One year ago, at this time our key parental/grandparental concerns before the children’s return-to-school were schedules, carpools, backpacks, school supplies, new shoes, class designations and extra-curricular activities. This year, we still have those concerns. But Covid-19 arches over and envelopes all of them.
All our concerns for the return-to-school are reasonable. We make no effort to make light of them or to look past them. In a truly significant manner, in their loaded backpacks this year, our children also carry the aspirations of an entire society, hoping that the transition to in-person learning will be safe and a harbinger of better, Covid-free days ahead.
In advance of next week, we call readers’ attention to an article written by Paul Bernstein, CEO of Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools, a New York-based network of North American Jewish day schools for professional development and the sharing of leading practices.
The article is akin to a pep talk ahead of the imminent restarting of school and a tribute to the schools that will soon reopen – in effusive welcome and undiminished embrace – for the children entering their buildings.
Bernstein writes: “Even in the face of all of these [Covid-19] challenges, as the school year begins there is cause for great hope. The determination of so many schools to open in-person, if they can do so safely, means that Jewish day school students will begin this year with the richest possible education, social environment, and powerful community around them. In addition to the tireless work on practical matters of re-opening, schools have invested huge amounts of time and energy this summer in training and preparing for an adaptable in-person and on-line curriculum for the year, as well as strengthening their mental health supports for faculty and students.
“The challenges, particularly financial, for Jewish day schools and their families are substantial, yet we tackle them – as we do all the issues we face through COVID-19 – with determination, empathy, and a undying passion for a brilliant Jewish education and the social-emotional growth of our younger generation – the Jewish future.”
And there is one other matter ahead of the return-to-school that is appropriate to keep in mind.
In two weeks we celebrate Rosh Hashana. Many of our Sages have pointed out the somewhat counter-intuitive emphasis the holiday places on our children. All of the Torah and Haftarah readings relate specifically and repeatedly to our children. They do not relate, as one might imagine, to the mysteries and wonders of Creation. Indeed, the concluding passages in the Haftarah reading on the second day of the holiday can serve with heightened emphasis as a marker of optimism and/or a guidepost for calm, purposeful action. The prophet Jeremiah (31:16-17) offers remarkably Covid-relevant inspiration.
“Weep no more. Our hard work will be rewarded, God says. Our children will return from harm’s way. There is hope for our future. Our children will return safely to where they belong”.
(Our free translation)
Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.