by Daniel R. Weiss, Head of School
This week, we celebrated those members of our Jewish community and school community who have bravely served our country. We invited veterans to join us at school for a Veterans Day program. Our students learned from our veterans so that they and their stories will always be with us, and as a reminder that we must be thankful each day for what we have!
Gratitude is something that we instill in our students each day at school as we open our morning with the Pledge of Allegiance, showing our gratitude to those who make sure that we have the freedom to live in a democratic country where we are free to practice our religion. As Lieutenant Commander Rabbi Aaron Kleinman told our students, he serves so that each student can know that they have the ability to learn and have a Jewish education.
Each morning, we begin our morning services with the words:
.מוֹדֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶֽיךָ, מֶֽלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּם, שֶׁהֶחֱזַֽרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְּחֶמְלָה, רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶֽךָ
I am grateful to You, eduring King, because you have restored my soul to me in compassion. Great is your trustworthiness.
Each day that we wake up is a new day. It is full of new challenges and new opportunities. We spend our lives worried about what might become and where our decisions might lead us. Yet, each morning we begin anew, with new challenges and new opportunities
One of the more often quoted Jewish texts comes from the first Mishna in chapter 4 of Pirke Avot, Ethics of our Sages, in which we read:
בֶּן זוֹמָא אוֹמֵר, אֵיזֶהוּ חָכָם, הַלּוֹמֵד מִכָּל אָדָם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים קיט), מִכָּל מְלַמְּדַי הִשְׂכַּלְתִּי כִּי עֵדְוֹתֶיךָ שִׂיחָה לִּי
Ben Zoma would say: Who is wise? One who learns from every man. As is stated (Psalms 119:99): “From all my teachers I have grown wise, for Your testimonials are my meditation.”
Our teachers at Bornblum are experts in their fields, yet they are continually learning from each other and learning from their students. They take the lessons from our history and apply them to our lives today.
אֵיזֶהוּ גִבּוֹר, הַכּוֹבֵשׁ אֶת יִצְרוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (משלי טז), טוֹב אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם מִגִּבּוֹר וּמשֵׁל בְּרוּחוֹ מִלֹּכֵד עִיר
Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations. As is stated (Proverbs 16:32), “Better one who is slow to anger than one with might, one who rules his spirit than the captor of a city.”
We live in a world with almost immediate access to everything. Desire is continually played our front of our eyes. We teach our students patience and conflict resolution. We teach the importance of “slow to anger”.
אֵיזֶהוּ עָשִׁיר הַשָמֵחַ בְּחֶלְקוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים קכח), יְגִיעַ כַּפֶּיךָ כִּי תֹאכֵל אַשְׁרֶיךָ וְטוֹב לָךְ. אַשְׁרֶיךָ, בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה. וְטוֹב לָךְ, לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא
Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot. As is stated (Psalms 128:2): “If you eat of toil of your hands, fortunate are you, and good is to you”; “fortunate are you” in this world, “and good is to you” in the World to Come.
We build, we draw, we write, we create. We value what we have and how we come to have it. We teach our students to be happy with what they have, for it is truly good.
אֵיזֶהוּ מְכֻבָּד, הַמְכַבֵּד אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמואל א ב), כִּי מְכַבְּדַי אֲכַבֵּד וּבֹזַי יֵקָלוּ:
Who is honorable? One who honors his fellows. As is stated (I Samuel 2:30): “For to those who honor me, I accord honor; those who scorn me shall be demeaned.”
We teach our students respect. We teach them to give thanks to those who have helped them and honor to those who came before them. We teach our students the value of service and that with hard work, nothing is unachievable.
That is the lesson we learned from our 13 veterans and active duty military who joined us at school. The program started with Kindergarten leading the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, 1st grade sang The Star Spangled Banner. Fourth grade led Hatikvah and third grade led Shema. Fifth grade read the Prayer for the Safety of the American Military Forces. Finally, second grade held up posters to announce each branch of service and asked the military men and women to stand when their branch was called. This was followed by a video of the students saying what Veterans Day is, why we should celebrate, what sacrifices veterans make, and “Thank you.”
We then broke into our Mishpachot where our students interviewed our veterans. Both students and teachers were awed by the stories shared by our veterans. We ended our program with everyone singing, “Thank you, Soldiers.”
Several of the veterans brought pictures or other items to share with the students. Some even gave small gifts to the children. The children gave a book from each Mishpacha “Because of You…” to show the men and women that the children know they have freedoms thanks to Veterans.
A special thank you to Rabbi Brett Oxman who helped to ensure that Memphis’s Jewish War Veterans were included in our program. Thank you to Murray Habbaz, Barrie Weiser, Jay Daneman, Dr. Steve Wachtel, Rabbi Aaron Kleinman, Rabbi David Radinsky, Dr. Norman Galen, Fred Miner, Sam Chafetz and Devorah Leah Bender. Thank you also to Bornblum parents David Petersen and Chaim Hertzel for being a part of our program and to Mr. Robert Schueller, our Middle School Coordinator who is also a veteran.
Our program was put together as a result of our Fifth Grade teacher, Cindy VanGunda’s Passion Project, with a desire to connect our students with older generations, to learn, to grow and to recognize the importance of our community.