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This week, during Community Block (a rotating block that creates time in the schedule for clubs and student organizations to meet, for students to meet with teachers, or for other special community meetings), our school community met to ratify a constitution for our Va’ad Hamishpat (Student-Faculty Disciplinary Committee). It was especially meaningful to me because nine years ago, during the second year of the school’s existence, when I served as Director of Athletics and Extracurricular Activities, I convened a group of teachers and students to begin thinking about what it would look like to involve students and teachers in the disciplinary process. As I recall, we managed to get a committee off the ground; but I never imagined that years later this va’ad would be one of the cornerstones of our school’s culture and community.
I want to acknowledge all of the students and faculty who have served on the va’ad and, in particular, Mr. Yoni Kadden, who has overseen the va’ad for several years, who oversaw the writing of the constitution, and whose passion for the democratic process and for empowering students is a model for all of us.
The most inspiring aspect of this week’s meeting to ratify the constitution was the thoughtful and insightful questions that our students asked about various aspects of the constitution. They probed and challenged. They argued about and defended the guidelines laid out in the document, as well as the philosophical and educational principles that underpin the va’ad process. In the end, the students, faculty and administration voted to ratify the new constitution; but to me, the medium of this meeting was in fact the message. We are a school that was founded upon a belief that at the heart of pluralism and at the heart of the Jewish tradition of learning is thoughtful discourse and debate, in which every member of our community is empowered and expected to lend his or her voice to a communal conversation.
While the conclusions may shift and change over time, who we are is defined by the nature and the vibrancy of our conversation. I am proud to say that as we enter our second decade, the conversation continues . . . as vibrant as ever.
Rabbi Marc Baker