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Dear Faculty and Staff,

 

Below is a letter that I just sent to all of our parents.  Thank you for the incredible work you did this past week around Martin Luther King Jr. Day and thank you for the amazing work you do each and every day to teach our students about their responsibility for repairing our world.

 

Shabbat shalom,

Ariela

 

Dear Parents, 

 

Over the past week, we have commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Almost fifty years after Dr. King's assassination, we have honored his monumental role in our history and we have also reflected on his legacy and its place in our lives today.

 

It feels fitting that this Shabbat, as we conclude our week of programming on Martin Luther King Jr., we will read Parashat Bo, the story of the end of the Egyptian plagues and the beginning of the exodus from Egypt.  The parsha opens with God's words to Moshe: "בא אל פרעה/Come to Pharoah"  Not go to Pharoah, but come to Pharoah.  God's words are not the classic language of an order to act alone.  Rather, God's words are an invitation, an invitation to partner in doing the hard work of leaving Egypt and finding freedom.

 

In 1963, in the speech that he gave at the conference on race and religion where he first met Martin Luther King Jr., Rabbi Heschel issued his own such invitation.  Alluding to this week's parasha and the larger exodus narrative, Heschel observed that "[a]t the first conference on religion and race, the main participants were Pharoah and Moses."  Heschel challenged his listeners to take up Moshe's work.  "The outcome of that summit meeting has not come to an end," Heschel argued.  "The exodus began, but is far from having been completed."

 

This week, in programs across our divisions, we issued our own invitations.  We asked our students to think about not only the changes that Dr. King made in the world, but also the changes that they want to make.  We asked our students not only to be students of civil rights history, but also to find their own commitments and do their own hard work of hesed and tzedek, of committing to work on whatever issues speak to them when they think of what it would take to create a more just world.  As one of the speakers at our High School assembly reminded us, Dr. King believed that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."  This week, as a community, we thought about how each of us can play a role in bending that arc.

 

I hope that over Shabbat (or later in the weekend for those of you with children spending Shabbat on our High School shabbaton) you will have the opportunity to discuss the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. with your children and speak with them about what they learned this past week: what inspired them, what surprised them, what challenged them.  As you enter Shabbat and, hopefully, these conversations, I share with you the first stanza of a poem, Of Three or Four in the Room/משלשה או ארבעה בחדר, by Yehudah Amichai:

 

Out of three or four in the room

One is always standing at the window.

Forced to see the injustice amongst the thorns,

The fires on the hills.

And people who left whole

Are brought home in the evening, like small change.

משלשה או ארבעה בחדר

.תמיד אחד עומד ליד החלון

מכרח לראות את העול בין הקוצים

.ואת השרפות בגבעה

וכיצד אנשים שיצאו שלמים

.מחזרים בערב כמטבעות עדף לביתם

Both Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel were the people in the room who saw the injustice.  That view from the window fueled their leadership and drove them to fight for change.  As we all know, It is not always comfortable to be that one in the room.  Yet, as we conclude our week of programming on Martin Luther King Jr., I hope that our learning will help our students to stand at the windows of the many rooms that they will inhabit.  And I hope that, from those windows, they will be able see the injustices that invite them to do the hard work—in whatever areas speak to their passions—of bending the arc of the moral universe towards justice.

 

Shabbat shalom,

Ariela

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY PROGRAMMING

THE ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL SCHOOL
RONALD P. STANTON CAMPUS

Early Childhood Center • Henry Lindenbaum Lower School • Alan B. Slifka Middle School
30 West End Avenue, NYC 10023 • 212 784-1234
High School • 20 West End Avenue, NYC 10023 • 212 246-7717
www.heschel.org

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