Growth Beneath the Surface

Dr. Darin S. Katz September 18, 2023

With chagei Tishrei (the holidays of Tishrei) behind us, we are about to enter the Jewish month of Cheshvan on Rosh Chodesh this coming Sunday and Monday. The month is commonly referred to as Marcheshvan; the Babylonian prefix translates in Hebrew as “bitter,” and indeed, after a month of intense high holidays followed by sitting in the sukkah, Cheshvan is considered to be a bitter month since there are no holidays to celebrate. 

It is also a time of transition in the northern hemisphere, as leaves fall from trees, the sun sets earlier, and much of the natural world prepares for winter. In Israel, the rainy season, which spans many months, is about to begin, laying the groundwork for springtime and new growth that begins deep beneath the surface.

In many ways, the same is true for Hillel Day School as we enter Cheshvan, a month in which the spiritual seeds of Tishrei take root in our classrooms, on our playgrounds, and on the fields.

The “Second 1st Day of School”

I often joke that the day after Simchat Torah is the “second 1st day” for Jewish day schools as we enter a period of 5-day weeks. The predictability of the school year begins in earnest, giving students time to engage deeply with their academic subjects on a more consistent basis. K-8 students have already completed initial assessments in reading and math and will soon set personal goals and expectations with their teachers. I hope you will join me and members of the Leadership Team on Tuesday, October 27, at 7:30 p.m. for a virtual parent education program on the topic of assessments, and you will hear more about assessments during parent-teacher conferences in early November.

Focus on our core values and 21st century competencies

Guided by our Mission and Core Values and through their academic coursework, Hillel students develop the important skills necessary for 21st-century success -- critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, and computing. ECC students learn to greet guests at the door and describe their class activities. 3rd and 4th graders are learning how to write a persuasive essay. 8th grade students will soon apply their knowledge of genetics to a real condition, color blindness, using me as their subject! Each day we strive to create confident, independent learners who feel empowered to take responsibility for their own learning.

Social and emotional growth

A month without holidays may seem bitter; so, too, as our children progress in their school year, they may experience bitter loss or failure on the field or in the classroom. But, just as the rain creates conditions for growth, facing challenges and overcoming failures provide our students with opportunities for transformation. They will develop key social-emotional skills such as grit and resilience that are important for their success and happiness in life in an increasingly complex world.

So let us be fully present and engaged in the daily work of going to school during this month of Cheshvan. The academic, social, and moral growth that your children are about to experience over the coming weeks and months lays the groundwork for deep maturation that occurs as the earth turns again toward spring. May there be nothing “mar” about the coming month for us all. 








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Dr. Darin S. Katz

Dr. Darin S. Katz is Head of School at Hillel Day School.