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.
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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!
We could have heard a pin drop. Zooming into our 11th-grade English class to relate his experience performing the role of Levee in a recent production of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, our visiting artist Ronald Emile offered a window into the life of his character. Every day of Levee’s life, Mr. Emile explained, he fought a battle on two fronts: one against those who had and continue to mistreat him and his family, and one against himself in his struggle to actualize his dreams as a musician. That day in the studio, Mr. Emile went on to say, when Levee explodes in a fit of rage, the consequences of which were unimaginable until that moment, he loses both battles. The shift in the atmosphere of our classroom at that moment was palpable. A new understanding began to take shape of what it was like to experience the societal challenges that followed Levee on a daily basis.
One of the many benefits of a CESJDS high school education is the exceptional support our College Guidance team provides to our students. The team has deliberately and thoughtfully designed a college counseling process that provides students and families with individual attention and frequent communication including evening programs, one-on-one conferences, and monthly newsletters.
Back in October, as our students were preparing for the Lehman Day of Service, my own professional and personal CESJDS worlds were colliding. The African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” has been on my mind since October began, when I learned on the very first October weekend that my four boys (Gurim, 1st, and 3rd grade students), would need to be quarantined due to COVID-19.
A central element of the CESJDS whole child approach to education is to bring the learning and living of middot/values to the forefront of the educational experience.
CESJDS graduated 94 students on February 13th, 2022 at Washington Hebrew Congregation in a ceremony marked by storytelling, a call to action and the traditional rituals usually found at graduations: students proudly strutting across the stage, in this case a bima, to the cheers of their loved ones and the tossing of their caps high into the air.