1 June 2012
11 Sivan 5772
Amidst the excitement and stress of our last week of classes, our students’ leadership and creativity have continued to shine. On Thursday night, I attended the performance of “The Looking Glass,” a musical revue created, directed, and produced by two seniors for their Ma’avar (senior internship/independent study program) project. These two students led nearly 30 of their classmates – singers, dancers, instrumentalists, choreographers, light and sound technologists – through an incredibly mature and moving presentation of songs addressing themes of contemporary social issues. What an extraordinary display of talent, passion, commitment, and intellectual and emotional depth!
On Wednesday night, we celebrated the commitment and accomplishments of our student-athletes at our annual Sports Banquet. From the words our coaches chose when describing their players and their seasons, it was clear why sports are such an integral part of our Jewish educational mission. Beginning with our Athletic Director Sue Johnson in her opening speech, each of the coaches used words like: anavah (humility), integrity, fairness, caring, kindness, work ethic, sportsmanship, heart, unity, desire, and spirit. These and other qualities are why our students achieve success on the field or court, in the classroom, and in so many other arenas. Ultimate Frisbee coach and Gann educator Simcha Cohen described the ethos of his sport, “It isn’t how much you win by but how you win that matters.”
Two stories in particular brought tears to my eyes. The girls’ varsity basketball coach described how the team practiced every day of their February vacation with the hope, perhaps, even the expectation that they would qualify for the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) tournament. After a week of hard work during their vacation, the team learned that they did not qualify. The coach shared how dejected he felt until one of his players emailed the whole team. “This will only help us for next year,” she wrote. In the coach’s words, “It was she who lifted us up.”
The girls’ varsity lacrosse coach told us about a game when his team was winning by 12 goals at halftime. Leading by so much prompted his players to initiate a discussion about how they could go back onto the field and carry themselves in a way that would show maximum respect to their opponents despite the score. Our girls understood that, at that point in the game, the dignity of their opponents was in their hands, and they took seriously the responsibility to lift up their opponents’ spirit.
From the stage to the court or field, all of these stories resonate beautifully with a commentary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on the name of this week’s Parsha, Naso. In an explanation of why this parsha always comes right before or right after the holiday of Shavuot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah, the Lubavitcher Rebbe suggests that “the parsha . . . is called Naso, which literally means ‘lift,’ indicating how Torah actually elevates our physical existence to a higher plane.” He continues, “From this, we can learn that the Torah was not intended to be limited to the realm of the academic or even the spiritual. Torah should affect us deeply, to the extent that even our ordinary, everyday activities become uplifted.”
At Gann, our vision of Jewish character and identity development is not limited to the realms of Jewish practice or Jewish learning. In fact, often what seem to be the least obvious “Jewish” environments are where our students’ middot, their inner qualities and their Jewish values as well as their deep care and concern for each other and the world, play out. In moments like these, Torah, in its broadest sense, elevates them, and they, in turn, elevate and inspire everyone around them.
Because of our inspiring students, teachers, coaches, administrators, and staff, the sacred responsibility to lead, teach, and learn in this extraordinary community truly uplifts me everyday.
Thank you all for a meaningful and growth-filled school year. Have a restful, safe, and fun summer!
Rabbi Marc Baker