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Billy Joel, 8th Graders, and Passover

Each school day is packed with a year's worth of stories. I could not possibly share all the beautiful stories from this week. Or can I? Maybe I can rattle them all off quickly in the style of Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire. I shall take inspiration from a couple of eighth-grade students with a keyboard at lunchtime today who wrote their own lyrics to We Didn't Stop the Fire to include all the memorable moments and experiences since they started at Beit Rabban in Kindergarten nine years ago. So, here's my attempt at covering all the beautiful moments from this week without any of the lovely poetry or rhythm of Billy Joe and/or Beit Rabban Eighth Graders:

  • Gan students visit the Egypt Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to prepare for Pesach. Did they see Pharaoh, you might wonder. "No! We saw ParoahS!!! There were so many!"

  • Fifth graders complete their gorgeous Haggadah covers, artistically representing the Talmudic concept they have been studying: מתחיל בגנות ומסיים בשבח We begin with disgrace and conclude with glory (Pesachim 116a).

  • Elementary school students host Cantor Ari from BJ, a talented visitor with an accordion who teaches them a special tune to ma Mishnah.

  • We all celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day, which coincides with one of our most poetry-loving teacher's birthdays. Students print their favorite poems, put them in their pockets, and walk around sharing with each other. The Gan even visits the Chativah to share poetry. And many of us drop off poems to our poetry-loving birthday girl teacher, Hope. 

  • Seventh and Eighth grade collect 60 questions about the conflict between Iran and Israel. Ambassador Kurtzer, a Middle East expert and Beit Rabban grandparent, walks them through 76 years of history. They submit more questions.

  • Every student proudly brings home either a homemade Haggadah or a green folder filled with divrei torah, tidbits, ideas to share at their Seder, and a piece of art they made in connection with their learning. 

  • Each class hosts an un-Seder to prepare for their real Seders and enjoy the experience with the friends and chevrutot (learning partners) with whom they have been learning about Pesach. These seders are filled with song, sharing of divrei Torah, Hagadah-related games (like rank-choice voting on the order of the Seder), and lots of marror-induced funny faces. 

  • Fourth through Eighth graders begin their Holocaust literature units, each grade reading a different book. Students and teachers begin the process of passing along our people's collective memories of trauma, loss, courage, and triumph. 

  • We celebrate our second-grade teacher's marriage with a beautiful sheva brachot in honor of Esther and Jamie. Parents, staff members, and students join in the simcha dancing, bracha giving, and prayers. 

  • Kindergarteners celebrate the arrival of Spring as they prepare for Pesach. They visit the Tulip Garden just down the street because Pesach is Chag Ha'Aviv, the spring holiday! En route to the garden, they sing this song they learned together and then sketch the flowers when they arrive to include them in the Haggadot they are working on in class. 

  • We joined as a whole school for our annual Erev-Pesach talent show, Let My People Show. Students from the gan-8th grade and some teachers perform on our first-ever stage, complete with red curtains! We enjoy the full range of talents, including some especially unusual ones. Students perform original music; play the guitar, the electric guitar, the ukulele etc.; showcase gymnastic and tae kwon do routines; spell the longest of words; solve rubiks cubes; dance; make animal noises; tell Pesach jokes; roller skate; spin giant yo-yos; present an original video including original music; raise an eyebrow; put on multiple layers of clothing to prove they are immune from sweating; play the piano while wearing 14 pairs of sunglasses; read a new report written about the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge; perform a Yiddish song, and much, much more. Some students successfully attempt to showcase multiple of these talents simultaneously and do so without falling off the stage! Most importantly, everyone cheers and celebrates our performers and our community, whose most incredible talents are kindness, support, and courage. 

I have not quite hit all the key moments of the week: there is a lot of math to report on, including many Pesach-related challenges, science experiments, community meetings, reading, writing, and lots of outdoor (wet) play. In my defense, Billy Joel left out all of Latin America in his work. In fact, even the Hagaddah leaves out a lot of key events in its attempt to retell the story of our people from its incipience through the Exodus!

This Pesach, when we cover the redacted version of our people's story moving from disgrace to redemption and recite the obligation to imagine ourselves "in every generation" in the shoes of our ancestors, we have a lot more examples and stories to add to the memories of pain, fear, and vulnerability. We will share some of these stories and hold others close, even if unspoken. My goal in sharing all these memorable stories from a year-like week in the life of Jewish Day School is to pass along some of the optimistic light that our children, the next generation of the Jewish people, create. They are up to the task of keeping the Jewish people's fire burning and caring for the world as it keeps on turning. May they lead their own seders and have a hard time relating to the oppressive and disgraceful moments in the cyclical story of our people, and instead easily relate to the redemptive ones.

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