September is the time of new beginnings— new grade levels with more opportunities and responsibilities, new schedules, and new goals as we welcome Rosh Hashana and the Jewish new year. For teachers, it is a new class with children they are eager to know, challenge and nurture; it is new curricula and the chance to try different activities and assessments. For me, it is a moment to envision an even stronger EHS with an action plan to achieve new goals.
Many of you know that I traveled to Israel this summer on a JNF (Jewish National Fund) mission for Heads of School. For eight days, I traveled with 21 other academic leaders to learn about JNF initiatives which support leadership development, character education, and societal growth and advancement. I kept a journal throughout my trip knowing that the places we visited and the people we encountered would be sources of inspiration. My notebook is filled with the words of people I met. They had no idea that their simple sentences would stay with me weeks later, 6,000 miles away. The theme I have chosen for EHS this year comes from one of those visits and one of those people.
The person was IDF (Israel Defense Forces) Brigadier General Offir Levius, and the visit was the ANU Museum, formerly known as the Museum of the Diaspora.
General Levius, whom our group had the honor of meeting early in the trip, told us that leaders must always be asking themselves: Who am I? To whom do I belong? Whom am I influencing? These questions made me think of EHS and the pivotal role that teachers play in children’s lives and how students’ experiences in our school can shape their future path.
The Museum, whose name was changed to ANU (the Hebrew word meaning “us”) in 2021 when it reopened following a 100 million dollar renovation, helped me take General Levius’ words a step further, as their mission is to present and display the unique and ongoing 4,000-year-old story of the Jewish people – past, present, and future. Because they seek to nurture a sense of belonging among Jewish visitors and strengthen Jewish identity while celebrating pluralism and diversity, the new name represents a new shift in focus as the museum of, and for, all of us. If at EHS we strive to shape the paths of our students, it is essential that we shape the unique path of each and every student.
Therefore, the theme at EHS this year is: Anu (Us). Our goal is to create an environment where every student feels like they belong; where every student feels respected, understood, and valued in our community.
The faculty spent an entire morning during our August Professional Development week dedicated to thinking of ways we can ensure that no child feels disconnected. Everyone is charged with thinking about how we are influencing our students’ academic and social development, and how we are shaping their Jewish identity. Anu is about all of us working together to nurture and encourage every child to find their place in our community, and in the story of Jewish continuity. Anu is about both the present and the future.
The Baal Shem Tov, the rabbi who founded hasidic Judaism, once said, “The Jewish people are a living Torah, and every Jew is one of its letters. Each Jewish family is a word, every community a sentence, and the Jewish people at any one time a paragraph. The Jewish people through time constitute a story.” Your children are part of this story, and this year at EHS we will help ensure that they love to learn, love to be Jewish, and appreciate their unique role in the story we are all writing together ~ Anu.
Shana Tova u’Metuka, wishing you a sweet and happy new year!