Dear Beit Rabban Community,
We virtually gathered this afternoon at our weekly communal assembly, Shabbat B'Yachad, to celebrate all our Beit Rabban LGBTQ+ community members and allies. Dressed in our rainbow finest, we read Torah, danced, shared weekly highlights, recognized birthdays, and watched a special video. The video (included below) is a compilation of short recordings from staff, students, alumni, and a grandparent explaining what pride means to them.
Assemblies are interesting moments for schools. An assembly is not time for deep reflection or nuance. Big ideas and historical events get conveyed in soundbites at assemblies. We are committed to teaching with complexity--to encouraging children to wonder, question, and reflect. In fact, we believe that oversimplifying things when teaching is not effective and often counterproductive. So, why would we mark something as complicated as sexual and gender identity in a twenty minute block of dancing in rainbow clothing?
First, we do not limit the learning to the assembly. Classes spent time learning about Pride Month this week in all grades in developmentally appropriate ways. This ranged from reading picture books, to defining the terms in the acronym LGBTQ+, to learning about Stonewall etc. Of course, our Healthy Living curriculum also covers gender and sexual identity. But this is not the answer to the question of why an assembly.
These gatherings, however long or short, are moments to convey our communal values to our children in affective ways. They are times when we implicitly and explicitly showcase our priorities and let our children know what their grown-ups believe. By having children read Torah each week at Shabbat B'yachad, we convey to our children that our people's texts and tradition are in their hands, they are the stewards of Torah going forward. When we name each student and teacher's birthday, we communicate that each person in our community is important. When we dance together at the beginning and end of each assembly, we remind our children and ourselves how critical it is to celebrate and to "worship God with joy." These are the experiences memories are made of.
During Pride Month, I feel a heavy burden of responsibility as an educator knowing how many children have suffered and continue to suffer because they are not confident that who they are is affirmed by their grown-ups. This is true for LGBTQ+ kids and other children who do not fit neatly into the identities expected of them. As we all know, there are drastic consequences to this. There are also lifelong benefits to growing up with an anchoring sense of belonging. In our 20 minutes of Shabbat B'Yachad today, we affirmed to our children that their grown-ups love them for who they are because each of them is created in the image of God.
I hope and pray that Beit Rabban engenders a deep sense of belonging for each child. This takes work. It is holy work, and we are grateful to be doing it in community.
Wishing all a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat,