Friday, June 2, 2017

Honor your Father and you Mother

Honor your Father and your Mother - כַּבֵּד אֶת אָבִיךָ וְאֶת אִמֶּךָ
Exodus 20:11

For the past 5 weeks our Jewish Studies 9th grade was immersed in a deep meaningful unit study of “Kibud Horim/Honoring Parents”. It made me feel so proud to see my students taking the topic so seriously and relating to it with so much respect.
Learning the 5th commandment, “Honor your father and your mother so that your days be lengthened on the land that I give you”, was taken very earnestly. We read and discussed many commentaries our Sages offer in a vast variety of texts.
One of our most fervent discussions in class was when we learned that the Torah asks us to honor our parents, but does not ask us to love our parents. The students were surprised and their questions came immediately: “How come? If we learned the Torah commands us to love God, our neighbor, and the stranger, why doesn’t the Torah command us to love our parents and just honor them?” After everybody presented their point of view, argued, agreed and disagreed and finally understood the concept, they came to the conclusion: that as from the Torah’s perspective whether or not we love our parents is irrelevant; what matters is that we show them honor and  reverence.
The students also learned the Talmud teaches us that there are three partners in a person’s creation, God, the father and the mother, and we must honor the three equally. Some students voiced their opinion, agreeing parents have to be respected and honored, some said they love their parents so much more than just respect them, but mostly they would only show reverence to God.
Students also agreed with rabbi Telushkin’s approach that in the case the parents display emotional or physical abuse towards their children they should not honor them. The students shared beautiful examples on how they love and honor their parents.
This last week of our school year, we are spending some time reflecting on our year together, we share our favorite memories with each other, and remember so many funny inside jokes and moments we celebrated.
I had the incredible privilege of helping them learn this year and watch them grow - and 9th graders change so much throughout a year!
I can’t wait to hear what amazing things my students from this year go on to do in the future. Spending time with them always fills me with such hope for the future.
Chag Shavuot Sameach, rejoice celebrating the giving of the Torah, and its 5th commandment, like your children will do.

Have a wonderful summer,

Morah Miriam.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Go Forth - Dvar Torah for Graduation 2017

Go Forth
Dvar Torah for Graduation
May 21, 2017
Rabbi Marshall Lesack

We are a people who values its past.

We study and teach our history, and our lessons learned, to our children. We respect and revere those who have come before us, and seek out their wisdom. We practice traditions and rituals that originated long before we were around, and incorporate them into our lives. We look to our past for guidance, for support and for encouragement in a world that sometimes is hard to understand.

We are a people who values its past...but we do not live in the past.

We are a people who integrates the past into our core being: ...planning...preparing...and building for the future.

We are builders, and dreamers, and visionaries...people who plant trees today so that our grandchildren can benefit from them tomorrow.

Our past influences us. But it is our future on which we train our focus.

1) Avraham left behind everything he knew to build a new future for himself and his family because of two simple words - Lech Lecha - go forth. He did not know exactly what lay ahead, what he would encounter or what challenges he would face. He knew his past. He knew from where he came and how it led him to his present. And taken together, it impacted him as he moved toward his future.

הַבֶּט־נָ֣א הַשָּׁמַ֗יְמָה וּסְפֹר֙ הַכּ֣וֹכָבִ֔ים אִם־תּוּכַ֖ל לִסְפֹּ֣ר אֹתָ֑ם...כֹּ֥ה יִהְיֶ֖ה זַרְעֶֽךָ
“Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” ... “So shall your offspring be.”

Understanding of his past, cognizant of its impact on him as an individual, he plotted a course for the future which led to the birth of the Jewish people.

2) When the Jews left Egypt, they too began a journey into the unknown. They knew of their oppression, of their struggles, of God’s miracles and of their deliverance. Heavily impacted by their past, God decided that their descendants would be the people to enter the promised land. And so, deeply connected to the experiences of the ancestors, not far removed from the moments of the Exodus, they entered the land of Israel to start a new life for the Jewish people. To this day, we honor the moment of our redemption and its influence on the future of Judaism, every time we recite kiddush and sanctify our holy days:

זכר ליציאת מצרים
In memory of the Exodus from Egypt.

3) When the 2nd Temple was destroyed, the future of Judaism was in question. But our rabbis knew that our Torah, our values, our mitzvot could not be extinguished. Rabbis escaped to Yavneh and built batei midrash - study halls - to continue the teaching of Torah. Not long after, Torah academies were established in Sura and Pumbedita, and by the time the Jews established communities in Italy, Germany and France in the early middle ages, our rabbis had already produced the Mishna, the Talmud, Midrashim, Commentaries, the beginning of Jewish law codes and more.

These rabbis, tied to our past yet fully focused on our future, provided the framework through which we practice our Judaism today.

4) Fast forward to the modern era, we remain the people of “Od lo avdah tikvateinu” - our hope...that of 2,000 not yet lost. Never relinquishing our ties to the land of Israel...never forgetting the promise made to our forefathers...we have come home. Celebrating 69 years of independence and, in just 3 more days, 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem, we have turned the memories of our past and the visions for our future into our reality:
Lihyot am chofshi be'artzeinu, Eretz Tziyon viyrushalayim
To be a free people in our land; The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

5) Less than 3 weeks ago, many of you returned from the March of the Living. You saw with your own eyes both the pain and the promise of our people, our history and our future. And you did it with holy vessels, with survivors, who could share their experiences and their deep wisdom with you.

In December, while attending a conference on holocaust education, I had the privilege of hearing Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of England, speak to my group. Rabbi Sacks mentioned that in all of his years meeting survivors, teaching survivors, counseling survivors and consoling survivors, that there is one item that he learned more than any other during his time with them. To paraphrase Rabbi Sacks, it was the ability to move forward.

It was the ability to look to the future. It was the ability to be impacted by the past, not defined by it or stuck in it, but to use what you could from it to plot a path forward. If there ever were a people who had earned the right to not look to the future, it was this people. But on the whole, they did just the opposite.

They followed in the footsteps of our tradition, taking from the past - which yes, has its eras and its many moments of pain; but alongside it its eras and many moments of celebration - and they looked to the future.

We are a people that will always be built on our past. It is that past that has helped shape us into who we are and enabled us to determine who we want to become. We are forever tied to our past as we plot our course for the future.

As you prepare for your departure from high school, and from the school that has been your home and your community for so many years, you know full well that you have been shaped by this experience and your time here. While your life as a DKJA student will soon be in the past, the importance of that life will remain with you forever. Your memories, your friendships, your relationships with teachers, your victories and your defeats, the tests you passed and the papers you did poorly on, those late nights of study, the jokes among friends, the days you used your time wisely and the days you wasted, the challenges you overcame, the questions you asked, and the person that you have become during your time here……...all of this will influence you as you now look to your own future.

You come from a people that incorporates its past into its planning for tomorrow.

You are builders. You are dreamers. You are visionaries.

Lecha Lecha. Go forth.

Kadima. Onward.

The future is yours for the taking.  

Mazal tov.

Friday, May 26, 2017

You Do Your Part

You Do You’ll Part, I’ll Do Mine
Rabbi David Paskin

In Numbers 3:15-16 we read, “And HASHEM spoke unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, saying: ‘Number the children of Levi by their fathers’ houses, by their families; every male from a month old and upward you shall number them.’ And Moses numbered them according to the word of the HASHEM, as he was commanded.”

Rashi wonders aloud what the Torah means when it says, “according to the word of HASHEM”. Wouldn’t it have been enough to say Moses counted the children “as he was commanded”? Why the extra phrase?

In answer to his own question, Rashi imagines a conversation between Moses and God. Upon being commanded to count the children Moses argued, “How can I enter their tents to count? Isn’t that a violation of their privacy?” God responds, “okay, tell you what - you go around to each tent, stand outside and a voice from heaven will tell you how many children are in that tent.” To which Moses replies, “If you are going to tell me how many children are inside then why do I have to shlep around to stand outside of each tent?! Just tell me now and save me the trouble.” God answers, “You do your part and I’ll do mine.”

Throughout the Torah, God relies upon us to be partners in creating the world we seek. God commands Noah to build an Ark to save his family and the creatures of the earth from the impending flood; God challenges Abraham and Sarah to leave everything behind, journey to a new land and become the parents of a new nation; God calls Moses and Aaron to return to Egypt and serve as God’s voice to free that nation and guide them to God’s mountain; and God calls on Moses to do his part by going to each tent, standing outside, and listening for God’s voice.

Like Moses at the Sea of Reeds we very often beg for God’s intervention forgetting that God will do God’s part if only we would do ours. The midrash teaches this when it suggests that it was not Moses who brought about the parting of the sea, but Nachshon ben Aminadav who was brave enough to walk into the waters and risk drowning all because he understood that it is not enough to have faith in God - we must also have faith in ourselves. We must see our own capacity to part the waters of injustice, battle the forces of evil and to repair the world.

There are indeed times when it would seem easier to just wait for God to tell us how many children are in each tent. It may be more convenient to wait for God’s “justice to well up as waters, and (God’s) righteousness as a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24) But as Father Mulcahy from M*A*S*H taught us, “A faith of convenience is a hollow faith.”

We are not a people convenience but a people of commandment. God commands us to do our part. Only when we heed this call will every person in our world be counted, respected and loved.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Technology Blog 5-24


The school year is winding down, but our technology use in the high school is ramping up.  After two years of using Chromebooks, the school is continuing into next year with gusto!  We’re finding new and exciting ways to streamline the classroom process.

This year, room 126 piloted the Idea Paint program, which gives the students the ability to fully utilize wall space by turning it into one giant whiteboard that they can write on.  The Idea Paint was paired with an interactive projector, which along with specially designed styluses, turns the wall into a smartboard, and engages the students with the material on a more personal, tactile level.

Finally, on Monday 5/23/17, junior Robert Shinder and Spanish teacher Silvana Delbo launched the inaugural broadcast of the Donna Klein Jewish Academy morning announcements, which was filmed in the main building’s digital video studio.  Hosted by anchor Noah Rubin and his fellow 8th graders, sports analyst Levi Stein and meteorologist Dana Levine, the cross-division broadcast was livestreamed to the entire school.  The replay link is available here:  DKJA live announcements

Cory Laub
English Teacher, Technology Educator

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Interview Preparation Program

Interview Preparation Program

Last week our junior class participated in a two-part Interview Preparation Program.  The program covered interview preparation and strategies for different types of interviews (college, internships and employment), as well as opportunities to practice interview skills. 

On Tuesday, May 16th, the students began the educational process through videos, worksheets and small group discussion, all facilitated by our wonderful community volunteers.  Additionally, two of our graduating seniors were interviewed in front of the group and participated in the subsequent feedback discussion for the benefit of the juniors.  We thank Aaron Fils and Abraham Waserstein for volunteering for this program and showing some of the skills they have learned after having multiple interviews this year.

Session 2, held on Wednesday, May 17th, was the individual implementation of what our students had already learned the day before; primarily through a thorough one-on-one mock interview with feedback. The students gained beneficial skills and experience; they learned how to effectively talk about themselves, how to prepare for some of the most common interview questions, and what questions to ask the interviewer(s).

With the help of our experienced community volunteers, we achieved our goals of providing a comprehensive skill-building experience and concrete practice opportunity to our students!  This will certainly benefit those who will interview for the most competitive colleges, and/or who plan to pursue a job or internship in the future. It was truly a life-skill experience, not just an interview preparation program.  Our volunteer facilitators included the following members of our greater community:
Mandee Heller Adler:  President, International College Counselors; University of Pennsylvania Alumni Interviewer
Lindsey Maharaj:  International College Counselors; experienced professional interviewer
Melissa Orlen:  Attorney; University of Pennsylvania Alumni Interviewer
Jackie Rockman: DKJA Director of College Counseling; former Brandeis University Admissions Officer/Interviewer
Brenda Rudman: International College Counselors; Brown University Alumni Interviewer
Julie Simons:  International College Counselors; teaches public speaking and communications skills
Bridget Varisco: Nova Southeastern University Admissions Officer; Scholarship and special program interviewer
Lesley Zafran:  Board Member (Past President); manager of personnel consulting firm

We are so excited that this wonderful program is an addition to our DKJA College Counseling Program!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

CIJE Conference

CIJE Conference

12 young engineers (Jordan Berger, Ilan Crane, Hannah Appleton, Abigail Goodman, Zachary Klein, Samuel Kraft, Sarah Louis, Liann Rozenberg, Noah Rubin, Levi Stein, Tali Tirosh, and Yakov  Wahnich) from Donna Klein presented their projects alongside other students from Jewish schools across the country. Participants showcased their projects and though there was no formal judging, the students felt a sense of personal accomplishment at the praise and admiration bestowed on them. Pictured are the young engineers in front of their posters. Standing with them are their proud teachers Mr. DeLandsheer and Mr. Bowman as well as Justin Petersen of the Centers for Initiatives in Jewish Education. A special thanks to Mr. Petersen for all the help throughout the year, encouraging these amazing young people to reach their potential.

Monday, May 8, 2017

No Place For Hate

No Place for Hate

The Anti-Defamation League, No Place for Hate at DKJA received their 5th year banner for being a “No Place For Hate” school.  The vision for this program was started five years ago by current senior, Joseph Zeuner.

The ADL’s No Place for Hate® initiative provides schools and communities with an organizing framework for combating bias, bullying and hatred, leading to long-term solutions for creating and maintaining a positive climate. In 1913, ADL was founded on "Jewish values that inform our work and the change we seek in the world". It has always meant stopping anti-Semitism and defending the Jewish people. Today, it also means fighting threats to our very democracy, including cyber-hate, bullying, bias in schools and in the criminal justice system, terrorism, hate crimes, coercion of religious minorities, and contempt for anyone who is different.

We look forward to continuing this successful program at DKJA for years to come.