by Daniel R. Weiss
This week in our Torah Portion, Shoftim, we read the words, צדק צדק תרדף, “Justice, Justice you should pursue”. The word צדק, defined in this instance as “justice” may also mean “righteousness”. It is also the base of the word Tzedakah, which is commonly referred to as “charity”. There must therefore be a connection between justice, righteousness and charity. It was our work this week at Bornblum to help our students discover that connection.
Across the school, students gained a deeper understanding of the centrality of justice in the life of Jews. For example, first graders had a special guest, Leslie Ballin, an alumni parent and current Bornblum grandparent, who spoke about the importance of law, the role of being a lawyer and the court system. Our students asked many thoughtful questions and engaged in conversation about the importance of following rules and being truthful.
Meanwhile, eighth-grade students had a different approach to understanding the role of justice. The students have been learning about King Solomon, who through his wisdom, discerned judgement. Going deeper, the students explored why King Solomon wanted to have wisdom, and through their studies discovered that it was in order to help the Jewish people in a just and righteous way. Students then began creating visual representations of Solomon’s rule, including his throne, his palace and displays of his judgement.
Seventh graders studying Tanakh (Bible), focused on Samuel the prophet by acting out different aspects of his life. Students donned costumes and created dialogue that put them in the time of Samuel, looking at his views and creating accurate portrayals. Students worked in small groups to create short vignettes, with a few students serving as judges to determine which group more accurately followed the story and displayed a modern understanding of the Biblical text.
At yet a deeper level, students also learned about the value of cooperation and the role it plays in pursuing justice, righteousness and charity. The pursuit of cooperation is an important concept at Bornblum, not just because it helps to get things done, but because it creates a more just community where everyone’s voice is heard and all contributions are valued.
Recently, third graders learned the value of team building, cooperation and problem solving in a Marshmallow Challenge. Students were given limited supplies in order to design and create the tallest possible structure that would hold a marshmallow. They had only 20 minutes for the challenge. The results of this lesson were immediate as days later, students were faced with an additional challenge during a Social Studies project, and one student, drawing on the lessons of the Marshmallow Challenge, recognized that with cooperation, the project would be easier.
Our first grade students learned the word cooperation in vocabulary and we also practiced cooperation across all the grades as our Mishpachot (families) came together to begin creating their family crests, with logo and motto. Older students in each Mishpacha had come up with many of the basic elements for each Mishpacha, and they learned how to explain their work to the younger students in their family and how to fairly lead their family group.
Finally, our teachers talked to their students about the importance of giving Tzedakah. Together, we learned that to create a more righteous and just world, we need to cooperate and help one another by giving charity. This lesson is made easier because each day we are reminded of the important role that Tzedakah plays as we enter our school and pass by the beautiful Tzedakah box that was donated by our graduating class of 2019.
I am proud that at Bornblum, we illuminate our students’ world with important values like charity, righteousness, justice and cooperation.