Principal's Perspective (October) - Roz Landy

 

As I reflect on the high holidays 2020, I think about how different Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were this year from what they have been in the past. In my family, it has been the tradition to meet after shul on the first day of Rosh Hashanah for a family lunch. Since I was eight years old, my parents and three siblings celebrated together. And then we all married, had children and grandchildren and grew to 32. Every Rosh Hashanah, we "Singlets" came from New York, Washington, Maryland, Florida and college campuses all over the country to celebrate the New Year, to be grateful for our blessings and for each other. That, and Pesah Seder were the highlights of our year and a priority for our family.  


We were all concerned and frustrated about the prospects for Rosh Hashanah this year. What could we possibly do to be together to usher in the New Year? And how could we disappoint the matriarch of the family, my 99 year old mother? After discussion, creativity and compromise, we met in Wilmington, Delaware at my childhood home as my mother greeted 19 of us. We missed those who were too far away and couldn't fly and those who were quarantined, but we decided to do the best we could and make the most of a difficult situation. We drove hours to meet, brought our own chairs, our own food, and sat outside for 3 hours….six feet apart with masks. But we were together, grateful to see one another, especially grandma Ruey, and we deemed it a huge success. 


Why do I share this personal story with you? It is a good example of how people learn to cope with changes, difficulties, disappointments and challenges, which was the subject of my opening discussion with the high school students the first week of school. 


I asked them how they responded when they were faced with a challenge. 

We are aware that: 

  • Some people try to ignore the situation and pretend that it doesn't exist.
  • Some become fixated on the problem and blame others.
    There are some who feel victimized and sorry for themselves and become paralyzed.
  • And finally, there are those who turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse.

Since we know that everyone will face challenging situations in their life, I asked them, what do we hope will happen in a challenging situation?

The healthiest way to respond to challenges is to be resilient--resilience is the capacity to recover from difficulties, to bounce back. A resilient person is able to withstand and adapt to hardships and is able to find a way to move forward.

We have all faced a very difficult situation in the last six months--quarantine, separation from friends and school and loss -- loss of jobs and security and of our normal life. This pandemic continues to be a challenge for all of us. We have had to learn to cope with new situations and overcome obstacles. So, if resilience is a healthy way to face challenges, were you all resilient in the last six months? I shared are some key aspects to building resilience.  

1.      Develop positive relationships – it's important to find people you trust and to whom you can turn if you need support--parents, teachers, counselors, good friends--your JDS community has many people who can be there for you.

2.      Accept the fact that there are difficulties in life and that we can overcome them. Change is part of living and we need to embrace it.

3.      Be optimistic – you can find positive in any and every situation and focusing on that helps you to cope, heal and move forward.

4.      Be active – do not sit back and wait for the situation to change. Be flexible and look for ways to improve the situation.

I then pointed out how proud I was of them, the faculty and students who all showed strength and resilience during this pandemic. I praised them for:

1.      Reaching out to friends and family to both give and accept support.

2.      Facing the challenges of the pandemic and finding new hobbies at home.

3.      Helping around the house, exercising more, and welcoming new pets into homes and hearts.

4.      Caring for others by collecting food from JDS families and delivering them to the needy. Taking action in the form of Tikkun Olam is a proud Jewish tradition and way to empower oneself in circumstances that may feel overwhelming. It is also a means of practicing gratitude, which also promotes resilience.

5.      Creating new memories when the old traditions were not permitted. Our fantastic Class of 2021 held a senior jersey party, a car decorating party, and a sunrise breakfast all in the JDS parking lot, socially distanced. They were optimistic, positive and took an active role in making lemonade out of lemons!

I heard a journalist say that this was an exciting time for journalists and while that may well be true, it is a challenging time for most of us.  While we understand there will be disappointments and frustrations, we adults need to model confidence that we will all get through this time and come out of this pandemic stronger. I truly believe that, if we at CESJDS work together with you to support our students with a positive and optimistic approach, they will grow and mature, they will gain strength, become more resilient and emerge as stronger, more confident young adults ready to take on the world. I look forward to working with you and with them this year.

My best wishes to you and your families for a healthy, happy and safe New Year.