Educating our children in the richness of their past,
the diversity of their present and the possibilities for their future.

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Gender Identity
Esther Solooki

From time to time we share areas of ongoing professional development and new ways of thinking in education with you. Last year we started an educational process with our teachers to learn about changing attitudes, perspectives and adaptive language regarding gender orientation.

As a multi-denominational Jewish Day School, we acknowledge Jews with many different backgrounds, practices, and beliefs. This embrace of diversity has always extended beyond the Jewish lens and into the lives of our students and families. CJDS is a self-reflective community, committed to the mindset of growth and development, as individuals and as a team. In the last few years, it has become increasingly evident that a generation that sees the world with self-identity and gender identity in non-binary terms continues to emerge even in the elementary and early childhood years.

We began our journey of learning in this realm with a professional development workshop led by Rabbi D’ror Chankin-Gould from Anshe Emet Synagogue, who worked with our faculty and staff on inclusion, not just from a Jewish perspective but in all areas of learning and identity. As a result of that workshop, and in collaboration with the Response Center, we adapted inclusive language for all genders, both in and out of our classrooms.

Recently, our faculty and staff had the opportunity for further professional development offered by Keshet, a national organization that works for full LGBTQ equality and inclusion in Jewish life. Two of our faculty members, Tamar Cytryn and Kate Burstein, attended a day-long training with Keshet and the rest of our faculty participated in a workshop at school.  Tamar and Kate have volunteered to head up a faculty committee to think through how to make our school as inclusive as possible for the LGBTQ community. They are happy to speak with any parents who have questions or comments.

I want to reiterate our commitment to equity and respect for diversity as they are clear in our Mission and Vision statement, and it is important that our faculty and staff reflect our Non-Discrimination Statement with respect to all students and families: “Chicago Jewish Day School admits students of any race, sex, color, physical ability, and national or ethnic origin. We welcome students and families of all gender identity or expression and sexual orientation.” This language is also spelled out in even more detail in both the Faculty, Administration, and Staff Employment Handbook and the Student-Parent Handbook, with an updated Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy: “CJDS endeavors to provide a learning and working environment where each member of the CJDS community feels respected, valued, and comfortable and is free from discrimination or harassment.” This new policy comes from our belief that we must model, teach, and practice respect in every realm of the school. Providing and expecting a respectful learning and working atmosphere will contribute to the strong social-emotional growth of our students.

We also take pride in knowing that this language and these principles have guided us since our inception and along the way we have always added pieces that come to light when we need to strengthen our commitments. As you walk through our hallways you may notice:

  • Hanging of inclusive signs around the building indicating that we are a safe and inclusive school for all students and families
  • The preferred pronouns of students such as he/him/his, she/her/hers, and they/them/theirs hanging on student portraits
  • All Gender Bathrooms

We hope this message today is informative and helps us to take more steps as a community to be welcoming and supporting of all students and their families at CJDS.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ms. J (Judy)