November 25, 2022 | Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5783 Parashat Toldot 5783 / פָּרָשַׁת תּוֹלְדוֹת
Dear Beit Rabban Community,
The way we celebrate Thanksgiving at school is one of our most public expressions of communal values, and it never gets old. In fact, every year it feels like we designed this program for that exact moment in time. Each year, it feels like our community especially needs to focus on the helpers, or particularly news to find a way to express gratitude, or unusually needs to spread positive energy. This year was no different. During a week that induced sadness and fear in both America and Israel, all I wanted to do was come together with our children to affirm all the good people do and to inspire others to appreciate it as well. And this is exactly what we did during our annual Erev Thanksgiving Day Parade PARADE (yes, that’s parade mentioned twice!), now in its fifth year as an Upper West Side tradition that anchors the start of the holiday season in good values.
We prepared for Thanksgiving as we do each year by taking a school-wide deep dive into gratitude that includes learning about hakarat hatov הכרת הטוב, recognizing the good as a Jewish value, and how we use brachot (blessings) to this end; doing mindfulness exercises to become more aware of all those who help us each day, and choosing local community members to appreciate. Starting in the preschool, each class chooses a person or institution to thank and then makes “Box-O-Gratitude” filled with handmade gifts, signs, and notes all from recycled materials. All students and staff members prepare hand-painted parade signs in their art classes.
Then on Wednesday morning, we gathered in our Beit Rabban beanies, holding our parade signs, and carrying our boxes-o-gratitude ready to make our parade stops and spread positivity along the way. Each year, students and teachers up the creativity. This year many of our middle schoolers dressed in parade-inspired costumes, and our kindergarten class created their own parade balloon that incorporated their hebrew speaking puppet/class mascot named Bentzie. We also added a spectator section for parents this year. Rumor has it that spaces were so hard to get that some parents were selling them on StubHub (note, our team has not been able to independently verify this, but it seems logical).
And, then we marched, chanting “you are appreciated,” and “when I say thank, you say you- THANK! - YOU!” Our classes brought boxes-o-gratitude to firefighters at our local fire station; doctors and nurses at an animal hospital; Councilmember Gail Brewer just around the corner from us; police officers in our local precinct; the staff of the Wild Bird Fund; Central Park Conservancy volunteers who keep our “school backyard” ready for daily recess; and staff at PETCO (who have generously supported the middle school’s praying mantis named Shlomi). And, of course, they also brought boxes to our school helpers including Mollie, our office administrator; Carmello, our maintenance manager; and Reyna, our security guard.
The neighborhood helpers we visited were overwhelmed with gratitude at the experience of being publicly recognized and thanked by Beit Rabban students and teachers. Between stops on our parade route, our students and staff chanted "you are appreciated" and other expressions of gratitude and stopped to thank people we noticed along the way. We thanked sanitation department workers, construction crews, crossing guards, police officers, caregivers, doormen, kiosk workers, neighbors, and everyone else we encountered. We are so proud of our students for the joy they spread yesterday as they delivered their boxes around the neighborhood. Cars honked in support, people waved, and others cheered and wished us Happy Thanksgiving. It turns out we even made it onto NY 4 news the next day, spreading positivity beyond our immediate neighborhood!
It obviously feels incredible to be thanked. The amazing thing that we all experienced on Wednesday, as we do every year, is that the act of thanking others feels even better. This is one of the most important lessons our children can learn. With this lesson in mind, we hope you enjoy a short video of the parade PARADE, our special thank-you treat for your family this Thanksgiving weekend.
Wishing all a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat,
P.S. Please remember, YOU ARE APPRECIATED!