It's a song about love between, My brothers and my sisters, All over this land.

It’s a song about love between, My brothers and my sisters, All over this land

At Shabbat sing this morning, listening to Paul sing “If I had a hammer” and sitting on the rug in the Common Space with you, I could not help but reflect back to when we started our school year together on September 12, all together in the auditorium. I spoke to you then about Love and Hope in the context of our school community.  Love, the forming of strong, intimate relationships, and Hope, the belief that our work together can ensure that our children both inherit and create a peaceful world. Mid-way through the school year, on the eve of Winter Break, I am proud to report that those themes run strong in our school community.

During each of your prospective family admissions tours over the past years, you heard me explain that in our school, we see religion as a vehicle through which to access values, a tool we use to orient our contribution to the world. Chanukah and the “holiday season” is a ripe opportunity for us to examine the underlying values of the holiday as well as reflect on our gratitude for what we have and capacity to share with those around us.

It’s the hammer of justice, It’s the bell of freedom

Sitting in Classroom 4 today for their Chanukah party, I was awed and humbled at watching 20 children, on the laps of their beloved parents, grandparents, or caregivers, listen wide-eyed to their teacher Joyce tell the Chanukah story. She spoke about how a group of citizens, discontented with how a newly arrived and overly-authoritative leader was treating them, rebelled against all odds. She concluded by explaining, in language clear and relatable for a five year old child, that the story shows us how “a small group of people can change the world if they really try hard and work together.” Maccabee, of course, means “hammer.” Hammer of justice, indeed.

As our community has prepared for Chanukah, we have been expressing these values through our Tikkun Olam projects. Our “Mitten Menorah” in the Common Space collected several dozen pairs of gloves, which Classroom 4 delivered in person to the West End Intergenerational Shelter, transitional housing for battered women and their children. Our families also contributed clothing and toys for several dozen families through Year Up and the 63rd Street Y, helping families celebrate the holidays this winter. Also this week, many of our children and parents did some “Chanukah caroling” at The Esplanade, bringing joy and energy to seniors in the neighborhood celebrating the holidays.
Paul finished singing “If I had a hammer” and moved on to “This land is your land.”

This land is your land, this land is my land, This land was made for you and me

Our PreK families received an invitation today from Sari Lipschitz, our atelierista, to participate in the “Our Immigrant Stories” project in January. We will be highlighting the immigrant background of the Jewish People, and each of our families, in order to broaden our understanding of, and deepen our connection with, more recently-arrived immigrant communities. It was Love and Hope that so moved our ancestors to find their way here, and it is with Love and Hope that we embrace their stories and use them as guides for how to treat newcomers into our city and country.  

Paul then moved into Od yavo shalom aleinu, or, “peace will be upon us, yet.”

This song lingered in my mind as I joined Classroom 2 for their Chanukah party, as their teacher Carla sang out, “The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.” It didn’t sound like a nursery rhyme; it sounded like a ringing endorsement of our values. Peace did, indeed, feel upon us, if only in this enclave from the complex world outside. As the class sang along, I watched, enraptured, as each child sat in the warm, loving embrace of a parent, grandparent, or babysitter. They swayed together, with the lights off, seated in a circle on the floor. In the middle of the circle, grabbing the attention of all, were a menorah and Shabbat candles, ablaze with light. Shabbat candles, shining brightly for peace and tranquility; Chanukah candles, standing tall for bravery and dissent. These values are the reason we light candles, the reason we celebrate holidays.

The Love and Hope emanating from each member of that circle, each member of our community, was clear and strong.  We believe that these are the ingredients our children need as they grow; the ingredients they need so that decades from now, we can look on in amazement at the world our children have created.

Paul closed Shabbat sing this morning with another classic:

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

I look forward to the second half of our school year and encourage you to participate in whatever way is comfortable for you in our school community. Come spend time in our classrooms, volunteer for PA events, contribute to tikkun olam projects. Reach out to your teachers, to me, or to our PA leaders, and find a way to help us let the light of these values shine.

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Shabbat shalom and happy Chanukah,