The first three days of our faculty and staff professional development week have proven to be truly inspirational. Over 100 educators have come together, either in small groups or remotely, to review and practice our numerous health and safety protocols; set up their classrooms; participate in meet and greets with students; and discuss and determine the best strategies for educating children in the age of COVID-19. The excitement among faculty and staff was palpable this week. In fact, I cannot think of another industry in which so many aspects of one’s schedule or job can still feel so fresh and exciting each September, and our staff feels fortunate to be able to start anew.
Concurrently, over the past few weeks, as I begin my 23rd year working in independent and Jewish day school education, two conflicting thoughts have continually occupied my mind. It goes without saying that the 2020 - 2021 school year will be unlike any other we have experienced. The worst global pandemic to strike the world in 100 years will certainly change the way we educate Hillel children this year. Whether teaching takes place in-person, in our flexible model, or remotely, faculty, staff, and our leadership team continue to work tirelessly so that Hillel students receive the truly outstanding Judaic and General Studies education for which we are known as a leader nationwide.
Yet at the same time, I have thought about the often-quoted verse from Kohelet (Book of Ecclesiastes), a megillah that is read in many synagogues on Sukkot, which states:
אין כל חדש תחת השמש / Ain kol chadsah tachat hashemesh
“There is nothing new under the sun.” (1:9).
Inspired by those words, despite the overlay of anxiety wrought by COVID-19, we can - and need to - approach this school year somewhat like we have all preceding years. While many parts of this year will feel new and strange, September 1 will also be a day filled with the usual mix of nerves, excitement, new backpacks, new clothes, new friends, new teachers, and importantly, new goals and desires for the school year. And this is good! It is important for all of us not to lose sight of that sunny optimism amidst the uncertainty of COVID-19.
B'hatzlachah (good luck) to the entire Hillel community as we begin the 2020 - 2021 school year. May we all approach it with hope and excitement for the many possibilities that it holds! And may we all merit a Shana tovah u’metuakah - A healthy, sweet, and happy new year!