Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Beautiful 5th Grade D'var Torah on Parshat Ekev

This afternoon, 5th grader, Emily Hoff, shared these words of Torah that she wrote with members of The Davis Academy's Board of Trustees. It's a proud "rabbi moment" to see the smiles and looks of appreciation on the faces of those who devote so much time, energy, and talent to guiding our community as they listen to such an inspiring example of the fruits of their labor. I'm sharing Emily's D'var Torah here with her parents' permission so that others can enjoy her message. 

Torah Portion: Ekev (Dueteronomy 7:12-11:26)

Hi, my name is Emily Hoff, I am a 5th grader and have been a student at the Davis Academy for 5 years. I have two siblings at Davis, also.  Sadie is in 4th grade and Jeremy is in 2nd grade.
I am going to give a D’var Torah, which will connect this week’s Torah Portion to our daily lives.

The Parsha I am talking about today is Ekev from the 5th book of the Torah, Deuteronomy or in Hebrew, D’varim.
I am going to start with a quotation from the Parsha. “Impress My words upon your very heart. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead, and teach them to your children.”
This quotation reminds me of the V’ahavta, which happens to be my mom’s most favorite prayer.  This prayer talks about making “God’s Mark” on everything. To me, this means show kindness to others and make the word a better place. It also means that if you see anything or anyone, you see good and beauty in it. For example, when I see my best friends, I see beauty in them and that makes me feel good.

As a 5th grader, I am learning about slavery in social studies. Eventually my classmates and I will go on a Civil Rights Trip to Birmingham, Alabama as well. We all learned that the world needed kindness at both these times. Today, we can strive to be kind people and make our world a better place. At Davis we have opportunities to practice being kind by doing Mitzvot like making blankets for Scottish Rite, being book buddies to preschool kids, and at class meetings and all around school.
The rock band “incubus” performs a song called  “if not now, when”.  The members of this band are Jewish and Rabbi Micah reminded me that the name of this song comes directly from an ancient rabbi named, Rabbi Hillel.  It seems that whether in the Torah, in our daily lives, or even in rock music, Jews are trying to teach kindness.

Thank you for coming and have a great meeting!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Davis Academy Faculty and Staff-- A Daily Miracle

Today was the first day of pre-planning for the faculty and staff of The Davis Academy. A number of us "report" to Davis year-round, but the majority of our faculty came "back to school" today energized from a well-deserved summer break. Mingling at our opening breakfast, attending various meetings and other pre-planning activities, I found myself beyond inspired. Looking back on the day, I feel like I witnessed a miracle. A miracle? Sounds like hyperbole. Well, I'll do my best to justify my word choice, but it's a bit hard to describe.

During her opening remarks, our Head of School, Amy Shafron, closed by describing a visit to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, RI during her summer travels. Reading George Washington's letter to the Jews which spoke of the importance of religious freedom, she thought about how our work at The Davis Academy is part of a great chain of responsibility. A chain that stretches back to Washington and even further.

Looking around the room I saw a truly diverse group of faculty and staff. I saw a team of people with unique stories and journeys, unique passions and talents, unique hopes and dreams, unique voices and unique faces. That such an exceptional group of people would converge for the purpose of teaching the children that are lucky enough to attend The Davis Academy is nothing short of miraculous in my eyes. The Jews of Newport wouldn't believe their eyes if they walked into The Davis Academy, and it's not because of the top notch facilities or abundant technology. It's because of the people. And that starts with the faculty and staff that gathered today.

Over the course of the day I heard outrageous laughter. I watched teachers breaking bread with old friends and welcoming new colleagues. I saw pride in many eyes and witnessed deep listening. I heard challenging inquiry and respectful discussion. I heard vulnerability, honesty, and creativity. I heard colleagues extending beyond what might be considered their "job" to offer thoughts and ideas for the benefit of all. I heard people of different faiths expressing gratitude and singing together.

All this I experienced in a single day. A day, that I might add, was largely dedicated to the nuts and bolts of getting ready for the upcoming school year. A day where the primary constituents of The Davis Academy, the students, were physically absent (though very much on our minds!). And while this was the first day of the 16-17 year for our faculty, every day at Davis is characterized by much of this and more. 

For these reasons and more I truly believe that this extraordinary team of individuals gathering daily for the shared purpose of fulfilling the mission of The Davis Academy and bringing our school's menschlichkeit values to life is nothing short of a miracle. I dare you to disagree. Even more, I double-dare you to come and see for yourself.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Davis Goes to Barney 2016 Edition

It's become an annual pilgrimage-- Rabbi Micah, Mrs. Shafron, and this year, Mr. Frank, heading up to Cleveland, Ga for the day. While you may think it's because of the wonderful Dairy Queen they've got up there, or the pastoral views of the North Georgia Mountains, it's actually because we know that so many of our current Davis Academy students and Davis alumni are enriching their Jewish Journeys at Camp Barney Medintz and URJ Camp Coleman.

Yesterday we had a chance to visit Barney. We're pleased to report that our Davis students and alumni are happy, healthy, enjoying camp, and also contributing in profound ways to the vibrancy of the Camp community. This year the three of us were struck by two things-- 1) how genuinely surprised and happy our kids were to see us and 2) how our alumni are growing, maturing, and becoming leaders in the Jewish community and beyond. The 8th graders of "yesteryear" are now the JITs and SITs of today. Many of them are thinking about college and many of them report how their college aged siblings are doing. Good news all around.

Here are some pictures celebrating our visit to Barney. If you don't see your child know that they could've missed the announcement for the group picture, be buried somewhere in the middle of the photo, or have been on one of the many off-camp experiences that Barney was running that day!