Over the past two weeks, in almost dizzying succession, we have commemorated Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom Ha'atzmaut.  As we have lived these days as a community, we have been in a serious, on-going conversation with our past, present, and future.  These have been intense weeks, filled with profound learning and deep emotions. I am so grateful to our entire Heschel faculty, staff, and student body -- in our school buildings and in Israel on our eighth-grade trip -- for creating the exemplary programming and saturating our communal spaces with the exceptional energy that have led us through these very special, exciting, and demanding weeks of the school year.

Last week, on Yom HaShoah, we filled our buildings with memories of the Holocaust, as well as magnificent opportunities to learn about both those who perished in the shoah and also many members of our own extended community who survived.  I encourage you to spend time learning from the amazing archives that our Holocaust Commemoration Committee has collected and curated.  In addition, on Yom HaShoah, Heschel once again had the privilege of hosting the Witness Theater program.  Since the fall, a group of Heschel eleventh graders, along with a group of students from Trinity and Horace Mann, have been meeting weekly with six women who survived the Holocaust.  With the incredible guidance and vision of a drama therapist, the students dramatized the survivors' experiences and, while the survivors joined them on our stage, performed their stories. This remarkable program affords a group of our students and a group of survivors the opportunity to form a unique set of relationships. The program also affords our entire community the privileged opportunity to serve as witnesses for an inspiring and painful set of stories of courage, bravery, struggle, and triumph.   

Earlier this week, in observance of Yom HaZikaron, our school community honored the memories of those who have died for the creation and survival of Israel.  As I shared with our Middle School students at their Yom HaZikaron ceremony, Rabbi Heschel observed in his book on Israel that "we are a people in whom the past endures, in the whom the present is inconceivable without moments gone by."  This week, across our Lower School, Middle School, and High School, our teachers did a phenomenal job of linking our students to our collective past and weaving the narratives of those who died into our collective present. 

And finally, of course, yesterday our school buildings reverberated with the joy of celebrating Israel's 70th Yom Ha'atzmaut.  We danced and sang.  We created exceptional works of art (check out the Middle School's inspiring interpretation of the classic image of Theodore Herzl!) and learned from experts about Israeli innovation.  I watched our oldest students dream about trekking Israel's National Trail, and I watched our youngest students board an El Al plane (okay, it was "grounded" in room 1-610!) and explore an unbelievable range of Israeli sites (recreated for them in our classrooms).  I shopped in our Kindergarten's shuk and, filled with my own memories of the Israeli victory in Eurovision in 1979, I sang Halleluyah with all of our students.  It was a remarkable day.

Reflecting on the young state of Israel, David Ben Gurion once remarked that "in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles."  Over the past two weeks, in school and in Israel, our community has grappled with many of the harrowing stories of loss and destruction that constitute our history and shape our present.  And, at the same time, we have confronted countless narratives of bravery and strength, brilliant tales of fortitude and leadership, and stupendous experiences of inspiration and grandeur. I hope we enter shabbat not only exhausted from our celebrations, but also energized by them.  I hope we enter shabbat not only thinking about our past, but also committed to dedicating ourselves to a future of hope and peace. And I hope we enter shabbat not only as realists, but also as believers in miracles.

Shabbat shalom,







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

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