A JK-12 pluralistic school that engages students in an exemplary and inspiring general and Jewish education.


A guest blog sharing the voices, wisdom, and insights of the school community.

Contribute to CESJDS Links! If you are interested in authoring a post, please submit the form.

In order to BE anything, you have to DO a lot of something
Nancy Wassner
Nancy Wassner, CESJDS English Teacher

Read the remarks below that Nancy Wassner, High School English Teacher, delivered to the CESJDS Class of 2017 at their Siyyum on Friday, February 10, 2017 as the faculty speaker.


Good morning friends, families, special guests, Paul Blank. And good morning –boker tov-- to the Class of 2017. I feel very privileged to speak to you this morning. I did the math, and it turns out I have taught about 85% of this class in tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade English as well as K'hillah. Of the rest, I've probably caught you out of class in the hallway or made you cover your head during KabShab. But just in case I've somehow missed the opportunity share my wisdom with each of one of you, I've got you now. So listen up, chevreh.

Sometime in my junior or senior year of high school, I got a promotional poster in the mail from a college in Oregon. It said, "You already are what you want to be when you grow up." And I thought that was just the coolest poster. I had zero intention of going to college in Oregon, but I put that poster on my wall, and I thought, "Yeah. I AM already what I want to be when I grow up. I TOTALLY know what that means!"

I had no idea what that meant.

When I started teaching here at CESJDS five years ago, the school had just begun an effort to emphasize three values: k'hillah, community; ahrayut, responsibility; and derekh eretz, which we translated at the time to mean respect. I think that we do a pretty good job here with community and responsibility, k'hillah and ahrayut. But, it's the third one, respect, that I have been thinking about.

Currently, in the eight core values of our school, we translate derekh eretz as ethical responsibility. I think you all have a sense of that. I don't worry that you are not respectful people. No, I am concerned that we may have misled you in this school. By creating an atmosphere of respect here, I worry that you might graduate and go into the great big world thinking that you are a person deserving of respect in every scenario. And I'm here to tell you that in most scenarios, right now, at the age of 17 or 18, you are not deserving of respect. Just like at the age of 17, I was not the person I wanted to be when I grew up. Because we don't just magically get to be whatever we want.

To me, it's a matter of verbs. In order to BE anything, you have to DO a lot of something. In order to be good at basketball, you have to do a lot of running. You have to drill. You have to take a lot of shots. You have to practice. In order to be a good singer, you have to sing a lot of scales. You have to breathe in weird ways to isolate muscles you never even knew you had. You have to practice. In order to be a good writer or dancer or layner of Torah or speaker of another language, you have to practice. There are a lot of action verbs involved in being anything.

In the same way, you don't just—poof!—become a person worthy of respect. It takes practice. It takes actions. Plural actions. You don't just need to show up; you need to show up on time. Every day. You don't just need to try to meet expectations; you actually have to meet them. You don't just need to pretend to listen in class or in staff meetings while you're really chatting with your friends online; you have to listen for real and ask real questions. You have to show respect for whatever it is you are trying to do or trying to be. You have to show respect for yourself.

Respecting yourself is hard. It's not the same as thinking you're fun or cute or are a good athlete or artist. Those are self-confidence, which does not require any basis in reality. Again, self-respect comes from actions. From knowing that you have done the right thing. Or that you are going to do the right thing tomorrow. Or that you messed up this time, but you've learned, and next time, you will get it right. That's self-respect. That's integrity. And integrity, like every other skill, is not something you just—poof!—get. You have to practice.

Over and over again in your life, starting right now and continuing forever, you will have to decide what is the right thing for you. Your classes on ethical dilemmas and current issues should help you on some of the big questions. Your other classes may help you in other ways. Math classes will help you create budgets. Science classes will help you understand the natural world. Foreign language will help you communicate with other cultures. Your experiences in Zman Kodesh will help you figure out the right kind of spiritual life for you. And English class should have taught you how to respond should you find yourself at a raucous party hosted by a maybe-bootlegger/maybe-German spy. Or meeting up with a lovable ragamuffin named Huckleberry floating down the Mississippi. History class, by the way, hopefully has taught you what to do if you find yourself somehow in the wrong century.

But I admit that you will rarely find yourself time traveling. Instead, you're going to find yourself facing lots of options, a lot fewer rules, and parents a lot farther away. And when you face those options, you are definitely going to make some really bad decisions. You're going to look back and think, "Well, that was dumb. Why did I do that?" I'll tell you why. Because you have to make wrong decisions to learn which are the right ones for you. You have to push boundaries sometimes to learn where they are. And knowing where your boundaries are, where your wrong and right are, those are the beginnings of integrity.

The rest is action. The rest is choosing to do the right thing. Not the thing other people tell you is right, but the thing you know deep down is right for you. And not just once. Not just when it's fun. But time after time, when it's hard. When you are tired and your muscles ache, and you do it anyway because you know what I did not when I was 17. You are not yet the person you want to be when you grow up. But you can become that person. It's just going to take a lot of action verbs.

And this is what I hope for you. As a school, as a k'hillah, we have tried to give you the tools to be people of integrity, to be people worthy of respect. Over my five years here, I've seen the Class of 2017 learn, grow, and mature into this incredible group. And you are incredible. We are so proud of you. Mazal tov to you and your families on this day of your Siyyum, this day of your finishing, reaching a huge milestone in your lives. You deserve every accolade and congratulations and hug you receive today. But as of Sunday, your Commencement, your new beginning, all those verbs are in your hands. Go and do. And I wish you hamon hatzlacha, lots of success.

Nancy Wassner is a CESJDS High School English Teacher and Coordinator of the Irene and Daniel Simpkins Senior Capstone Israel Trip.

Eleven and a Half Years Later
Arielle Weinstein '17
Arielle Weinstein, Class of 2017

"You're Jewish, and you're going to a Jewish day school next year."

Those were the fateful words that had greeted me in the car ride home after another arduous day of first grade, and the ones that originally introduced me to this multifaceted and malleable concept known as a "Jewish identity." I had done Jew-esque things prior to the beginning of my CESJDS career -- a cousin's bar mitzvah here, a Hanukkah party there -- but in the moment that my mom let me in on the existence of Judaism, I felt a bit like the young Harry Potter when he was first accosted by Hagrid: "You're a Jew, Arielle."

Lucky for me, the JDS community proved to be much more welcoming than the wizarding world, and through its pluralism showed me that a Jewish identity comes in many shapes and sizes. My most formative experiences were spent probing at this identity, whether it was in Zman Kodesh or class. I had the opportunity to participate in the Derekh T'filah, Masorti and Mehitzah Sepharadi minyans, all of which helped me discover what I personally find valuable in prayer and practice. My Jewish text and history courses worked alongside this spiritual education, allowing me to explore both the unique ideologies of my peers and our shared culture. One of these more memorable classes was History of Arab-Israeli Conflict, a course I found particularly challenging for how it forced me to confront my relationship with Israel. Looking back at this constant influx of knowledge and controversies and opinions, I am grateful that I did not grow up particularly observant to one denomination. JDS taught me how to embrace a community of spiritual and ideological diversity while also constructing and maintaining my own Jewish identity.

With the encouragement of guidance counselors, teachers and classmates, my identity continued to grow beyond the walls of the classroom. I spent two summers at Camp Ramah in New England and still cherish the memories of beautiful Havdalah services, deeply informative text-based discussions and laughing with lifelong friends. A short while later, the need for community service hours drove me to volunteer as an assistant teacher at my synagogue's Sunday school, but my ever-expanding appreciation for a Jewish education led me to stay on long after I had fulfilled the graduation requirement. My most recent extracurricular adventure was through the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology's SciTech program, which brings together high school students from around the world to work in various laboratories at the Technion's campus in Israel. Besides the invaluable research opportunity, the experience allowed me to travel all around Israel for the first time. While I loved my History of Arab-Israeli Conflict class, nothing came close to seeing the country for itself, and I cannot wait to get back there with my grade in less than two weeks' time.

Speaking of the indelible Class of 2017, it is still hard to believe that our school year, Prom, Siyyum and Graduation are all over. I most enjoyed the new JDS tradition our grade had the honor of starting: walking through the halls of the Lower School in caps and gowns. Passing by the first JDS classroom I was ever a part of and looking down at the smiling faces of those second-grade students, I could not help but feel a little envious of all the magical experiences they have ahead of themselves. Meanwhile, I am trying to focus on the future. I look forward to further developing my Jewish identity at the University of Chicago this fall, and while I know I will never be able to replace what eleven and a half years at JDS have given me, I am excited to join larger and even more diverse Jewish communities there. Starting from scratch at a campus notoriously known as "where fun goes to die" sounds terrifying, but I was never one to shy away from a challenge.

Arielle Weinstein is a recent CESJDS graduate in the Class of 2017.

How is Pluralism Defined at CESJDS?
Rabbi Matthew Bellas

Pluralism is one of CESJDS's eight core values. We also call ourselves a pluralistic community day school. Rabbi Matthew Bellas, Lower School Principal, dives into how CESJDS defines and interprets these terms. Learn more about our core values at www.cesjds.org/values.

Watch the video on YouTube.

Enhancing the CESJDS Arts Program Through Voice
Aaron Dunn
Aaron Dunn, Vocal Music Teacher at CESJDS

Go to any other school in the country and ask middle and high schoolers about singing, eight times out of ten they will tell you "I can't sing." This trepidation, regardless of accuracy, is understandable. Even without the stress of adolescent voice changing, popular media has lifted singing and the ability to sing to such lofty heights that it becomes almost unreachable. Reality shows like "American Idol" and "America's Got Talent" communicate that in order to sing, you need just that: Talent. If you don't have it, then there's no point in even trying.

When I first joined the faculty at CESJDS, I was thrilled to see that the students were practically untouched by the anxiety produced by these standards. Students line up to perform in front of a crowd of warm and supportive peers at Kabbalat Shabbat. The melodic sound of nusach permeates the halls during Z'man Kodesh. Even during the trial lesson of my interview process, I was floored by the innate vocal and musical abilities within the student body here.

With so much ability and desire, it's imperative to create opportunities that emphasize the inclusive nature of voice while also raising the bar on what is possible to achieve. Singing is for everyone. We are all gifted with an incredible instruments from birth, but just like any instrument it takes training and knowledge to know how to maximize its potential. It is my goal to help each student find the power within their voices and help them explore their capacities for music making.

Not only am I new to the school, but this is the first year that the "Vocal Music Teacher" position exists. Through this new position, I have several principal responsibilities:

First, I am the music director for the Musicals here at CESJDS. Having recently closed The Mystery of Edwin Drood, I was blown away by the dedication and caliber of the students who participated. Most especially by their desire to improve. Students frequently sought extra coaching time to make sure that they had mastered the music and were performing it to the best of their ability. As we now begin rehearsals for the Middle School Musical, James and the Giant Peach, I see the same enthusiasm and investment in our middle schoolers.

Additionally, I have the unique pleasure of directing the A Cappella Choir, Shir Madness. Few schools have a group that has such a genuine desire for k'hilah and deep devotion to the ensemble. It has been a delight learning the different traditions that come with the group, as well as learning about what makes the group special to the students. It is my goal to encourage the group towards musical excellence as well as musical community, coupling their joy in music making with the skills necessary to create the highest quality music possible.

This year also marks the inaugural year of the Middle School Choir. As we move forward, we endeavor to begin a High School Choir meeting during the day as additional music elective. These choirs will explore the vast scope of choral music, including the impressive canon of Jewish choral music. All the while, students will learn how to find their musical voices through singing and tap into the musicality that already exists within them.

I am thrilled to have joined a community that puts such value on the arts and is dedicated to its growth within the life of the school. I am also honored to be a part of its growth and will work to foster excellence within the students, both musical and otherwise.

Aaron Dunn is the Vocal Music teacher at the Upper School.

Ready or Not?
Eve Margol, Gurim Teacher

Your child's success depends on the support you have given and are going to give him or her throughout the years. One of the biggest decisions a parent asks themselves is "Is my child ready for Kindergarten"?

If you are questioning whether your child is ready then it the perfect time to have those conversations with your preschool teacher and director. There are developmental milestones that your child should be able to accomplish to be "Kindergarten-ready." Can your child sit for longer periods of time? Play cooperatively with others? Follow simple two to three step directions? Advocate for themselves? Express themselves in complete sentences? These are all important abilities, and just a few of the developmental points that the teacher and parent can evaluate and answer. Of course, your child may be able to do all of these things and still may not be ready for that next big step into Kindergarten.

Eve Margol teaches Gurim Junior Kindergarten students at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

Sometimes, a little extra time can make all of the difference; a little bit of a running head start for your child that make that transition from play to a more academic atmosphere. That is exactly the reasoning behind the Gurim Junior Kindergarten program - for that gift of time. In Gurim, play is learning but with an academic twist. We learn more with hands-on, creative approaches to academics. We teach handwriting and use song, gross motor movements, chalk and chalkboard; in reading we use flashlights to find the letter, stomp cups with the letter/sound on it, write in shaving cream or sand. In math, we may take a walk around the school to do a shape hunt, use pretzel rods to make tally marks and so much more. These are meaningful activities that will stay with your child for a long time, and prepare them for that big step into Kindergarten.

Gurim Junior Kindergarten students learning about patterns

But there are more reasons to consider giving your child that bit of extra time before starting Kindergarten. Will he or she be the youngest in the class? There is a benefit in the later years to having your child be one of the oldest in class as opposed to the youngest. Your child may become the leader rather than the follower. As a younger child, he or she may be academically ready, but socially they may need additional prodding throughout the day. Can your child play independently or in a small group without having to be supervised, can your child take turns, share, converse and play with other children without being reminded to be polite and respectful? Can your child make decisions for his or herself, explore new things and take safe risks? These are all the questions to ask when considering the move to Kindergarten.

So if you're asking these questions, I would like to introduce you to the new Gurim program at CESJDS, which is currently halfway through our first successful year with 12 students. Gurim is a program that serves as that crucial interim link between pre-K and Kindergarten with a very flexible environment with a more structured setting for academic learning. Gurim meets the child with what they need and allows the child time to know who they are and what they can do on their own time. We give them that important gift of time by differentiating for each child in academics, and explicitly teach and model how to build a community with their peers. We have created a program that creatively teaches the child language, literacy and numeracy with an approach to each child and how they learn best, whether it is through nature, sound, number/reasoning, life, people, body or word smart.

A student in CESJDS Gurim Junior Kindergarten practices handwriting

When you have a better idea of what's in store for the upcoming school year, analyze what you know about your child and ask yourself, will my child thrive or struggle in this environment? No parent wants their child to do "just fine." Rather, you want your child to flourish, thrive and grow. I have personally, with my own son, seen the benefits of the child who is older in Kindergarten become a leader to others and the confidence of the extra year.

So, if your child's birthday does not meet the Kindergarten eligibility time frame and the child has already completed the 4's program at a preschool or you or your child's teachers are thinking that maybe Kindergarten is not quite the best choice for your child, then your choice could be Gurim. We invite you to come see the program and meet the team!

Eve Margol is the Gurim General Studies teacher at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. Read more about Eve and Gurim Judaic Studies teacher Sivan Krowitz. Learn more about the Gurim Junior Kindergarten program at CESJDS.

Governor Hogan's Visit to CESJDS
Sean Levitan, Grade 5
Governor Hogan visits the CESJDS Lower School

Governor Hogan came to JDS on December 16, 2016. Every teacher and student was there in the gym that Friday afternoon. Students were talking to each other, just like before any assembly. But soon enough, a camera flash was heard. Then another, and another... and that's when I realized what was happening. The Governor had arrived!

A crowd of cameras was swarming the entrance to the gym. Shutters clicked, cameras flashed, and people clapped as Governor Hogan made his way through the entrance of the gym. Everyone was extremely excited to see the Governor. Once everyone had sat down, Rabbi Bellas walked over to the podium.

"Thank you all very much for coming," Rabbi Bellas said. "It's not everyday we get an opportunity like this. There is a prayer in Jewish tradition for Heads of State. So we're going to learn it." After the blessing was said, Rabbi Bellas announced that he would show us one scene of the Hanukkah musical: "Macca Bia." And with that, a group of students from fifth grade walked onto the stage for their scene, followed by the CESJDS Singers who sang the song "Judah Maccabee." After the song, there was a huge applause. Rabbi Bellas got up to the podium again, and thanked everyone for making this all possible.

He stepped down to make way for a woman, Meredith Weisel, who came up to the podium and introduced herself. She told us that she has two children at JDS, and she works for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. She works with Governor Hogan. She talked about Hogan's recent trip to Israel. "Hogan is very interested in Israeli culture," she said.

There was another huge applause as Governor Hogan walked up to the podium to give his speech. I listened in as he talked about how happy he was with this warm welcome. After his last few thank yous, he asked, "How many of you have been to Israel?" Hundreds of hands shot into the air. "Seems like a lot," said Hogan.

He said he had seen the wall in Jerusalem. "I had an incredible visit to the Holocaust Museum," he said. It seemed to me like Hogan had learned a lot of new things about the history of Israel while on his trip.

He moved on to the rest of his speech, which was about trying to improve Maryland schools and education. "Sound like a good idea?" he asked. He talked about education for deserving families and kids all around Maryland. I think this is an important topic. Our government needs to invest more in education. Children are the future!

Hogan said that when he was younger, he wanted to be the Governor, but nobody thought he could. And there he was, giving his speech to our school. "You can get through those challenges," he said. "I had cancer once--but I got through it with a chance to meet many people--and now, I am completely cancer-free!" Another huge applause from the crowd. "It was all because of good healthcare and hospitals," he said. "Whatever you want to do -- study hard, be focused, listen to your teachers, and have a good attitude. Then you can be anything!"

And that was that. There was one last applause from the crowd, and Hogan said his last words to the crowd. "Thank you for coming today!" he said, as he walked down from the podium.

Governor Hogan's visit with 5th Grade

Governor Hogan meets with CESJDS 5th gradersFollowing the all-school assembly, Governor Hogan held a Q&A with 5th graders in the Beit Midrash.

Cameras were everywhere like the fog from a steamy shower. I could barely even see a glimpse of Hogan. "You'd get a better picture of Hogan if you actually waited for an opportunity to see him," I thought to myself. Everyone was hyped when Governor Hogan walked into the Beit Midrash, and there was another applause. Then, there was a small speech from the Language Arts and Social Studies Coordinator, Catherine Welch, and then Hogan came up and taught us a little about the state of Maryland. He said that he works in the State House, which used to be the largest wooden dome in the world, and it used to be the capitol building. He knew that we were learning about the American Revolution, and talked a little bit about the Treaty of Paris.

Hogan told the students that he couldn't wait for the 5th grade field trip to Annapolis this spring, where he would answer questions and talk to us more about Maryland's history.

Students were ready to share their questions with Hogan. His answers told us that his hardest decision took place 90 days after he was elected, when there was violence in Baltimore, and he didn't know how to handle it, but he sent help, and the situation was fixed.

We also found out that he feels like he couldn't govern a better state, but it wasn't always that good. Maryland was in 48th place for strongest economy, now it is 3rd place. He believes that his biggest contribution was creating a much better economy for the state of Maryland. In addition, he is doing everything he can to protect the Chesapeake Bay. He is trying his best to keep our water clean.

Hogan knows that every child, no matter what, deserves to have a great education, and good schools need teachers who enjoy teaching. He said our school is a great example. Hogan is proud of the Justice Reinvestment Act, which is an effort to improve the Criminal Justice system. Hogan also discussed how we have the 2nd worst traffic in the U.S, and we have for the past eight years. Our former governor had not prioritized road construction, but Hogan is working on this issue.

He ended his speech there, as he said his goodbyes, and left to speak with members of the press outside the Beit Midrash.

The entire school was honored to have the governor with them. We learned a lot about the history of Maryland, and a lot more about Hogan's job. I have never had more exciting opportunity than the one I had that day.

Sean Levitan is a 5th grade student at CESJDS.

Politics, Advocacy, and Grassroots: Why is this important to the Jewish Community?
Meredith Weisel
Meredith Weisel with Larry Hogan

I often get asked how can you work in politics? Really you're a "lobbyist?" What does government and community relations work mean? And oh you're a lawyer too? And these are just questions from my family and friends. Yes a bit of sarcasm here, but I do actually get asked these questions.

From the time I was 12 years old, a young eager-minded kid in middle school, I've been drawn to the law, history, and government. I was one of those kids who actually enjoyed memorizing the Gettysburg Address. The last sentence struck me, "government of the people, by the people, for the people," and has continued to stick with me throughout my career as a government and community relations professional. It's what makes me believe that even though our political system is flawed, the government is still of, by, and for the people.

The First Amendment is probably one of the most important in our Constitution. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Advocacy, grassroots, and lobbying come from here. I know many see lobbyist as an ugly word, and yes there are bad apples, but lobbying is not only guaranteed under the Constitution, it plays an extremely important role in our political system. Whether you are an individual, non-profit, trade association, corporation, union, or just a collective group of like-minded people, you are entitled to educate, advocate, and lobby our elected officials on your issues to advance your cause.

There's an old saying I was taught when I started government relations work, "if you don't have a seat at the table, then you're probably on the menu!" This phrase rings very true for our Jewish community today. Over the past few years, anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise both globally and in the U.S. According to the ADL, the number of violent anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S. rose dramatically from 2014 to 2015 and incidents on college campuses nearly doubled. So it is extremely important that the Jewish community advocates for and encourages our federal elected officials to vote in favor of legislation like The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016.

My background has mostly been in state and local politics. I've been doing government and community relations work for over 16 years in Maryland. In March of 2016, I joined The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC) as the Director of Maryland Government and Community Relations. The JCRC is the public affairs and community relations arm of the Jewish community, representing over 100 Jewish organizations and synagogues throughout MD, VA, and DC. We have a strong commitment to the Jewish community and community at-large to help continue to cultivate a society based on freedom, justice, and pluralism. We advocate for support of our local Jewish agencies that serve the most vulnerable residents and campaign for important policy interests on behalf of the entire Jewish community. The JCRC also coordinates community programs of information and advocacy on domestic and international issues.

The Jewish community's voice has always been strong, particularly when it comes to Tikkun Olam and helping others in need. Recently, I've been getting questions from friends and community members like what can we do since we've seen a rise in hate incidents in our own backyard of Montgomery County? What can we do to combat hate speech, racism, anti-Semitism? How can we get involved to talk about important policy issues that are central to our Jewish way of life?

As a proud parent of two JDS students and in my role with the JCRC, what I say to these questions is this: the only way to make a difference is to get involved, speak out, learn to understand others points of view, talk to your neighbors, it's okay to have disagreements, ask others if they need help, give Tzedakah, teach others about Judaism, learn about other religions and ethnicities, just take an active role in your community.

Politics, advocacy, and grassroots have always been important to the Jewish community. But given the polarization of our country right now, where we are even seeing fractures within our own community, my belief is that the only way we can fix it is to start at home. Local and state grassroots advocacy has never been more important. Learn about your local municipal, county, and state government and find out what they are working on. Elected officials have made a decision to serve and they do want to hear from you.

So I leave you with this fun quote..."One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." Plato

Meredith Weisel is the Director of Maryland Government and Community Relations at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC) and is CESJDS parent of Alex (grade 6) and Jaida (grade 3).

Teaching in Budapest About America in the Post-2016 Election World
Natalie Levitan
Natalie Levitan, Upper School History Teacher

Leaving for Budapest less than one week after the US Presidential election, I was keenly aware that I was going with a different lens into America than I possessed prior to the election. Here I was, a teacher from the US, presenting to European students I would be meeting for the first time about the fundamental beliefs of the US as identified in our founding documents. The goal of my planned lessons was to discuss the "idea" of America and how we have actively worked to fulfill that "idea" for our citizens over time. As I traveled to Budapest, I contemplated how would a President-elect Trump, as he had been defined during the campaign, fit into that lesson?

As I discussed the concept of the "idea" of America, the depth of knowledge the students at the Lauder School possessed of US politics became very clear very quickly. They had followed our election on their twitter and snapchat feeds just as many Americans had and they possessed many of the same impressions of our candidates as many in the States did. Their opinions included the belief that they didn't really think citizens in the US had a clear choice in their candidates. In their words, Trump was a racist, sexist, climate change denier while Hillary was a corrupt politician who would never be able to bring change. I was surprised by their bluntness, but also impressed with their insightful perceptions of why the election turned out the way that it did. We spent much of our class time discussing the impact of Trump's win, both in the US and internationally, by discussing the movement that is happening internationally towards nationalistic governments, comparing Hungarian Prime Minister Orban's stances with the passing of Brexit in England and now Trump's election and platform.

While the students were clearly as surprised by the US election results as many Americans were, I was very impressed by the view they had of the US as a world leader. They saw the US as being at the forefront of global policy and related how much they believe US policy decisions impact the international community. Their understanding of the dominant role the US has in world affairs surpassed what many at home seem to internalize. While we at home may debate if the US should get involved in global affairs, they believe it is not a choice for the US to become isolationist. To see how highly they regard the US as a beacon of power and freedom in the larger global community made me realize that they well understood the "idea" of America and the importance of America working to uphold those ideals around the world. It was eye opening to me to think about not only how we in the US are processing the results of our recent elections, but, because of the US' role in the world, many internationally are also working to process the significance of Trump's election on their worlds.

Natalie Levitan is a History Teacher at the CESJDS Upper School. She was one of six Upper School faculty members who had the opportunity to teach abroad with SOS International, a nonprofit global education connector between American and Central/Eastern European Jewish organizations and communities. Read more about their experience.

Powered by Finalsite