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I am always inspired by conversations with students about educational experiences that they find meaningful and transformative.~ Seeing the world through the eyes of a student is often the most powerful way of bringing aspects of our school’s mission to life.
This week, a student came to me to share an experience that she felt opened her eyes and touched her heart. Her documentary film class (a senior year history elective) traveled to the Worcester Public Library for a forum on homelessness organized by the National Coalition for the Homeless. The class – about twenty of our seniors – heard from two formerly homeless people about their journey into homelessness and about the experience of being a homeless person in America. What struck this student most was that, until meeting these people, she never realized the extent to which society – and she, through her preconceptions and her behavior – dehumanizes homeless people. The forum put a face on what it means to be homeless and the experience will forever change the way she understands and relates to homeless people.
In our mission statement, we affirm “we believe in the imperative of Gemilut Hesed (acts of loving kindness) and the demand of Tikkun Olam (to improve the world in which we live).” At the heart of our vision of pluralism is the belief that every human being is created B’Tzelem Elohim (in the Image of God), thereby creating an obligation to respect and protect the dignity of every person. In order for students to go from intellectual understanding to internalization, education must touch both their minds and their souls. Our conversation reminded me that internalization and responsibility begins with empathy. Becoming partners with God in mending our broken world begins by opening our hearts – with listening and truly seeing the experience of the other, especially those less fortunate than we.
May we continue to listen and learn about those whose experiences of the world are different from ours, and may our understanding and empathy translate into a deepening sense of responsibility to take action in the world.
Rabbi Marc Baker