Each of our students -- and each of us -- is on a journey.  In the words of Walt Whitman's Song of Myself, we "tramp a perpetual journey" throughout our lives.  As Whitman reminds us, each of our journeys is unique, "Not I, not anyone else can travel that road for you, You must travel it for yourself."  Yet, while each of us travels as an individual, our goal as educators -- and what makes our work at Heschel so meaningful -- is to help our students navigate the roads they travel, thinking carefully about the twists and turns, intersections, and potential dead ends.  As teachers, we know that every age brings with it particular celebrations and challenges. And, at every age, we teach our students that, although each person's journey is distinct, our individual choices shape and impact our larger community. At Heschel, we journey as individuals and as members of a community.   

Parshat Lech Lecha feels like a particularly auspicious time to think about our journeys.  As we read the story of Avraham's departure from his birthplace to follow the path to God's chosen land, the text seems to invite us to reflect on the roads -- predictable and unpredictable -- that we travel.  This week, in their humash ceremonies, our third-grade students will ponder the power of journeys, biblical and personal.  As our Lower School students formally receive their first humash, we hope that the language of parshat Lech Lecha will inspire them to be fearless and passionate learners.  We share with them the blessing that they will always feel they can journey with the ever-present support of our sacred texts and our communal spirit.  We hope they carry that blessing with them on every road they travel.

And, hopefully, they will travel on many roads.  Indeed, in every grade, using different texts and contexts, we strive to teach our students to explore uncharted territory while feeling safe with the knowledge that we are by their sides and helping to guide them.  In that spirit, this morning I had the privilege of talking with our High School students, who are at a different point on their journeys, about the importance of making healthy, safe, and legal choices with respect to alcohol and drugs. Over the course of this week, our Middle School and High School students, as well as our fifth graders (in an age-appropriate lesson on peer pressure), will have the opportunity to learn with an educator from FCD Prevention Works, a non-profit organization that partners with schools to educate about drugs and alcohol.  Never has our commitment to teaching our students to make good choices felt more timely: Through the hearings leading up to the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh, our students just witnessed an unprecedented national conversation about the potential dangers and long-term impact of high school behavior. Whatever one's opinion of the recent confirmation process, the public discourse reinforced the necessity to teach our students about the dangers of substances that impair their judgement, as well as the imperative to build a safe community based on principles of respect, caring, and consent.  

In every division, we teach our students that their journeys should unfold within a web of safe, respectful, and caring relationships.  And, in every division, we teach our students that we will support them as they build and nurture that web. Last week, in parshat Noah, we read that God put a rainbow in the sky as a sign to Noah that he would never again destroy the world.  As educators, we aspire to create the rainbows that will let our children know that we are on their side, the signs that we will be there for them in the moments that feel challenging and in the moments of celebration.

Hopefully, our students will carry these signs with them as they grow in judgment and independence.  In the words of Whitman:

You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life.

Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore,

Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,

To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me, shout, and laughingly dash with your hair.   


May our students always see the rainbows and the dazzle of the light as they experience the many different adventures of their individual and collective journeys.

With thanks for journeying with us,



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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