Archives in May 2021

What Memorial Day and the menorah have in common...

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
May 27, 2021

Because it's almost Memorial Day Weekend, I'm sharing my video message a little early this week! In honor of the upcoming holiday, I also wanted to dedicate the message itself to the 1.3 million Americans who have given their lives for this country, and share some words about the over 4.5 million veterans living today with a service-related disability.

I hope you will check out my message and share your own Memorial Day reflections with me.

Category: Reflections & Perspectives

 

Raising the Bar (Mitzvah)

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
May 21, 2021

In the midst of everything going in the recent weeks and months, two milestones in our B’nei Mitzvah Program have been a bright spot, and I wanted to highlight these stories for you today. This spring, Gateways celebrated our 90th and 91st b’nei mitzvah — one bar mitzvah held completely virtually, and one bat mitzvah held in a synagogue with a small number of in-person attendees and the rest participating virtually. At each one, the parents shared with me their immense pride in their children’s accomplishments as well as their gratitude to Gateways — to the staff and teen volunteers in particular.

One parent shared of her son’s virtual bar mitzvah at Gateways, “It was an amazing experience….[his volunteers and teacher Rebecca Redner] had brought [him] to this point and he was so proud of himself and we were so proud of him. We appreciate everyone at Gateways, we know it takes a village and we are fortunate to be part of this one.”

The mother of the bat mitzvah student also wrote me to say, “This experience has been a lesson for all of us to keep raising the bar for her. And, after yesterday, she has a newfound confidence that she will have for the rest of her life.”

The priestly blessing many parents give their children on Friday evening begins,
"יְבָרֶכְךָ ה וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ" (y'varechecha Adonai v'yishmarecha) — translated as, “May God bless you and safeguard you.” One commentary on this verse explains that we should further understand this phrase to mean, “only God can guarantee that no one or nothing can tamper with the gifts He confers upon His loved ones.” These gifts are what make our children who they are, and when we bless each of our B’nei Mitzvah students, we are recognizing these gifts, creating a path of inclusion that will safeguard and uplift them.

Thank you to our parents, our educators, and to our students for continuing to share their remarkable milestones, and to our community for helping us “raise the bar” for our students, honoring their individual gifts by providing a path for belonging in Jewish life and learning.

 

Israel and Our Mental Health

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
May 14, 2021

As I pray for the safety of my siblings and family and friends in Israel, I keep thinking about the fact that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. No joke, it feels like it’s been Mental Health Awareness Year, ever since this pandemic began. It is hard to imagine adding the fear of seeing rockets fly overhead and hearing the booms of the Iron Dome while huddled in safe rooms or stairwells throughout the night. And it's even harder to imagine the toll this is taking on children living through this.

Undoubtedly, the pandemic, in which we have already seen an increase in mental health needs and hospitalizations for mental illness, will have far-reaching, if still unknown, effects on the mental health of our children. In The Cut’s article “The Children of Quarantine,” author Lisa Miller writes, “The kids who are suffering most in this pandemic are the kids who were already suffering most. Kids with intellectual or physical disabilities, for example, whose lives depend on reliable schedules or in-person care, are disconnected from their lifelines.” We talk about how resilient children can be, but at the same time, it is our job to be vigilant and proactive in making sure the youngest generation’s mental health needs are being met during this time.

This Sunday evening, we will celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, where we commemorate the receiving of our Torah. The Jewish people are united in our response to this gift, declaring "na’aseh v’nishmah" — “we will do and we will listen.” And that is exactly what we are doing now, even when we feel helpless — we are listening to the mental health needs of our community’s children and we are acting to meet those needs.

I do hope you will join me at the upcoming June 3rd webinar, which has the very timely focus of “The Impact of Trauma on Our Youth: Myths, Facts, and Strategies,” with Dr. Miri Bar-Halpern, an Israel-trained clinical psychologist who is now the Director of Intensive Outpatient Treatment Services at the Boston Child Study Center.

As we say in our prayer for the welfare of Israel, “spread over her Your canopy of peace”—may we all receive the blessings of health, safety, and peace.

 

Thank you, Teachers

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
May 7, 2021

There are many educators in my family, and one thing I know is when we get to this time of year, teachers (and students!) are counting a different kind of Omer – the Omer of counting until school is out. That feeling is surely heightened this year because of the sheer intensity of adapting to a pandemic-driven school environment. Yet, even as this school year starts winding down, the level of commitment from our educators never wavers.

How appropriate then that this week we celebrated National Teacher Appreciation Week. The origins of this week date back to the 1950s, when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt lobbied for a National Teacher Appreciation Day before Congress. When National Teacher Appreciation Week as we know it now was established in the 1980s, the National Education Association (NEA) felt that the purpose of this week should be to “not only honor teachers but to show them that they help make lasting impressions on their students’ lives.” So this week, I’m dedicating this space to all our teachers and educators who work tirelessly at or with Gateways to ensure that every child is able to participate meaningfully in Jewish life and learning.

Thank you for all you do each and every day to engage our children in learning, to cultivate their curiosity and awareness of the world around them, and to foster a sense of belonging in our Jewish tradition and community.

Category: Reflections & Perspectives

Tagged under: day school, teaching