Letter from Daniella Pressner, Principal 12/02/16

Dear Akiva Community:

This past weekend, we traveled to Chicago to celebrate Thanksgiving with our extended family. I have always loved how seriously my Persian mother takes this holiday. Between the turkey, the cranberry sauce, the stuffing, and the pumpkin pie, and her desire to make all members of our extended families share what they are thankful for, one would think that my mom was a natural born American.

Freedom is something that my mother does not take for granted. She grew up in Iran and left right before the Revolution when many Iranian Jews sensed that life would never be the same. And while many of our Persian relatives now live in Israel and America, we still have some family in Iran. And from my mother, I have learned that freedom is not something to be taken for granted. For her, Thanksgiving, this opportunity to be thankful and to appreciate that which we are given, does not just happen once a year but every day. But on Thanksgiving, we take time as a family to celebrate each other and to appreciate each other… together.

This morning, Adi Ben Dor, our community shlicha, shared a Dvar Torah with our student in morning assembly. She handed out pieces of cardboard that served as mini-prisms. Students could see themselves in them but needed to look carefully as their eyes were distracted by all of the colors that came out. Adi explained that in this week’s parsha, Toldot, we learn about Yaacov and Esav, brothers, who both want what the other has. One wants a birthright, the other, a blessing… Adi shared that what we learn from this parsha is our need to feel comfortable with who we are and not always want what someone else has. She highlighted that if we look really carefully at ourselves, we will value our own identify and realize we do not need to be someone else. In many ways, this idea connects to the story of Chanukkah.

Watching our children look at themselves in these mini-prisms as they overheard Adi telling them, “You are enough….you have what you need to be the best you and you do not need to feel like you need what someone else has,” gave me a moment to reflect back on these past few weeks and to think forward as well.

I thought about our children’s experience with Rabbi Laurie and Miss Lisa singing and story-telling in honor of Rosh Chodesh Kislev, the month of Chanukah. I was reminded of Grandparents and Special Friends Day when so many of our children got to share a moment of their everyday lives with the important people in their lives. I remembered Gordon Premeaux, our Veteran’s Day speaker, who served our country in the Navy for 22 years. I remembered our children’s proud voices on Veteran’s Day as they shared appreciation for their mothers, fathers, and grandparents who served and continue to serve this country.

As we enter into the 4th week after the election, no matter our position, we realize that our world needs children who have values and morals and ethics. ..children who appreciate and see the best in who they are and the most beautiful reflections of those around them.

While in Chicago, I got to attend my 20th Solomon Schechter Day School reunion and I was reminded that this elementary education…these friends…these values…these joint experiences were what made me who I am today…and these opportunities are exactly the ones we are now giving to our children. As we enter into the Hebrew month of Kislev, I hope that we take this month to recognize the freedom that we have to live our lives as Jews in this world and the opportunities we are giving our children to live as informed, global, Jewish citizens of this world.

Please join us on December 20th at 5pm as our children sing and light Chanukkah candles at Public Square with Mayor Megan Barry. We will celebrate our school as a community and truly reflect on the light our children have brought us this year.

Shabbat Shalom,

Daniella Pressner