I woke up on Monday morning and my first thought was, today is the first day of school! I can’t wait to meet the children and their parents and begin a year of joyful Jewish learning at HSP! Then, on my walk to work down Duane, the Freedom Tower came into view and I faced a stark contrast between the tragic enormity of a day like September 11th and the first day of a new school year. The juxtaposition of JCP in the shadow of the World Trade Center looms large in our communal memory and I’m sure many of our hearts and minds were elsewhere on Monday when we opened our doors for the first time this year.
And yet, the energy and life force in the building was palpable. Our 3rd-6th graders were the first to arrive and begin their year of community building, exploration and Jewish engagement. They set goals for themselves (they want to learn Hebrew), they played ice breaking games (that involved hoola hoops), they performed skits of how to say you are sorry (some involved finger puppets) and they gathered together as a community to have a campfire story/song session in the Commons.
Then on Tuesday, the Pre-K, Kindergartners, First Graders and Second Graders bounded through the doors and our week was complete! Our littlest learners enjoyed meeting their teachers, seeing familiar faces, making new friends, and hearing a story about two brothers who loved each other more than they loved themselves.
Finally, the school-wide, year-long Maccabiah has begun! Grades will compete for points by showing kindness, respect, ruach (spirit), helpfulness and teamwork. We hope that this year-long competition will inspire an atmosphere of excitement, energy and community.
Though it felt a little incongruous to dance and sing and jump for joy on a day of National mourning, what better way to honor the legacy of those who lost their lives on September 11th then by strengthening our commitment to our values – freedom, democracy, diversity and pluralism. All of these values deeply infuse daily learning here at JCP, on a day like September 11th and every other day.