The Spring of 2020 has been an unprecedented time, with social distancing, school and business closures, and sadly many losses as a result of coronavirus and COVID-19. In this time of upheaval and suffering, it would be understandable to turn inwards.
But that’s not the Rashi way. From our founding, The Rashi School has instilled the values of social justice into our students from their first days of Kindergarten. These values permeate and are interwoven throughout our curriculum. From learning about immigration, to climate change and the types of Jewish giving, Rashi students are taught that they have an important part to play in tikkun olam, making the world a better place.
There is no greater pride for us than to see our alumni carrying on these values. We honor them yearly through the Tikkun Alum Award at our Annual Dinner.
We are pleased to share the following stories, as a sampling of the ways alumni are living the core values of what it means to be a Rashi graduate, using their skills, passion, and hard work to help others. We invite you to read their stories below.
The Rashi School ’08, Milton Academy ’12, Yale ’16, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Business School ’22
Adam, a third-year joint MD-MBA student at Harvard, and his medical student classmates have been out of the hospitals since the pandemic hit Boston. In mid-March, Adam helped health policy experts issue recommendations for health care and public health provisions of the federal stimulus bills, launching covid19bill.org (The New Yorker). He later worked with physicians to call attention to the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) with #GetUsPPE, a viral hashtag and petition.
That effort snowballed into GetUsPPE.org, a broader project to document the need for PPE and match groups that have PPE to those that still need it (CNN). “Rashi classmates have dove into helping wherever they can, which has been amazing to see,” said Beckman. He has joined several of his classmates on Friday night Shabbat Zoom calls they hosted.
The Rashi School ’06, Newton North High School ’10, University of Maryland College Park ’14, Lesley ’26
As a first-grade teacher at the Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School in Washington, D.C., Esme was thrown into an online teaching curriculum as a result of COVID-19. “While teaching online is not ideal,” said Jacobson,” I love connecting on Zoom with my students. Morning meeting is the highlight of my day!” Esme thinks it is important to start each day “seeing” her students, greeting each other, and hearing the kids share what is on their mind or items from home.
She creates new Zoom lessons each day. “I pull up our math and reading curriculum online, share the screen with the kids, and call on them to read and answer questions exactly like I would do in class,” said Esme. Read-aloud videos for the kids to watch are also an effective teaching tool as well as coordinating specials for the kids so they can have science, art, PE, Israeli dance, and music online too. “I love the school community, as it feels similar to the amazing community I had growing up at Rashi,” added Jacobson.
The Rashi School ’03, Medfield High ’07, Clark ’11, Northeastern ’17
As the Preparedness Coordinator at the City of Worcester’s Emergency Management Division, Ari recently addressed a group representing hospitals, nonprofit agencies, the business community, and municipal officials, presenting his innovative thoughts and plans to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Moreover, Ari presented a crash course on the continuity of operations. Ari helps to ensure that the Worcester community is well-informed, and able to respond to the shifting needs of today, working across sectors through government in this time when communication is of the outmost importance.
Looking ahead, Ari outlined a plan for the Worcester community to continue to run their businesses and agencies during this unprecedented time. “Businesses and organizations should strive to determine what personnel and resources will be needed during the 30-day span,” said Winograd. “The most vital components of continuity of operations plans are determining stakeholders’ needs, and then, what essential functions and services require meeting their needs. The organization should then determine which personnel and what records are needed to provide services.” Winograd noted that that there will eventually be a recovery phase. “We need to remember that the plans should contemplate how to ramp up staffing and make sure supply chains remain intact.”
The Rashi School ’16, Newton South High School ‘20, American University ‘24
A current high school senior, Izzy created Masks by Izzy, a company that offers much-needed home-made masks online. Izzy has been hand-sewing these masks with a variety of color options as well as sizing for men, women, and children.
All profits are going to The Greater Boston Food Bank. The masks can be worn alone or over an N-95. “I wanted to get involved in the community and do something to help prevent the virus from spreading during this unprecedented time,” said Klein. “Sewing masks is a way for me to make a difference.”
The Rashi School’13, BB &N ’17, Stanford University ’21
As a college student, Emma Rashes is continuing to practice the social justice principles that have been integrated into her life since attending The Rashi School. Currently, Emma is taking part in the Silverlining Buddy System, an intergenerational response to combat isolation and loneliness in elders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through twice weekly phone calls, college and high school students connect with elders in the greater Boston community, sharing stories, imparting wisdom and creating new connections.
“My phone buddy lives at 2Life Communities, is in her 90s and is a wonderful conversationalist,” said Emma. “I have enjoyed learning about her family, her personal life story, and brightening her day.” She added, “I cherish the opportunity to make new connections and give back to the Greater Boston Jewish community while working remotely to continue to form Jewish community on my campus at Stanford.”
For these Rashi alumni, the importance of social justice began the day they entered The Rashi School. From Kindergarten throughout Grade 8, Rashi students learn the power of giving back to the community and that they can make a difference in the world, regardless of their age. “When you integrate social justice learning and teaching, you show students how to think critically and put their gifts to work,” said Stephanie Rotsky, Social Justice Coordinator at The Rashi School.
“Seeing these alumni students step up during this most challenging time reinforces the fundamentals we teach every single day,” Rotsky added, “I am so very proud of them.”