Faculty/Staff Social Justice Project During Staff Days

by | Sep 21, 2018 | Our Stories

The Rashi School Faculty/Staff Create “Comfort” Backpacks for Third Grade Students at the Woodrow Wilson School in Framingham
Rashi Faculty and Staff came together during our August Staff Days to bring a smile to third-grade students from immigrant families at the Woodrow Wilson School in Framingham – a Tamchui recipient two years ago!  We created “comfort backpacks” that include a fun book about feelings, activity pages, color pencils, silly putty and colorful cards of caring, hope and encouragement!

We set the stage for this project by earlier identifying a family/extended family member who had emigrated to the U.S. and then posted a one-page sheet about some aspect of that person’s experiences. It was clear how so many of us had family members emigrate to the US for a better life.

We welcomed Lucia Panichella, Director of Immigrant and Youth Services at Jewish Family Service of Metrowest, to update us on what is currently happening with immigration laws, policies and practices and how they are impacting the parents and children who attend the Wilson School.

Next, we looked at a painting from 1909 (see below) to generate questions and observations about what we thought was happening at that very moment. See our responses below. What are YOU curious about? What do YOU observe from this painting?

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  • Welcoming of America, with golden key. People are downtrodden and in search of hope.
  • Hope
  • Has to be better than what they are leaving
  • Sadness and concern about coming to this country
  • Fear of being here and now what do you do?
  • Gate: 2 opposites, barrier/vulnerability but also welcoming/inclusion/longing
  • Coming in
  • Gate is not totally open, narrow, “secure border”
  • Immigrant woman looking down, sadness, hesitation, fear
  • Unknown
  • Lady Liberty, new world, robust. She is bigger than the other figures,
  • Commerce in background
  • Contrast between the old and new, America is the new
  • Clasping hands hoping that they can get in, want to step into the light but it isn’t a given. Gate isn’t all the way open, have to have the right credentials.
  • Eagle and talons holding arrows
  • Children: so scared but also resilient. Have no voice in this.
  • People have everything they own with them in their hands.
  • They were our grandparents, relatives, projecting that she is letting them in because that is what America did for us.
  • Lady Liberty can be stepping out of the way letting them in or closing the gate on them
  • A huge change for them, a moment of transition
  • Symbolism of eagle is imposing.
  • Not behind or in front of the gate, in the midst of moving through.
  • Who is the family? Grandfather? Mother and grandchildren? Why is this the configuration?
  • Present day of who can come in and who can’t, people from some part of the world allowed and others not.
  • Moment of pause. Lady Liberty is thoughtful and has not yet made a decision.
  • Old man’s foot is up, he is ready to go in.
  • Son holding on to mom – children so attached to their parents – especially at this moment

Following this discussion, Faculty and Staff created beautiful heart-felt cards to accompany “comfort backpacks” for third-grade students at the Wilson School whose families have been deeply impacted by immigration laws and challenges and who, themselves, now are experiencing worry and stress as a result.