By Dr. Susie Tanchel
I am excited to welcome you back to JCDS as we begin the 2017-18 school year! I hope that, like me, you have had the opportunity this summer to enjoy wonderful and rejuvenating moments of relaxation with family and friends. Spending time outside in awe-inspiring natural beauty has felt particularly meaningful for me.
And yet, I imagine that I am not alone in admitting that this summer, and indeed the last several months, have been painful with the rise of explicitly expressed racism, bigotry, and anti-Semitism across our nation.
As Jews around the world enter into a time of reflection in preparation for the high holy days and the new year ahead, I notice that JCDS stands in stark contrast to what is happening in many places around us. We remain a school that is fundamentally committed to celebrating and engaging with difference. Agreement is not required to be a part of our community; we believe diversity is our strength. We continue to believe that engaging in challenging conversations leads to greater understanding and more profound truth. With these greater goals in mind, we actively support our children to develop the tools necessary to embrace complexity and nuance, and to listen deeply. We ask them to approach “the other” with an abiding and genuine curiosity.
But even as we do this, we know – and events this summer have further emphasized – that there are times when focused listening, complexity and nuance are not what the moment demands. These are the instances in which our moral compass – our sense of right and wrong – dictates that we do not stand idly by. These are times to rise up and say: “No, not on my watch.” These are opportunities to join together with others engaged in purposeful, healing, community-building work – and stand against those who deny the humanity of others.
This is the blessing of a JCDS education. Even as our children are learning the habits of heart and mind to collaborate with those different from them, they are also developing a strong sense of who they are. Their sense of self is informed by our shared values, and an ethical core that dictates action in the face of those who deny the basic humanity and equality of all others. Our students are both humbly confident in who they are as individuals, and keenly aware of their place within their communities.
I am so eager for this school year to begin. JCDS boldly stands as an antidote to the newly unearthed voices of hatred that we cannot ignore. In partnership with each of you, we are developing our children’s characters and capacities to be, to think, and to act in ways that work for the common good. I deeply believe in this school, in its mission, and in the power of community. Our children will be ready to join others, across history, geography, race, religion, and creed, in being agents of change in the sacred work of improving our world.