Dear CJDS Community,
On the heels of Purim, I had intended to write a funny newsletter message, but in light of what happened in the world this week, I decided to make it less funny and more inspiring (I hope).
We all know of the tragic events caused by terrorists this week in Brussels, Belgium. Nothing more horrific could be imagined than the video footage on television that included a crying baby, who survived her mother, who was killed by act of terrorism. Of course the city of Brussels went into a mode of caution, however they wanted to keep businesses open to simulate that life would go on in their new normal. As leaders and members of the Jewish community, the irony of cancelling Purim Megillah readings in the local synagogue was not lost on us. Cancelling the celebration of the holiday where one group of intolerant people wanted to kill another group of people because they were different from them or because they did not share their religion or values seems a very bitter irony.
"So, in light of all this Ms. J, what can you say that will inspire us and give us hope?"
I can say that last Tuesday evening, I traveled to Skokie to the former Schechter building which is now occupied by MCC Academy, the Islamic school in Skokie. As I mentioned last week, we gathered with Catholics, Muslims, and Jews to try to build bridges between our communities. It was inspiring to see a dialogue emerging and to think that the next generation of Muslim, Jewish, and Catholic children are growing up with their own traditions but celebrating and appreciating the traditions of the other. If we can only clone this model and grow more participants in this type of programming, maybe we will see generations that can see and celebrate diversity. Education is the key. Maybe this is our call to action.
The next piece of inspiration came from our own Purim activities. Our Mishloach Manot project, which was the brain child of Eric and Alina Groth and co-chaired by Robyn and Paul Reise was the most successful one ever. It was so inspiring to see our Middle School students, our parents, faculty and staff, and our CJDS Board of Trustees all pitching in to make this meaningful mitzvah project such a success. Special thanks to all of our vendors who donated items for the baskets, which are listed in the flyers you received. A special shout out to two CJDS families who made tremendous donations to the project: David Levine, Owner of Illinois Nut and Candy and father of Nate, Grade 5 and Joan, Grade 1, and husband of CJDS Parent Committee volunteer Melissa Rothner Levine, as well as toIra Kirsche, owner of Hungarian Market and grandfather to Nathan Oler in Kindergarten (Parents of Nathan: Avi and Alisa Oler). Thanks to the efforts to all of the above the Parent Committee raised a little over $11,000! In addition, another inspiring piece was the $1,200 raised by our Mishloach Manot participants for the ARK. The mitzvah of Mishloach l'evyonim (sending to those in need) as well as the mitzvah of Mishloach Manot, were both accomplished by this amazing effort.
Next on the list of inspiring moments, our Grade Three students returned to the Astoria Nursing home to bring the spirit of Purim to those that would not be able to go to a shul/synagogue/temple for the holiday. Our students returned to the Astoria in order to make this mitzvah experience more meaningful than a one shot visit. They are beginning to get to know the residents and the staff, and we are beginning to get to know them. We want to give a thank you and shout out to Shai Berdugo (oldest son of Morah Penina and Rabbi Rafi Berdugo). Shai is the Vice President of Operations for all of the nursing homes associated with Astoria, and he made all of the arrangements for our students' visit, including offering them a snack of hamantashen...etc.
In Hebrew, there is a quotation: Mitzvah Gorreret Mitzvah, one mitzvah encourages another. In the case of the Grade Three visit to the nursing home inspired Morah Debbie, Grade Three General Studies teacher, to call her homebound grandparents today and her class sang Purim songs to them over the phone. I just happened to walk in while this beautiful modeling was happening and want to say that it brought me to tears (of joy).
Lastly, our students and faculty and staff celebrated a Star Wars Purim!! Much thanks and appreciation to Morah Alex Treyger,Morah Tamar Cytryn, Morah Susie Lorge, Morah Mickey Silverstein, Moreh Israel Tsadok, Morah Anna Pomson, Brad Wales, Abbe Vallen, our official photographer and Mishloach Manot Co-Coordinator along with Esther Solooki and all of the Purim Committee members for a very memorable Purim celebration!
All in all, I think I can conclude this Purim by using our CJDS Star Wars theme as a guide. We might have to look above to the stars for a force of goodness to guide us. Even though it seems like in every generation there is evil in our midst, good will always prevail, as long as we don't take our freedom and goodness for granted. Think about what actions you can take, what actions can we take as a community to guard and fight against evil as we celebrate our freedom? May the force be with all of us!
Chag Purim Sameach and Shabbat Shalom from the CJDS Galaxy!Ms. J (Judy)