An Interim Head of School’s Reflection on a Community Tradition
by Bud Lichtenstein
Each year, The Rashi School’s community comes together to honor one of our school’s core values: Limud (learning). The Limud Celebration celebration truly shows the vibrancy of our community and shines a light on all that we do at Rashi.
Since the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, it has been my honor to serve as the Interim Head of this strong community of teachers, staff, parents and children who unite under this umbrella to do life-changing work each and every day. I have come to love Rashi and its core values in my short time here.
Our core value of Limud is one that I consider the very first of our values. We are, after all, a school and learning is at the heart of all schools. So what makes Rashi’s “Limud” unique? A Jewish Lens!
As you know, questioning is core to Judaism. Questioning is built into our DNA. Rabbis and Jewish scholars have questioned the most minute portion of Torah text forever. There are endless interpretations and perspectives. Children here at Rashi are taught to wrestle with questions deeply – some posed by adults, and many come from the children themselves. Questions invite and ignite curiosity and build critical thinking skills. And critical thinking pervades our inquiry-based curriculum. In fact, it is the curriculum. In preparation for this event, I spent some of the last two weeks listening for questions. Here are some critical thinking questions that students and teachers posed just in the last week.
- What happens in my brain when I learn something new?
- How should criminals be treated?
- Should viruses count as living or nonliving?
- What impact will wind have on a pendulum?
- How can one decide if a website is reputable?
- How does the shape of a plant part influence its function?
- How do I know what to believe?
- Where am I in the universe?
Questions are central here. In fact, each of the Head of School candidates commented on the outstanding quality of the questions that our Student Council members asked. Here are two that I love:
- In your short time learning about Rashi, what have you identified as the vulnerabilities (that you are of course able to share with students,) and what are strategies to strengthen those areas of vulnerability?
- What is your biggest hope for Rashi?
These are just a sample of what our children wrestle with each and every day. At the Limud Celebration, we celebrate those questions, and the adults and children who pose them.
Another critical part of our Jewish lens at Rashi is the deeply held belief that knowledge alone is not sufficient – what matters is what you do with that knowledge. We teach children from a young age that they have agency – they have the ability to change the world. In fact, we teach children that it is our collective calling to repair this broken world. Our alums have much to say about this part of Rashi’s Jewish lens.
Here are a few examples:
Being exposed to the social justice program from such an early age ingrained in me the mindset of asking myself what I can do for others and how I can make a difference in repairing the world. Giving back to others became not only a passion of mine but also a value.
Another alum said:
Tikkun Olam. Community. Justice. Learning. These are values that drive my short- and long-term decision-making. These are long-standing Jewish values. For many Jews and non-Jews alike, it takes a lifetime to learn the importance of having guiding principles like these. My Rashi classmates and I had a major head start. We already knew about some of the most important things in life
And finally an alum wrote,
When I was at Rashi, we talked constantly about values, such as kavod, respect and kehillah, community. I loved visiting the nursing home because it allowed me a chance to become a larger part of my community. As I work every day with students and parents I try to approach each person with respect. I learned at Rashi that it is only as a community that we can work to make the world whole.
So clearly teaching with a Jewish lens has a lifetime of impact.
What’s the glue that makes it all work at Rashi? Teachers who are passionate about “critical minds.” Teachers who are dedicated to nurturing compassionate hearts. Teachers who are committed to helping children know they can make a difference in the world. And teachers who live and breathe Rashi.