Social Justice Round Up – Chanukah 5783 Edition

by | Dec 16, 2022 | Our Stories, Social Justice, Community, Learning

Tzedek (justice), one of Rashi’s five core values, is the heart of our curriculum and an essential part of our identity as a community. As we welcome Chanukah 5783, Rashi is shining its light upon the various social justice projects that have brought our kehillah (community) together in the recent months. Read below for information and updates on initiatives both new and continuing. 

Jewish Family Service of Metrowest (JFS) Backpack Project & Rashi/JFS Leadership Council

“ יְהִי כְבוֹד חֲבֵרְךָ חָבִיב עָלֶיךָ כְּשֶׁלָּךְ, Let your fellow’s honor be as dear to you as your own.”

– Pirkei Avot

Middle School student leadership, under the guidance of Middle School Dean of Students Joni Fishman and Associate Dean of Students Deb Berlin, partnered with JFS MetroWest to donate 135 backpacks of school supplies to support children in another successful start to school. The Rashi community collected so many backpacks that Middle School students, at their recent dance, collected more supplies and filled yet another round of backpacks! Click here to see photos that captured this mitzvah filled morning. 

 

The Rashi/JFS Learning and Leadership Council consists of 15-20 students in Grades 6-8, who will meet quarterly throughout the 2022-23 school year. Their meetings will consist of leadership training, Jewish learning, and JFS program planning. The Council will also serve the students in building key networking skills, allowing them to form strong connections within their community and amongst their peers. In their first meeting of the year, students spoke about antisemitism, leadership and allyship. The meeting was facilitated by Deborah Kardon, Rashi alumni parent, Jewish educator and Post-Soviet Jewry leader; Lino Covarrubias, Chief Executive Officer of JFS of Metrowest; and Jayne Lampert, Senior Director of Philanthropy of JFS Metrowest.

Rashi Makes Activity Bags for Ukrainian Children with Action for Post Soviet Jewry

“וּפְרֹשׂ עָלֵֽינוּ סֻכַּת שְׁלוֹמֶֽךָ, Spread over us your sukkah, your canopy of peace.”

– Hashkiveinu, Evening Service

Last spring, you may remember the generosity of the Rashi community in donating art and school supplies for Ukrainian children who could not be in school. With the help of every student, we were able to assemble 125 activity bags for children supported by the Jewish Big Brother Big Sister Program in Ukraine. How do we know that these bags reached the children? Click here to see the videos and photos of children opening the bags.

Annual Rashi Community Sukkot Mitzvah Project

“אַל תִּפְרֹשׁ מִן הַצִּבּוּר, Don’t separate yourself from your community.”

– Pirkei Avot 2:4

This Sukkot, Rashi continued its tradition of supporting three local non-profits: Action for Post-Soviet Jewry (Families in Grades Pre-K-4), Hope and Comfort (Families in Grades 5-8), and Beantown Baby Diaper Bank (Faculty and Staff). From donating items to keep the people of Ukraine warm this winter, to providing hygiene products for children and young adults, to collecting diapers, pull-ups, and wipes, the Rashi community stepped up to equip people with essential items. The Rashi community truly lived the value of al tifrosh min hatzibur (don’t separate yourself from your community). Click here for more photos.

Middle School Social Justice Day Of Service

Hillel says, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?”

– Pirkei Avot 1.14

This fall, we were excited to add a second hands-on Middle School social justice experience (to add to our existing social justice day of action in the spring). Under the leadership of Social Justice Educator Sarah Monderer, students began the morning, in grade levels, learning about different issues and how they would be volunteering that day. Grade 6 volunteered at World’s End in Hingham, participating in plant management and bivalve management. Grade 7, in preparation for their time at Cradles to Crayons, brought in donations, sorted them, and then played the computer game “Spent,” which creates real-life scenarios where they have a specific amount of money that they can spend on basic needs, and must make choices about how they spend their limited funds. Grade 8 had the unique opportunity to connect with JArts and a powerful exhibit called Be The Change in downtown Boston. They met one of the artists to learn about how they created their piece in a process dubbed “artivism” (art meets activism). The day concluded as everyone gathered back together to share reflections, highlights, and the impact of their volunteer experience. Click here to see photos from the day.

Rashi Supports Afghan Refugee Couple Nasir and Sahar Nezami

“וַאֲהַבְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־הַגֵּ֑ר כִּֽי־גֵרִ֥ים הֱיִיתֶ֖ם בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם, You shall love the stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

– Deuteronomy 10:19

Last spring, the Rashi community welcomed Nasir, and later his wife, Sahar, from Afghanistan. Nasir and Sahar worked with the Afghan Girls Robotics team, and Nasir currently works at MassRobotics. In close partnership with JFS MetroWest and Rashi parent and alum Larry Tobin (‘01) of the Shapiro Foundation, Rashi families had the privilege of accompanying Nasir and Sahar during their journey in America. Members of the community met Nasir at the airport when he arrived, hosted him at a Passover Seder and Shabbat dinner, and helped the couple acclimate to their new lives. Families joined together to generously transform their apartment into a home as they purchased furniture, appliances, kitchenware, bedding, and more. We invite you to connect with Nasir and Sahar too! Invite them for Chanukah, a Shabbat Dinner, or to spend time with your family! You’ll discover what a treat it is to spend time with this loving, fun, and interesting couple. Contact Director of Social Justice Stephanie Rotsky or Social Justice Educator Sarah Monderer and we will introduce you via email. Stay tuned for more opportunities for our students to learn from Nasir and Sahar when they bring their expertise to Rashi and teach students about coding and robotics! Click here to see photos.

 

Veterans Day Celebration at Rashi

On Veterans Day, our whole school had the privilege of welcoming two U.S. military veterans: Gina Bertrand and Michael Crosby. Gina served in Afghanistan and Cuba, Michael served in Iraq. Students had an opportunity to meet with both veterans, hear about the work they did, why they chose to serve, and ask questions. Our children got to see the “MREs” (Meals Ready to Eat), part of Michael’s uniform, and Gina’s showcase of medals she’s earned. Our Israeli faculty was especially moved, as veterans themselves, to hear Gina speak about her experiences and her deep admiration and respect for the female Israeli soldiers with whom she served. In the higher grades, students were riveted as Gina told her story, enriched by the students’ deeply thoughtful questions. Every session began with the song Hinei Mah Tov to welcome Gina and Michael. When our students were prepared to sing “The Star Spangled Banner,” Gina explained that she always is welcomed with that song and would love to hear a Hebrew one. The students enthusiastically sang Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, in addition to Hinei Mah Tov. Click here to see photos from Veterans Day.

The Rashi/NewBridge Mitzvah Makers Program

“Wings are to a bird as elders are to Israel.”

– Rabbi Akiva

Who would have ever believed that the Mitzvah Makers program, now in its 28th year, was the brainchild of five Grade 2 students? This year, after a two-year COVID hiatus, 50 children in Grades 2-5, with Grade 5 acting as leaders, had their first visit in early November. As we continue, we will be working with residents in Assisted Living and the Health Care Center.

Rashi Tamchui Project

“I get to make a difference as a child.”

– Rashi student

This year’s 28th annual Tamchui project was launched last month! Middle School students held town meetings by grade in advisory groups to identify and discuss issues that mattered most to them. Students have narrowed down the three issues that will become the focus for our learning and donations this year: Access to Affordable Health Care (Grade 6), Ukrainian War Refugees (Grade 7), and Women’s Health (Grade 8). We received many nominations from the Rashi community of powerful non-profits that connect with these three issues, and welcomed several new Rashi parents who joined this year’s Tamchui team of parents, faculty and staff to narrow down the nominations. Stay tuned for what is always a memorable and powerful Tamchui Project in January and February.

Pre-Chanukah Yachad Rashi Family Event

“לֹ֤א בְחַ֙יִל֙ וְלֹ֣א בְכֹ֔חַ כִּ֣י אִם־בְּרוּחִ֔י, Not by might, not by power, but by spirit.”

– Zecharia 4:6

In the spirit of Chanukah drawing near, and our responsibility as Jews to bring light and joy to others in our community and beyond, Rashi families gathered together recently for pizza, fun Chanukah games and activities, a spirited interactive concert with Josh Shreiber, and viewing a powerful community social justice art exhibit—Brighter Ignited—that Rashi middle school students contributed to. Additionally, Rashi launched a Chanukah social justice initiative called Rashi Gives, providing three different opportunities to do some good:

  1. Donate gift cards to JF&CS Basic Needs Program to assists parents in buying Chanukah gifts for their children
  2. Create uplifting Chanukah cards to accompany holiday meal bags provided by Yad Chessed
  3. Surprise the Leo Baeck Grade 8 and their faculty (when they are visiting Rashi for the week) with a beautiful “accordion” book for Chanukah (thank you, Mrs. Smiley!) with individual pages illustrating why Israel shines bright, how Rashi students shine bright and the special pride and connection that Rashi feels with Israel

 

Click here to learn about Yad Chessed, and here to learn about JF&CS and their basic needs program.