Counting Down the Days

June 15, 2018

Enjoy this week's Ta Shma for Friday June 15th, 2018.

Dear Beit Rabban Community,

The end of this rich and joyful school year quickly approaches! Classes are holding culmination ceremonies daily, sharing their project-based learning in hands-on, experiential experiences designed for their parents and fellow students. This week we were treated to a "Meet the Authors" communal book party by our Shorashim (1st Grade) students; we were guests of Gan Katom's (4 year olds) celebrity chefs at their DIY restaurant; we enjoyed a concert performance of Gan Sagol's (Pre-K) original song "Central Park, Central Park, Central Park"; and we shopped for food, learned about pollution, and planted trees in Garinim's (Kindergarten) much anticipated culmination of their "Farm to Table" study. Pictures from all these remarkable culminations are included below.

Closing out the year includes culmination ceremonies, end of year student assessments, communal and personal reflection sessions by class and within the faculty and... tzedakah counting and allocation! After a full year of collecting tzedakah on Fridays, our students start sorting, counting and wrapping their coins a couple weeks agp. Classes walk to the bank to trade in their coins for dollars to give to tzedakah, also taking some time to learn about the bank's functions. 

Each class then engaged in a couple of community meetings to determine how to allocate their tzedkah in a way that expressed their shared values. These conversations are remarkable- students discuss and debate how to prioritize giving (Maimonides would be proud). They had to navigate the reality that different community members have different priorities and opinions, and, ultimately, they had to come to a consensus about their allocation. Some classes' decisions were influenced by their Explorations curriculum. For example our Shtillim (2nd Grade), who studied the Creation Story first semester and delved deep into the science of ocean life and birds as part of that study, decided to allocate half of their tzedakah to  the Wild Bird Fund. Second semester, Shtillim students studied Jewish communities around the world, including Ethiopia and India, and they decided to allocate the other half of the tzedakah collection to the Joint Distribution Committee. Other classes' decisions were inspired by their study of current events, personal circumstances within their class community, and many other influences.

In total, our 114 students raised approximately $1,000 this year, allocating their funds to the following institutions and causes:

  • National Council of Jewish Women's Hunger Program
  • Joint Distribution Committee
  • Wild Bird Fund
  • Make a Wish Foundation
  • Cycle for Survival
  • MSAWI, The Major Stuart Wolfer Institute 
  • Judith Bernstein Lunch Program at Congregation B'nai Jeshurun
  • Coalition for the Homeless
  • Food Bank for New York City
  • Central Park Conservancy
  • Bail fund to support detained, undocumented people (specific organization still being determined)

We are so proud of our students- their sense of responsibility, their awareness of the immediate needs and systemic issues in our society, and their ability to have these complicated consversations and come to consensus. We are even more proud of and grateful to our teachers who help cultivate these skills all year long and then facilitate a communal mitzvah in a meaningful and project-based context.

What a great way to end the year (almost)!

Wishing all a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat,
Stephanie