

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

Thu, 08 Oct 2020 10:02:37 -0400
by Shira Deener, Head of School October 5th marked World Teachers’ Day, also known as International Teachers Day. This day was established in 1994 as a day to commemorate UNESCO’s signing of the Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers. On this day, we stop, pause, and express our immense gratitude to our teachers worldwide. Additionally, in this country, … More School Sparks: Make for Yourself a Teacher תעשה לך רב

by Shira Deener, Head of School

October 5th marked World Teachers’ Day, also known as International Teachers Day. This day was established in 1994 as a day to commemorate UNESCO’s signing of the Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers. On this day, we stop, pause, and express our immense gratitude to our teachers worldwide. Additionally, in this country, the first Tuesday of the first full week of May is National Teacher Appreciation Week when we are reminded, yet again, of the powerful impact a teacher can have on the life of a student. In my humble opinion, every day should be a day for us to stop and pay homage to our dedicated, relentless, and incredible teachers at JCDS and across the globe.
The value of teachers is not new to our tradition. In Ethics of our Fathers, פרקי אבות, Chapter 1, Mishna 6, we learn: 
יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן פְּרַחְיָה וְנִתַּאי הָאַרְבֵּלִי קִבְּלוּ מֵהֶם. יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן פְּרַחְיָה אוֹמֵר, עֲשֵׂה לְךָ רַב, וּקְנֵה לְךָ חָבֵר” “וֶהֱוֵי דָן אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם לְכַף זְכוּת
“Yehoshua said: Make for yourself a Rav (a teacher); acquire for yourself a friend; and judge every person on the positive side.”
What does it mean to “Make for yourself a teacher?”
Many scholars have tried to make sense of this wording, especially when it stands closely juxtaposed to the word “acquire” as it relates to a friend. The Maharal, a 16th century talmudic scholar and mystic, echoes the teachings of the Rambam, the 12th century Sephardic Jewish philosopher, in asserting that the word “make” should be understood as making a teacher the way you would make a sukkah.  
This interpretation caught my eye. We are in the middle of our week of the Sukkot celebration. I’ve seen students earnestly learning and robustly eating in our sukkah, its decorations adorning its walls and hanging from the poles above. I’ve seen how parent volunteers, along with faculty, staff and the 8th grade students helped build the sukkah, working as a team, assisting each other with schlepping the heavy walls and securing their respective corners. Sukkot is clearly not a passive holiday – it is an active endeavor of constructive engagement. Each year, people are improving upon their sukkah, making adaptations and adjustments, finding better lighting and beautifying its walls. Each year, people get to know the shortcomings of their sukkah and work to creatively address the particular needs and nuances of their constructed structure. They are in relationship with their sukkah, working to perfect its form, function, and relevance to their lives. 
Perhaps this is what the Maharal and Rambam were referring to when they said “Make for yourself a Rav”, a teacher, is like “making” a sukkah. The act of creating a sukkah, this temporary sacred space, is much like the process of creating the special bond between student and teacher. These relationships require attention, adjustments, renewal, and, ultimately, work. 
Furthermore, just as it takes work to create the holy space of a sukkah, teachers play a critical role in creating spaces where deep learning can happen. JCDS teachers are empowered to design their classrooms as spaces for open inquiry, where diversity of opinion and perspective are respected. Students have the freedom to make connections which grow their thinking and expand their horizons.
I look forward to witnessing the growth and development of your children as they connect more deeply with their teachers throughout the year and continue to thrive from the deep relationships that they will develop. They will, indeed, make for themselves a teacher, and, in doing so, will experience the wonders such a collaborative relationship can bring. 

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

Thu, 01 Oct 2020 09:01:58 -0400
by Oren Kaunfer, Madrich Ruchani Every year at JCDS, the 8th graders look forward to many 8th grade moments. A well-known rite of passage is the annual 8th grade Sukkah construction. The grade works together to build the Sukkah that is used by the whole school.Of course, this year’s Sukkah building was different. Besides having … More School Sparks: 8th Grade Sukkah Build

by Oren Kaunfer, Madrich Ruchani


Every year at JCDS, the 8th graders look forward to many 8th grade moments. A well-known rite of passage is the annual 8th grade Sukkah construction. The grade works together to build the Sukkah that is used by the whole school.
Of course, this year’s Sukkah building was different. Besides having to work out distancing protocols, we had to rework the actual Sukkah after it had a fateful fall during last year’s Sukkot hurricane!
The 8th grade modeled perseverance, and with immense help from Alumni parent and Sukkah constructor, Gary Elovitz, the walls were repaired and lifted into place by the students. Their hard work was immediately put to the test when a violent and windy storm rolled through hours after construction. Luckily, the Sukkah remained standing for all to see and will stand tall throughout the weeklong holiday.
The 8th grade’s cooperation and hard work will once again allow students of all ages to perform the mitzvah of “Leshev baSukkah” – dwelling/sitting in the Sukkah on this most joyous holiday.

You can see a video of highlights from the Sukkah build here.

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 Sep 2020 08:52:13 -0400
Naomi Greenfield, 2nd grade teacherIn 2nd grade, we read the book I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy and highlighted the parts of RBG’s life that exemplify the JCDS Habits of Heart and Mind. The stories of her experiencing prejudice as a Jew and a woman helped us continue to talk about the … More School Sparks: Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Naomi Greenfield, 2nd grade teacher
In 2nd grade, we read the book I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy and highlighted the parts of RBG’s life that exemplify the JCDS Habits of Heart and Mind. The stories of her experiencing prejudice as a Jew and a woman helped us continue to talk about the importance of Multiple Perspectives and Empathy; her use of Evidence and Problem Solving throughout her legal career to make an incredible impact on the lives of so many are just some of these examples. This was also a great chance to highlight some important vocabulary words that come up in talking about the book and in talking about Justice Ginsburg’s life: words like justice, prejudice, protest and, of course, dissent.
As a staff, several gathered after dismissal on Monday to process the grief over RBG’s death, the mourn her as a human being, a Justice, a woman and a Jew. We shared reactions, reflections and some of RBG’s own famous quotes and wisdom. We ended by saying the El Molei Rachamin, the traditional prayer recited at Jewish funerals and houses of mourning. It was important to take this time to “sit shiva” in whatever way we could to honor and respect her memory and this moment in time in history. 

Danielle Smith, 4th grade teacher
Alon (4th grade) students began a unit on identity, beginning by defining the word identity as “the qualities, characteristics or beliefs that make a person who they are.”
Alonim brainstormed different aspects of a person’s identity, including race, age, relationships, gender, values.

As a class, we watched a video of the book I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark. Students created a telling brainframe to keep track of different identities that RBG had (Jewish, mother, lawyer, woman, persistent, advocate for equality) and discussed some of the strong beliefs that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had around gender equality and fairness. Students then chose to either explain one of the beliefs that RBG held and give an example of a time when she stood up for this belief, or to choose a belief that they hold and explain how they could stand up for that belief. Collectively, students shared their sadness of the passing of RBG as well as their gratitude for the work she did to advocate for equal rights

Josh Mocle, 6th grade humanities and 7th & 8th grade social sciences teacher
Much like during the Passover seder, students arrived on Monday with countless questions about Justice Ginsburg. Some wanted to know more about who she was in general, what she fought for, and why so many people in their lives were suddenly buzzing about this woman with which they were only sort of familiar.
Others, more well versed in who Justice Ginsburg was, were curious about the precedents she set on the high court, about the legal decisions she helped make, about the issues and individuals she championed, and about what her vacant court seat meant for our country now and in the future.
So, we did what we do best at JCDS: we learned together, setting out to research the answers to our most pressing questions and coming back together to share the answers. And what we learned more than anything was something she tried to teach us her entire life: that one person with enough passion and commitment can solve any problem, can move humanity in the right direction, and can collaborate with anyone to make the world a better place.
But perhaps more importantly, we learned that there is nothing stopping any of us, young or old, from taking up the causes in which she believed and to fly the banners she flew. Her legacy will be kept alive as long as she lives in our hearts and we remain committed to doing “the best (we) can with whatever…talent we have.”

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

Thu, 17 Sep 2020 09:25:20 -0400
By Shira Deener, Head of School This coming weekend we will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, our Jewish New Year. During the Musaf prayer service on the second day of the holiday, a piyyut or sacred song is chanted which begins with the words: “היום הרת עולם” “Today is the birth of the world” What is this … More Today is the Birth of the World: היום הרת עולם

By Shira Deener, Head of School

This coming weekend we will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, our Jewish New Year. During the Musaf prayer service on the second day of the holiday, a piyyut or sacred song is chanted which begins with the words:

היום הרת עולם”

“Today is the birth of the world”

What is this phrase referring to? There is a debate in the Talmud about when exactly the world was created. Rabbi Eliezer claims that it was during the month of Tishrei, the Hebrew month we are in right now, the month where we celebrate Rosh Hashanah. Rabbi Yehoshua believed that the world was created during Nissan, the month later in the spring when we celebrate Passover. One possible resolution to this debate centers around the idea that the “pregnancy” of the world took place during this time; its “conception” took place in Tishrei and the actual birth of the world in Nissan.  

Drawing on Curiosity, one of the 7 JCDS Habits of Mind and Heart, I attempted to make sense of this debate. Leaning into this obscure discussion, I wondered what our Sages were trying to teach us about the relationship between the world being conceived in Tishrei, but born in Nissan? Commentators have offered that it is possible to understand this debate as a metaphor for understanding the need to wait for a period of time between a thought and an action. While an idea is “conceived” at a particular moment, in actuality, we must wait for this idea to come to fruition. This takes (to draw further from the Habits) problem solving, perseverance and resilience, reflection, and patience. This “gestation” allows for imagination and planning. What might happen during this long period of wait time? What might we be thinking about? Imagining?  

This week marked the end of the 6th grade T’fillah elective run by alumni parent and artist, Noni Armony. The students worked to conceive their own creative interpretations of the imperative that God placed on man in the Garden of Eden.


In Sefer Breishit (Genesis) we read that God placed man in the garden:

“לְעָבְדָ֖הּ וּלְשָׁמְרָֽהּ”

“To till the land and tend it.”


This led the 6th graders on a journey of discussion and reflection regarding this directive. What does it mean to “till the land and tend it?” How might we express the meaning of this phrase through art? How might we take those words from the Tanach and give them color and meaning? Next time you drop off your children, be sure to take an extra moment to observe the fruit of this intellectual and creative endeavor. Take a look at the graffiti art sitting just outside in the Friends and Family parking lot. Exercise your curiosity – ask questions of what you see. What were these 6th grade artists trying to share with us about their interpretation of what it means to protect the world?

Back in early summer, a grand and challenging idea was necessarily conceived – to create a new version of ourselves at JCDS so that school could open in September. This idea gestated into a complex multiplicity of challenges, frustrations and accomplishments. Ultimately, on August 31st, this tremendous community effort of creative thought and incredible industriousness culminated in the “birth” of JCDS reimagined – both Babinyan (in the building) and Mekuvan (online).


Each day, as I walk through the halls and peek into the classrooms (and tents!), I am more and more moved by the abilities and fortitude of our incredible faculty and staff. I am continuously renewed and filled with joy by the smiling eyes of our beautiful children and take my strength from them. 

Wishing you a healthy and meaningful New Year! May this be a year of Briyut, Areyvut, and Shleymut

Thu, 17 Sep 2020 08:49:17 -0400
By Avi Minder, Dean of Student Culture and 8th Grade History Teacher Our 8th graders had a powerful lesson last week that connected to our essential question, “What factors shape our identity?” and our enduring understanding, “Our society provides us with labels we use to categorize the people we encounter.” They got to know 9/11 … More School Sparks: 9/11 Virtual Memorial

By Avi Minder, Dean of Student Culture and 8th Grade History Teacher


Our 8th graders had a powerful lesson last week that connected to our essential question, “What factors shape our identity?” and our enduring understanding, “Our society provides us with labels we use to categorize the people we encounter.”


They got to know 9/11 victim’s individual stories, created identity charts, and talked afterwards about how they saw the victims in a new light after learning more about them. It was a perfect segway to continuing our discussion around identity and connecting to our Habits of Mind and Heart, Reflection and Empathy.

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

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Dr. Susie Tanchel and Oren Kaunfer Receive National Awards from The Covenant Foundation


Dr. Susie Tanchel, Head of School of the JCDS, Boston's Jewish Community Day School in Watertown, MA, was one of three recipients nationwide of the prestigious 2018 Covenant Award for exceptional educators at The Covenant Foundation's annual ceremony in New York. The award is designed to honor and celebrate those who have made an impact on Jewish life through innovative educational practices and models.

In addition, Oren Kaunfer, Spiritual Educator/Leader of the Jewish Life Team at JCDS, was among five recipients honored with The Pomegranate Prize for emerging Jewish educators bringing fresh promise and deep commitment to continually elevating the field of Jewish education.

“It is very special for JCDS that, for the first time, two members of the staff of the same school are being honored in the same year by The Covenant Foundation and recognized for their accomplishments," said Arnee R. Winshall, Founding Chair of the JCDS Board of Trustees.

“Susie's extraordinary work in re-visioning pluralistic day school education shines a bright light on JCDS as an innovative, pioneering model of 21st century day school education within the Greater Boston Jewish community, on a national level, and beyond," said Elizabeth Waksman, President of the JCDS Board of Trustees, in sharing the news of the school's awardees.

Established in 1991 to honor and celebrate those who those who have made an impact on Jewish life through innovative educational practices and models, the Covenant Award is presented to three educators every year after a rigorous selection process. Along with Tanchel, the 2018 Covenant Award recipients are Naomi Ackerman, Founder and Executive Director of the Advot Project Los Angeles, CA, and Deborah Newbrun, Senior Jewish Educator and Director Emeritus at Camp Tawonga, San Francisco, CA. The Covenant Foundation is a program of the Crown Family Philanthropies.

Accepting the award from Keating Crown, Dr. Tanchel said,“It is our highest hope that our children will use their hearts, minds, and souls to impact their Jewish community -- but if this is as far as their goodness spreads, then we have failed in our mission, for it is our sacred responsibility as Jewish educators to also nurture and challenge our children to understand that working for a better society is their birthright."