A Message from Dani Steele, Head of Middle School | December 14
Dani Steele, Head of Middle School
Dear Families, 
Middle school students are gearing up for Hannukah! Sufganiyiot have been ordered. Dreidels tournaments are planned. We. Are. Ready! This year, we are excited to mark the holiday with some tried and true classics, as well as with some new and innovative celebrations. 
Hanukkah music has filled the 2nd-floor hallways as students practice for their upcoming performances at the Hanukkah Music Festival. We are extra excited to showcase our 5th-grade band and 6th-grade guitar class and the Middle School Choir as they perform Hanukkah classics, and by tradition, our 7th and 8th-grade students will lead the school in Maoz Tsur and candle lighting. I am sure that as 8th-grade parents watch their children light the hanukkiah and dance to Not By Might for their last time as students, it will be impossible not to feel as if it were just yesterday that they were on stage as spinning dreidels in Nursery. 
Our eldest students are also at the helm of two new events in middle school. 7th graders have been participating in The Atomic Menorah Challenge, and 8th graders will lead the first-ever BZ Winter Games. The Atomic Menorah Challenge explores the connection between the Hanukkah story, energy efficiency, climate change and Jewish values through a STEAM approach. STEAM integrates Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics to guide student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. For the past two weeks, 7th-grade students have worked hard in the Innovation Hub and the Science labs, using electronics like resistor LEDs, servo motors and Arduino boards to build robotic menorahs. Their work will be displayed in Makom Kehillah on Thursday, December 22, so we invite you to check out their engineering feats on your way to the Hanukkah Music Festival.
Our 8th-grade students will be able to demonstrate their spirit and leadership skills as Team Captains at the first-ever BZ Winter Games. BZ Games are such a fun and exciting way to bring the middle school together, and we can't wait to play and bond earlier in the year. Teams compete in various events—athletic, academic, artistic, and goofy—and the Winter Games will be Hanukkah-themed In these games, we divide the middle school into fourteen teams named for different cities in Israel. Teams compete in various events- athletic, academic, artistic, and goofy- and the Winter Games will be Hanukkah-themed. Be on the lookout for your child to enthusiastically describe hilarious dance battles, Minute to Win it challenges, and friendships forged with students in different grades. The fun will continue in the Spring!
There is a contemporary Hanukkah story, “Not in Our Town” that our middle school students study first as 5th graders, and then again as 8th graders, and it takes place in Billings, Montana. In 1995, violence in Billings was escalating, particularly at the hands of white supremacist groups. When a brick was thrown through the window of a home belonging to a 6-year-old Jewish boy who had displayed a menorah for Hanukkah, the local churches, businesses and newspaper urged residents to also place menorahs in their windows. The town banded together, declared "Not in Our Town", and 10,000 people displayed menorahs in their windows in solidarity. This year, as antisemitism swells around us, it might feel intimidating to put a menorah in the window. But, it is more important than ever that our students feel a deep sense of pride in being Jewish. That is a core value and goal in middle school: that our students recognize their potential as active, proud Jewish citizens who embody compassion and kindness. Our students read the story, “Not in Our Town”, and watch the corresponding short film and are challenged to think about ways that we can stand together as Jews, but also when neighbors are under attack. Like the candle flames in our windows, how can we spread more light over darkness? I invite you to also read or watch this story and discuss it with your children. Because as we consider the miracle within the original Hanukkah story of the Maccabees' triumph over oppression, its message resonates now more than ever.
Happy Hanukkah to you and your family. I hope it is filled with warmth, fun, and light.
Dani Steele,
Interim Head of Middle School

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