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A Holiday Wrap-up From Ms. J
Judy Finkelstein-Taff

Dear CJDS Community,

As Simchat Torah was winding down, I began to think about my Chadashot message and I realized that before we move on to holiday-free day to day life, I want to pause and ask you to reflect on the last month with me. I realized on Tuesday night I was feeling an immense sense of gratitude. Now, full disclosure, I’m sure part of that gratitude came from spending the last part of the chag with my California kids and grandkids in L.A., but those feelings also came from my holiday experiences at CJDS and in Chicago. With all the challenges we hear about through our news sources, such as rising prices everywhere, construction on the streets that make driving so frustrating, labor shortages, and the problems with the slow supply chain, just to name a few, we also have so much to be grateful for. I want to highlight some of those items/moments from a CJDS perspective.

In the midst of our busy lives we tend to take things for granted, and the gift of Jewish tradition often falls in that category. Our tradition offers us important mental health tools packaged in good food, community support, and music and melodies to inspire us. All of this is wrapped in Torah, which provides intellectual opportunities for analytical and critical thinking, sometimes inspiring lively discussions (thank you, rabbis and lay leaders, who gave interesting drashot over the holidays!).

I find myself most grateful for the concepts we are passing along to our students. Think about it: Did you see the CJDS photos and videos of multiple students sounding the shofar every day of the month of Elul, a full month before Rosh Hashanah? These traditions really prepare students for important moments in life; they encourage and teach us not to just “show up” on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur but to take advantage of the preparation process and to “do the work," like performing the ritual of Tashlich and apologizing to friends and family while reflecting on how we can do better.


We are given a tremendous opportunity to think about where we missed the mark and what we can do better in the coming year. The genius of our holidays is that we don’t just look up to the sky and hope we are forgiven; we actually ask people we may have hurt for forgiveness. After this acknowledgement and reflection process, we move right into Sukkot. We are reminded to appreciate the basics that sustain our lives: food, water, and the appreciation of the walking and harvesting involved in the celebration of Sukkot as we take one week out of our lives to sit with nature. Finally the big crescendo is Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. Similar to Yom Kippur, on Shemini Atzeret we once again remember our loved ones who are no longer with us through Yizkor. They stress to all of us, young and old, please don't forget the ones who came before. We are here today because of them. The chagim conclude with the joyous festivities of Simchat Torah as we celebrate the values we receive from the tremendous gift of Torah. 


And so, in addition to Inquiry-based Learning and Reggio-Inspired classrooms beginning in JK and K; Language Arts in Lower School and Humanities in Middle School; the Middle School Arts program and the Musical; subjects throughout the grades, such as Math and Science, Hebrew and Judaic Studies, Art, Technology, Music, P.E., Yoga, and Mishpachot, your children - our students - learn through experiential education while bringing the holidays and their practices and traditions to life. This is the beauty of a Jewish Day School Education!!

The Jewish holiday season at CJDS was simply joyful and even felt magical. The holidays require extra creativity, programming, execution, and energy and it takes a village to produce the magic. Yasher koach (congratulations) and todah rabah (thank you) to our Campus Life Coordinator, Molly Jaret, and her committee comprised of Debbie Barack, Lianne Philipp, and Almog Yehuda, along with Educational Administrators, Tamar Cytryn and Penina Berdugo, and our in-house musicians (Henry Bernstein, Logan Gannon, Elana Hiller, Susie Lorge, and Rachel Mylan) who all contributed to our celebrations and experiences. Todah rabah to our Mishpacha Coordinator, Rachel Warach, for this year's wonderful programming and also to Rachel Treister and Tamar Shapira for creating an art department that inspires our students to create gorgeous artwork that adorns our halls.


Thank you to all of our teachers who supported the programming as it was definitely an “all hands on deck” month! Lastly, we couldn’t do what we do without the support of our entire Operational Team led by Liz Erlich, Henry Bernstein, and Alex Bahena and his Maintenance Team. I want to give a special shout out to Jen Minkus for capturing these special moments of learning and celebrating and sharing them with our community; Alex Treyger for supporting the many technology needs; Lisa Lieberman for ordering specialized supplies needed for the holidays, and to Pano Theodorides and Joe Deferville, our Security Coordinators and our entire Security Team, for securing our campus each day, including accompanying students on extra activities like Tashlich walks along the river and school wide outdoor celebrations. Thank you to Jill Kushnir LeVee and Rachel Pickus for all they do to keep the educational program on track during the hum of this season!

Shabbat Shalom,

Ms. J (Judy)

  • high holidays