A few years ago I had the privilege of participating in a thirteen-month leadership program through the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI). During this program we learned from some of the very best in the field of Jewish education, including the wonderful Jane Taubenfeld Cohen who transformed the way I frame conversations with one simple question:
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On October 14, 2022, 19 CESJDS student-leaders, 6 HS faculty, and 2 administrators (Rabbi Malkus and I) traveled to Bishop McNamara High School (BMHS), a coed, independent Catholic high school, in Forestville, MD. This full day visit kicked off what we hope will be a long and meaningful partnership with the school. What a smashing success and extraordinary learning experience it was for all involved!
The goal of the CESJDS-BMHS partnership is to enrich students’ “understanding and appreciation of diversity so they are better prepared to contribute meaningfully to the diverse world in which we live,'' a clear aim stated in the CESJDS Diversity Statement adopted by the school in March 2016. The statement urges us to engage in this work as part of the “School’s core values of K’dushah (Holiness), V’ahavta L’rei-akha (Loving your Neighbor), K’hillah (Community), and pluralism.”
While thinking about the kind of culture and atmosphere that I want for us to have at school for students, staff, and families, JOY is the first thing that always comes to mind. When members of our community come to the school feeling joyous, positive, and optimistic about their time here, that attitude has a significant impact not only on their own experience, but the tone and ethos in the school. When we smile and greet each other; when we share compliments and praise each other; when we celebrate Jewish festivals and our accomplishments together, our comfort and confidence grow and the school feels like an even more wonderful place to be. Creating a joyful atmosphere at school and being joyful has so many individual and communal benefits.
We have a vision of a Middle School community that leads with empathy, engages in joyful, compassionate, and innovative teaching and learning, fosters healthy communication that does not shy away from difficult conversations, and is proud of its Jewish heritage. For early adolescents who are searching for their place in this world, that is no small feat, which is why we started this year with a Lion Pride Week that engaged our students in self-reflection, goal setting, empathy building, joyful celebration, and community service. Students, in particular our 8th grade students, spent the week discussing the active role they play as maturing young adults to both create and maintain this vision.
We welcomed 333 excited, energetic, and joyful high school students to the Annette M. & Theodore N. Lerner Family Upper School Campus on our first day of school: 85 9th-graders, 80 10th-graders, 92 11th-graders and 76-12th graders.
Entering into my second year as High School Principal, this year I am thrilled to serve also as 9th Grade Advisor, 12th Grade ADV English Composition Teacher, 9th Grade Experiential Education Chaperone (follow me on Instagram, @cesjds_hs_principal, to view photos from our 9/1 trip to Sandy Spring Adventure Park), Shabbaton Leader, and Club Sponsor.
At this final Kabbalat Shabbat, I addressed the students, faculty, and staff, sharing that it has been an honor and privilege to have joined the CESJDS community as their High School Principal. I also shared how much I love coming to “work” every day because of the people gathered in the gym: our curious, confident, and passionate students, and wonderful, caring, and committed faculty and staff.
Rabbi Matthew Bellas addressed the Class of 2029 at their Aba Marcus and Sara Marcus 5th Grade Siddur Ceremony and Siyyum on June 15, 2022. Read his speech below:
Boker tov to the Class of 2029, your loved ones celebrating with you today and members of the CESJDS faculty and staff.
One morning several years ago, when my family was still living in Vancouver before we moved to the DMV, my wife and I were surprised by a sign that one of our children had posted on their bedroom door late the night before. It had four words on it, printed in all caps on a card no larger than a regular piece of paper. It read “MAKING THE IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE.”
This Principal’s Perspective is dedicated to all who gave their lives to keep our country safe and to all whose lives have been taken due to senseless violence.
Standing up for what one believes is right, advocating, leading. This is what we hope to instill in our students at CESJDS. In 2019, we took the Class of 2023 on our first 8th Grade Bridges Capstone Trip to the South as a way to explore civil and human rights, create opportunities for class bonding and fun experiences, and reinforce what it means to be global citizens. It is with immense gratitude and pleasure that I share with you that this year we were able to bring back our Bridges Capstone Trip to the South for the Class of 2026. Because of the pandemic, we also adapted and created a parallel program for those students who could not attend all or part of the trip this year due to the pandemic.
Ready for the Real World? headlines the latest issue of an educational leadership journal that I read monthly. The catchy title piqued my curiosity. The journal did not disappoint!
All writers in this month’s volume agree that high schools must reimagine education. We must equip students with skills, not just information, to prepare them to thrive in a world that is unpredictable and ever changing.
How time flies…It’s remarkable to think that it has been six years since the Lower School reintroduced Israeli Dance into the school program. It was in the spring of 2015 that I attended my first Israeli Dance Festival DC and asked myself, “Why doesn’t JDS have a dance group participating in this amazing community event?” I learned that at some point in the past we had had one, but that it faded away many years before. As a school in which Israel education plays a crucial role and for which Ahavat Yisra-el/Love of Israel is one of our Core Values, I was committed to bringing an essential element of modern Israeli culture and history back into our program for our students and community and we were back and the Festival the very next year!