Thanksgiving - A Time to Celebrate and Educate

Dr. Darin S. Katz February 5, 2023

As Thanksgiving approaches, let us take time to celebrate and be thankful for the blessings in our lives. One of the many blessings in my life is working at Hillel Day School, ensuring that we provide a strong Jewish foundation, education, and identity for the next generation. This important work is more critical than ever in the current global climate.  

There is little doubt that the past few months have been a difficult time to be Jewish in the United States. The antisemitic tropes coming from Kanye West, Kyrie Irving, Dave Chapelle, and others that have dominated our news feeds, combined with weekly security threats targeting Jewish schools, synagogues, cemeteries, and other institutions, makes it feel scary to be Jewish right now. Despite rising antisemitism throughout the United States and across the globe, we at Hillel continue to focus on our mission and Core Jewish Values so that we imbue our students with the tools to be knowledgeable, proud, and confident Jews. Doing so requires us to educate and celebrate.

Each day at Hillel we educate our students about what it means to be Jewish, but also how to “be Jewish.” Through the study of Tanakh (Bible), Ivrit, and Jewish history, we provide our students with a rich background on the history of our people so that Hillel students develop deep pride in their Jewish roots. Time spent learning our rituals and customs teaches our students how to actively participate in Jewish life, and strengthen the community, in a meaningful way. From our youngest ECC classes all the way through eighth-grade, Hillel students learn how to think critically so that, with the knowledge they have gained, they can speak proudly about being Jewish if they ever face antisemitism firsthand. 

However, I truly believe education is not enough in this day and age. We also must celebrate – celebrate everything we have to be thankful for, including all of our accomplishments as a Jewish people; celebrate the miracle of the modern State of Israel as our eternal homeland; celebrate the richness of Jewish culture. While it might feel easier to wallow in fear and anxiety, celebrating our Jewishness ultimately gives us courage and power to fight the plague of antisemitism. 

Education and celebration are part of our fabric at Hillel. Just this past week, we welcomed over 300 grandparents and special friends to Hillel for Generations Day, over 150 students, parents, and guests marked the beginning of a new week at our third grade Havdalah program, and our 5th graders celebrated Kabbalat Tanakhim at which they received their own Tanakh and engaged in hevruta (partner) study of Jewish text. At each of these events and every day at Hillel, we are thankful for the opportunities our students and families have to celebrate their rich Jewish education and their Jewishness.

Thanksgiving is yet another opportunity for us to celebrate. It is one of my favorite holidays because Americans of any faith, tradition, or of no tradition at all, can enjoy it. Yet as Jews, though many Americans may not recognize it, Thanksgiving may have its origins in Sukkot. During Sukkot, we also partake in the abundant fall harvest, and are commanded in the Book of Deuteronomy to rejoice and be happy, וְשָׂמַחְתָּ֖ בְּחַגֶּ֑ך (vesamachta bechagecha), which the Puritans may have known from their study of the Old Testament. 

On behalf of the administration, faculty, staff, and Hillel Board of Trustees, let me offer my sincerest gratitude for entrusting your children to us. Partnering with parents to instill a proud Jewish identity in our students and to raise the next generation of Jewish leaders with the knowledge and courage to fight antisemitism, is holy work. I am thankful each and every day for Hillel faculty and staff, students, parents, and community partners. May you and your loved ones be blessed with good health, happiness, peace, and an abundance of gratitude.

 

חג הודיה שמח /Chag hodayah sameach /Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Head of School

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Dr. Darin S. Katz

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