Principals Perspective (May 2022) - Dr. Eliana Lipsky
Dr. Eliana Lipsky

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. 

In preparation for their capstone trip, our 8th grade students spend the year exploring characteristics of leadership, grappling with conflicting societal needs, considering ways to effect social action through an array of communal service activities, deepening their understanding of our government, practicing the art of debate, and learning what it means to advocate on behalf of others. These discussions and studies are intentionally integrated through and across each discipline, creating a common thread and shared language for our students to engage in deep and meaningful conversations that are both timely and constant. 

During their trip, students walked in the footsteps of giants in our history. Students shared that visiting The Temple in Atlanta, The Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, and The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial were among their most powerful experiences. The Atlanta ZOO and Aquarium were the most fun. Throughout the trip, students examined multiple communities, including their own, and how their community may be impacted by the students’ own personal actions. They gave back in small and large ways, including donating their leftover food to local parishes, recognizing aspects of our CESJDS values throughout the trip, and using the CESJDS Portrait of a Graduate to reflect on their individual growth to date and the skills they hope to hone in high school.

The trip culminated with a Shabbaton at Camp Ramah Darom. On Friday, I had the opportunity to bring a few of our students, who were unable to participate in the first part of the trip to Camp Ramah Darom, so that at the very least they could participate in the Shabbaton. During the Shabbaton, I watched all of our students step up in ways that were both comfortable and not so comfortable for them just to help out their peers or their chaperones -- from helping make a minyan to taking leadership roles during Shacharit and Minha to creating fantastic games and discussions for the whole grade, and so much more. 

Seeing the trip through the eyes of our students is the best way to showcase their extraordinary learning and growth as individuals. With permission, I share with you Ian Liss’s dvar Torah from the Shabbaton. In it, Ian talks about the importance of economic justice and standing with another community because as Jews we know what it is like to be othered and discriminated against. Additionally, I share below a few of our students’ reflections from their reflection journals that capture some of their thinking from the trip. 

Reflecting upon their visit to The Temple:

  • The thing that surprised me the most was the support the synagogues and churches gave to each other when they needed it. 
  • At The Temple we learned about how the civil rights movement shaped the community, the building, and the people’s level of religiousness.
  • I learned we must take sacrifices for justice. 
  • I thought it was interesting to hear about The Temple’s relation to Civil Rights. I had never heard of specific instances of Jews being a part of the movement. 

Reflecting upon their visits to the different museums:

  • The Center for Civil and Human Rights focuses on leadership and people standing up for what they believe in. JDS really encourages both of these things. 
  • These institutions support the values of CESJDS by not forgetting and making sure to talk, teach, and explain about racism, lynching, and more, as we do for the Holocaust.
  • I would describe this experience as very emotional and real. There isn’t much that makes you look at reality so harshly as this museum.
  • [The Martin Luther King Jr. Museum] made me think more about his work and how much he did for our country. Seeing a stain on a handwritten document made me realize how real of a person he was and how much impact he had.
  • All these institutions try to educate people on serious topics and try to help breed leaders. All three show how we can make the world better. 

Reflecting upon the Aquarium as an institution that supports the values of CESJDS:

  • They [the Aquarium] use all of their power to treat all animals with equity. Pluralism because they understand differences and provide accordingly.

Reflecting upon giving back during the trip:

  • It changed the trip because it planted roots. A few times during this trip I gave my extra food to someone who needed it. Because I affected someone’s life in Atlanta, I started a chain.

I am grateful we were able to bring back the 8th Grade Bridges Capstone Trip to the South and provide our students with this transformative experience.