Thank you for the many warm wishes sent to Shira and myself last week on the birth of our second child. Solomon (Shlomo) Eitan Hichenberg was born January 20th and is happy and healthy; we feel blessed and privileged to be able to welcome him into such a warm and loving community.
Earlier this week, David Ackerman, the Vice President at the Center for Jewish Education of the JCC
Association of North America, sent out a message that “Civic engagement is a Jewish obligation.” He
expanded upon this by saying: “This imperative is based on the command, “Seek the welfare of the country where I have sent you into exile; pray to the Lord for it, for your welfare depends on its welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7) This is echoed in the JCC Movement's principle: Strong Jewish communities benefit, and benefit from, their larger communities.” He continued, “Standing idly by when you could make a difference isn’t an option in Jewish life. The rabbis say, “Those who can stop members of their households from committing a sin, but do not, are held responsible for the sins of the household. Those who can stop people of their city from sinning, but do not, are held
responsible for the sins of the city. Those who can stop the whole world from sinning, but do not, are held responsible for the sins of the whole world.” (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 54b).”
With the development of "Our Immigrant Stories", our school community has spent the past several
weeks working on ways to both do our part to provide immediate support for those in need as well as strengthen our efforts to raise children dedicated to the pursuit of justice throughout their lives. These goals are core to our identity as a Jewish school, and we see this work as a direct representation of our Jewish values. These same goals have also been expressed in many departments throughout JCC Manhattan, as described in an email from Rabbi Joy Levitt, our Executive Director, found here.
Please read below for an update on various strands of this work. I welcome and encourage your
participation wherever you feel compelled to act. If you have thoughts, questions, or ideas, please do not hesitate to share. My office, inbox, and phone lines are open.
(1) February 12 - Parents Association "Tikkun Olam Day": Our scheduled PA Tikkun Olam day will take place downtown from 10:00am-1:00pm, Sunday February 12th. We will be participating in a community action at Battery Park from 11:00am-1:00pm: “Join HIAS, the refugee agency of the Jewish community, to demand that America's doors are reopened to refugees fleeing violence and persecution. In the 1930’s, Jewish refugees were turned away from these shores in their greatest hour of need. Our community must stand up for refugees, and not allow history to repeat itself." Before the event, our school community will gather in the event space at the Jewish Heritage Museum, meeting up with several other groups from JCC Manhattan. While there, we will be making signs/posters for the event.
You are encouraged to bring a light snack for yourself and your child. We will be in this space from
10:00-11:00am, and then walk around the corner to the HIAS event at Battery Park. You are welcome to come for any length of time for either part of the event. We know tolerance for cold and crowds is child dependent! (2) Update on "Our Immigrant Stories": As outlined in a previous Note, our school community is working to collect your stories of immigration, at different points in your family tree, in order to capture the ways in which we reflect an international inheritance. We are pleased to invite all of our families to a "Listening Party" to celebrate and share your stories. The Listening Party is tentatively scheduled for the evening of either May 16 or 18, details to be finalized in the coming weeks. All families are encouraged to participate in this project through this brief "ancestor survey", the results of which will be included at the Listening Party.
Here is an update on the current stage of the project from Sari Lipschitz: "Thank you for your
participation in sharing your immigrant stories. We have really enjoyed hearing where you and your
ancestors originated from and their journeys to where they are today. The next steps will include Eric Winick (Chief Marketing Officer, JCC) compiling the sound bites from your interviews to create a
recorded document for our upcoming listening party. I will be interviewing the children about their
families and have them draw a picture as a visual component. Lastly, we will be creating an interactive map to help show the origins of our community." Please look for these visual components to populate the Common Space in the coming weeks.
(3) Immediate need for volunteers: Hilary Kopple, mother to Canyon Gunther (Classroom 6), is a social worker at International High School at Union Square (IHS-US). We are happy to share that our school will be hosting a student from IHS as a teaching intern in our school this Spring, and encourage you to read below and volunteer where you can. Hilary is happy to answer any questions about these volunteer opportunities. You can reach her at email@example.com. More about IHS and volunteer roles to fill: International High School at Union Square: "The International High School at Union Square (IHS-US) is a public high school serving grades 9 through 12. Our students come from 51 different countries (Dominican Republic, Yemen, Bangladesh, China, Ecuador, etc) and speak 34 different languages (Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Wolof, French etc). Many students have interrupted formal education and difficult migration stories. IHS-US is committed to the academic achievement and advancement of our students."
Volunteers are needed for: Saturday mentoring and tutoring; college preparation; career readiness; web and graphic design; community partnership and fundraising; event planning. A full description of these volunteer roles is listed below my signature at the bottom of this email. Please email Hilary directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you can be of use in any of these roles. A full description of each role is pasted below my signature at the bottom of this email. (4) Our teachers: Inspired both by Jewish values and the practices of Reggio Emilia, our teachers have been, and remain, committed to the enactment of democratic values in each of their classrooms. Our staff has had several conversations recently about social justice and civic responsibility, and age appropriate
way for these notions to be instantiated in each of our classrooms. These discussions
centered last month on MLK Day and are now turning towards the upcoming holidays of Purim and
Passover, which each present rich learning opportunities in these areas. I am so proud to work with an extraordinarily thoughtful and passionate group of early childhood educators, who give themselves fully each day to the work of raising the next generation of citizens.
Thank you to each of our families for participating in these initiatives in whichever way feels
comfortable for you. If you have further thoughts, ideas, or questions about any of this work, please feel free to contact me directly, via email, phone, or in person.
Details for IHS-US volunteers: Our school day typically runs from 8:45am to 2:45pm. Please note some responsibilities require volunteers to be fingerprinted by the New York City Department of Education, which includes a paperwork process and a fee of $60 (http://www.nycservice.org/pages/pages/72).
● Tutoring: Weekday or Saturday Academy (fingerprinting required) Throughout the week during and after school, volunteers can go into classrooms to support student learning one-on-one or in small groups. Volunteers can also provide academic and ESL support before school (8-8:40 am), after school (2:45) and/or during lunchtime (1-1:40 pm). On Saturdays, volunteers can attend Saturday Academy (any time between 9 am -1 pm) to tutor students for standardized tests, portfolio presentations, ESL, and academic subjects.
● College Readiness (fingerprinting required) Volunteers will support students as they apply for college and scholarships. Volunteers can help students consider their options for college, ranging from 2-year programs in community colleges to 4-year programs in private institutions, as well as supporting students with writing college essays and through the general application process. Most commonly students will be need assistance completing CUNY applications and FAFSA forms. Volunteers can also help students seek out and apply for scholarships. Support will be provided in the social work office or in the guidance office directly with individual students. College preparation work will be done alongside guidance counselors.
● Career Readiness (fingerprinting required) Volunteers will support students after school in finding
jobs, internships, and vocational services, applying for positions, writing resumes and cover letters, and preparing students for interviews. Volunteers can pull from a job database created by IHS-US staff and search online for jobs, internships, and programs that fit students abilities and interests. Volunteers can also host 11th graders as a site for our Internship Program.
● Technology IHS-US would benefit from various technological skills, including web design, social media, and graphic design. Volunteers will use web design skills to enhance our online presence through our school website (www.ihs-us.org). This work can be done on and off campus. Volunteers will use graphic design skills to create documents and graphics to support our school’s marketing and outreach materials. Volunteers will create distribution materials to give to a variety of different populations which IHS seeks to reach and will work closely with our school staff. This work can be done on and off campus.
● Community Partnership & Fundraising Volunteers will explore and recruit further support from the community. We are looking for business partners or individuals who can donate money, goods or services to support our students needs. Volunteers will help research potential internship sites for our 11th grader Internship program.