Updated: Oct 1, 2021
September 17th, 2021 | 12th of Tishrei, 5782 | Ha'Azinu הַאֲזִינוּ
Dear Beit Rabban Community,
Right before we opened school last week, a parent of one of our sixth grade students sent me a picture of her sweet son on his first day of Kindergarten at Beit Rabban. The photo made me emotional, reflecting on how much he has grown and how lucky we are to be on the journey of childhood with him. Truth be told, I am pretty emotional at the start of every school year when students return from summer vacation. In those first weeks of school I marvel at the children’s growth and think back to each of their first days at Beit Rabban. And then there are the brand new students, toddlers starting school for the first time! To welcome them as they tentatively enter school is a gift of epic proportions.
I feel especially overwhelmed with emotion this September, returning for our second in-person school year during the pandemic. This is an intense time to be in education. We are helping our youngest students create their first memories during a time of global crisis, and we are helping our oldest students navigate what will likely be one of the most formative experiences of their childhood. And, our oldest students are older than they ever have been because this is our first year with a full house- preschool through eight grade! Back in 2018 when we launched a communal design thinking process to build a middle school, now known as the Chativah, we had no idea what lay ahead of us as a school and as a world. We took on this project because we understood that a child’s experiences during adolescence have lifelong impact, but we could not have imagined just how important going to school in a nurturing environment would be for our children who are coming of age during a global pandemic.
We opened the Chativah in September 2019 just a few months before COVID-19 hit, and we are graduating our first eighth graders this year, b'ezrat HaShem. Walking through the hall of our full Chativah I watch students as they lay tefillin in a minyan of their peers; as they struggle through reading Kafka; as they react to a chemistry experiment; as they make personal meaning from ancient texts on teshuvah; and as they listen in complete silence to their teacher sharing her experience of loss during the Yom Kippur War. Back in our south campus that is home to the Gan and elementary grades, I hear the sound of a shofar being blown; I say amen as children hang mezuzot on their classroom doors; and I almost fall asleep to the comforting story told by a Gan teacher during rest time. The conversations between students and teachers, the questions and answers moving in all directions, the shared sense of comfort in their space, and the love of learning “lishmah” (as an end unto itself) that motivates all this is as visible in the Chativah as it is in the Gan. This beautiful buzz that is the hallmark of a Beit Rabban hallway drew me in as a prospective parent to the Gan and fills me with gratitude and comfort as I peek into my child’s eighth grade classroom, a class we named “Bikkurim.”
Class names at Beit Rabban reflect the different stages of agricultural growth that would culminate in the presentation of first fruit to the priests during the time of the Temple in Jerusalem. These first fruit were known as “Bikkurim,” and so the class name of our soon to be first graduates. I reflect on this fruit of our collective labor with a lot of emotion, deeply grateful to all who have had and continue to have a hand in these children’s growth and in the growth of our school. We thank God for bringing us to this day with a full house that radiates warmth, learning, and growth.
Wishing all a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat,