- Middle School
Dear Middle School Families,
Today I write to you with Hodaya, or gratitude. My appreciation extends across the Bernard Zell community. While 2020 / 5780 has presented immeasurable challenges, we maintain a steadfast dedication to our students and teachers. Beyond our immense commitment to safety and social-emotional wellness, at our core, we remain focused on our mission: to teach them diligently.
Now more than ever, instruction comes in so many forms, but despite new ways of teaching, the moments when we see students internalize learning remain familiar. It’s the light in their eyes, the ringing of their thoughtful responses, and at times, moments of silent clarity.
Each year students have the opportunity to participate in Tashlich. Coming from the Hebrew word meaning "to cast," Tashlich refers to the intent to cast away one's sins through a meaningful and ancient Jewish custom.
At Bernard Zell we often take groups of students to the lake, to share in a meaningful service that offers them the chance to symbolically throw their sins into the water using a stone or a piece of bread. This year, I had the opportunity to attend a Tashlich service that brought new meaning to our students and myself. Mrs. Bernstein provided prayer as well as the history of this custom. As students sat in a socially-distanced circle near the water, she took them back 700-800 years when rabbis encouraged the shaking out of one’s clothes—the corners, pockets and cuffs—near a body of water to commemorate the self-sacrifice of Abraham.
At first, there were chuckles, but then when asked to take a moment to themselves and think of what they wanted to let go of, a wave of silence came over them. They motioned, throwing their thoughts into the water, but this year experienced a twist. Students then painted rocks with an image to remind them of what they were letting go. This activity signified that while we cast away our sins we can work across the year to not repeat or be focussed on something that brings negativity.
As I walked around the circle I saw images that symbolized stress, sickness, love and more. It was as though the rocks were a flash of all the turmoil in our world and how these events have resonated with students personally. In this moment our eighth-graders demonstrated a connection between all that is taking place around them, an ancient Jewish custom, and their own identity. Connections like these, are what we strive for as teachers and leaders; they are what make learning stick.
At the end of our eighth grade Tachlich, Mrs. Bernstein asked students to think about how they will carry this tradition forward next year when they are in High School. Will our students connect with other Jewish and non-Jewish students to share this time-honored custom, will they reconnect with their class of 2021? While there were no responses, students' eyes and body language left me feeling confident that this class will persevere and take this tradition, Shalshelet hakabbalah, as they progress on their educational and personal journeys.
Wishing you and yours shanah tovah tikatevu ve techatemu!
Head of Middle School