Last Thursday morning, I arrived at school having just learned that our Israeli flag had been taken during the night. Thanks to our stellar maintenance staff that, with stunning frequency, anticipates my next thought before I can utter it, our spare flag was already flying. We keep spares of all three flags (U.S., Israel, and Pennsylvania), not because we anticipate theft, but because flags flying in the wind tend to fray, and as soon as we notice the time has come for a replacement, a new flag is proudly flying where the frayed one had been.
Once the flag was once again waving in the wind, we followed all appropriate procedures, filed a police report, shared the information with other community organizations, and wrote a communication to ensure that our staff and families heard this information directly from me.
There were many possible responses that I was prepared to receive after hitting send on that email. But the very first one that popped into my inbox took me completely by surprise.
“Can we buy a new [flag] for CDS?”
I responded with tremendous appreciation and said we’re already flying our replacement flag. And the response:
“Can we donate the cost?”
And then they did.
The next morning, last Friday, our entire school, parents, grandparents, and community members gathered in our Ulam Sport (gym) for another ruach-filled and raucous Kabbalat Shabbat.
Also visiting that morning were members of the Polish Jewish community, specifically, educators from the Lauder-Morasha School and Warsaw JCC. They were in town along with the Chief Rabbi of Poland and other community leaders of the Jewish community of Warsaw to launch their membership as the newest sister city in the Karmiel-Misgav-Pittsburgh and now, Warsaw, family.
As we approach Chanukah—the holiday where we commemorate renewal and light—I am thinking about our own stories of renewal, resilience, resurgence, and strength. I am thinking about our school, and our flag, and our maintenance staff’s immediate impulse to raise the flag in the place of the one taken, and the immediate offer by a CDS family to buy the school a flag, and the unimaginable reality that there is a resurgent Jewish community in Warsaw blossoming from the ashes of what was the most decimated of all Jewish populations.
And I am thinking today of the most recent antisemitic rampage attacking Jersey City’s Jewish community, so close to home and so close to our own experience of Jews being murdered because they are Jews. And I am thinking of the first responder and other victim in New Jersey who lost their lives because they were in the vicinity of a thriving Jewish community under attack.
Once again, we’re reeling and wondering what to do. And once again, my thoughts immediately go to all that is described above.
Here’s what we do. We double down on who we are, with pride, with joy, without hesitation. And we demonstrate our strength through acts of lovingkindness.
During last Friday’s Kabbalat Shabbat, I took a few moments to remind all of us that one month ago we were gathered to mark the one-year commemoration of the attack on Dor Hadash, New Light, and Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha, the attack on our community. The actions we took that day, one year later, represented our desire to pay forward the kindnesses that had been shown to us in the aftermath of that attack. Our students, staff, and parents took time to write messages of love to those suffering across the world and in our own country from acts of hatred.
In return, we received messages of gratitude from first responders, local FBI, and others, and I chose to read aloud this message form an aid organization offering support to migrants suffering in detention camps:
“I just received your package of beautiful cards for our migrant friends impacted by immigration detention. It is such an honor to receive these cards from your school and to hear of the love and compassion you received after last year’s tragedy and how your community is passing that along to others.
Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity and for being an example of compassion during these challenging times in our country. My prayers continue for your community and for all those who face this blatant hatred that is running through our country.”
With this reflection, I wish you all a good Shabbat and a peaceful Chanukah. I pray for comfort for those suffering recent or ongoing losses, for all victims of hatred, and for all who are not at peace.
I also want to thank you for your support, for your friendship with all of us at CDS, and for your participation in our exuberant and intentional refusal to be anything less than proud and passionate Jews, being the light and bringing light to others.
Note: We recently announced a $360 security fee to be paid by every CDS family beginning in the 2020-2021 school year. In the spirit of all that is described above, some have come forward and offered to contribute this amount right now, as a voluntary end of year donation, to help cover our already increased security costs. They’ve suggested we share this idea with others, and so I am sharing the suggestion with you, in the event you’d like to include it in your philanthropic giving to CDS before December 31.