By this point, there's been quite a bit of buzz in the Jewish community about the fact that Vice-President Joe Biden not only celebrated Sukkot, but did so in a sukkah built on the grounds of his residence at Number One Observatory Circle.
And while this is amazing, there is more to the story, as there is more to a sukkah than its walls and roof. Hint: It's all about the decorations.
For the first time in 115 years, Rosh HaShanah occurs just after Labor Day and coincides with the beginning of school for children and teachers in many states across the country. While Rosh Hashanah is always a time for reflection, this Jewish New Year provides us with a unique opportunity.
Editor's Note: Yesterday, we highlighted a response to regular blogger Meredith Englander Polsky's piece about how she pulled her daughter out of Jewish day school. Click here for the original post and here for the comment; below is Meredith's response to the comment.
Thank you - I appreciate your response. I agree that this school (and probably Jewish Day Schools in general) face a real challenge as pressure grows to be as academically challenging as a Sidwell Friends or a Georgetown Prep. I would argue, though, that a day school's mission, then, needs to be clear. If that's the goal - to attract and retain families who would otherwise choose a Georgetown Prep - then make that explicit. Then parents know what they are choosing, and the school rejects students who will not rise to those academic challenges - probably (statistically speaking) 20 percent of currently enrolled students. (Clearly, this is not something I'm advocating.)
Editor’s Note: In this piece, Matan co-founder Meredith Polsky sings the praises of the inclusive Jewish summer camp where she works – and sends her children – during the summer. A follow-up from a camp administrator will describe the various elements that must be in place to create such a program: culture, funding and a lot of hard work. Stay tuned.
During the summer, I have the great privilege of working at one of the first inclusive Jewish summer camps in the country. The Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington has been a model of inclusion for over thirty years. Every child is welcome, no matter what the disability. We have campers in wheelchairs, campers with feeding tubes, campers with Down Syndrome and Autism and Rett Syndrome, just to name a few.
Since I shared on this blog my family’s decision to withdraw our daughter Lucy from the local Jewish day school, I have been inundated with comments, Facebook posts, emails and phone calls. The majority of these have been parents sharing their own stories about why their child could not receive a Jewish education and reliving that heartbreak, whether it was last year or 20 years ago.
In 19 days, my daughter will complete her last year of Jewish day school. I had many visions in my mind for this moment: Seeing her in a cap and gown with friends she’s known since kindergarten; finding the picture of her eating ice cream with a little boy in first grade and placing it next to their prom picture; feeling pride that although we made sacrifices, my husband and I provided a solid Jewish education to our child.
And some of those visions may have become reality, if not for the fact that Lucy will turn seven just before her last day at Jewish day school. She is completing first grade, not 12th.
Two of my children attend our local Jewish day school, and we carpool with a family who also has two kids at the school. Spending about an hour in the car together each day, we have become a tight-knit group and the kids (two first graders, a second grader and a third grader) have coined the phrase “carpool family” when referring to one another. As such, it has become a safe place to get ready for the school day, ask questions, discuss a wide variety of topics, get silly and unwind. My co-“carpool mom” and I share similar values and expectations, which is to say we place a high value on safety in the car, respect for differences among people and the tone of the language we use in carpool and at home.