4 September 2009
15 Elul 5769
It is with excitement and anticipation that we welcome everyone back from summer vacation to the start of what I know will be another incredible year!
What is it about new beginnings that is so energizing, so inspiring? No doubt this question resonates with me particularly powerfully right now as I stare at my baby girl who is just six hours old. Few things evoke people’s sense of the Divine like the “miracle” of a baby being born, an experience that illuminates both the fragility as well as the majesty of human life. Perhaps, we so often refer to the birth of a child as a “miracle” because this act of human creation bears witness to the power and presence of a Creator and Sustainer whose close presence we feel and whose transcendence we revere. A newborn embodies the concept of hitchadshut (renewal, creating anew), a process that points toward the One who is, in the words of our Shacharit (morning prayer) service, “mechadesh b’tuvo b’kol yom tamid ma’aseh breishit – who renews, through God’s goodness, every day, constantly, acts of creation.”
And it is precisely this ongoing creative process that makes the start of a new school year so special as well. During my opening session on Gann’s history and culture with our ninth grade class, I showed them one of our early t-shirts with the slogan on the back: “A New School for an Ancient People.” Several students and teachers shared their interpretations of the slogan and our school’s mission, and I offered mine as well: Too often we are pulled between the poles of the ancient – which is too far in the past, irrelevant and inaccessible – or the new – which is not rooted or anchored in our past at all. One of the reasons Gann was founded was to empower and inspire high school students who have the knowledge, passion, and sophistication to weave together a deep sense of and commitment to our shared past with a compelling vision of our shared future.
Then, Dr. Susie Tanchel, our Associate Head of School and the school’s first Tanakh teacher, shared her interpretation of the t-shirt: “We were and are called the New Jewish High School,” she suggested, “because of all of you. Because each year a new class of students enters our school and, through you, we as a school continue to grow and evolve. Your very presence and the potential of what your class will contribute to our community bear witness to the ongoing creative process that makes our school so special. Each of you,” she charged them, “through your passion and your voice, has the opportunity to be a co-creator of the history and the future of Gann Academy. It is you who bring the ancient to life, and it is you who keep us new.”
Like the birth of a child, the start of a school year offers us the wonder of hitchadshut, a reminder that the Divine process of creation and renewal is happening all around us constantly and an opportunity for each of us to be partners with God in creating and renewing ourselves, our community, and our world. May this year be filled with creative energy, appreciation, and joy as we begin again our journey of learning and building community together.
Rabbi Marc Baker