Dani Steele, Interim Head of Middle School
Yesterday, Bernard Zell 7th graders visited with students from the Holy Family School in North Lawndale in an educational exchange about Sukkot. It is tradition to invite guests on Sukkot, and this year, the Lawndale Pop Up Spot invited our school to the first-ever Chicago Sukkah Design Festival, where students from both schools toured the artistic, architectural sukkot which portrayed our shared histories in this neighborhood.
In the weeks leading up to our trip, our students engaged in their own design challenge to amplify the sukkah experience in JLAB—the 7th-grade capstone course—and a brand new sukkah for our school. The opportunity for our students to see the work of architects who created the sukkot that will also be repurposed into permanent structures to support the community of North Lawndale, helps connect their school work to real-world experiences.
One of the coolest parts of the day was visiting the Stone Temple Baptist Church, which used to be a synagogue. Our students immediately noticed Jewish stars and scripture etched into stone and wood alongside crosses. We marveled at the fact that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at this church, and how naturally a mikveh (Jewish ritual bath) was later repurposed into a baptismal pool! In this holy space that felt familiar to us all, we took turns asking each other questions about our religions and sharing traditions. Then, students from Holy Family School kicked off a great lunch by saying grace; later, our students led the Birkat Hamazon (prayer after meals).
But of course, the day wouldn’t be complete without some play. Students loved competing in a mini sukkah design challenge, playing Rock Paper Scissors and shaking the lulav and etrog all over the place!
All in all, this trip was an amazing experience, filled with authentic explorations of the 7th grade value of Darechi Shalom (pathways of peace).
Happy Sukkot and Chag Sukkot Sameach!
Interim Head of Middle School