Photo Caption: HBHA's final Cross Country meet of the season, and the final race for our 4 senior team members, Anna C., Ilana F., Abby K., and Nina S. We are proud of them for their dedication and hard work, which showed in yesterday's meet!
Yesterday, I attended HBHA's home Cross Country meet, and it was great to see our kids compete against so many other schools. Our students were fantastic. It was also wonderful to be outside on a beautiful day, among other families. It was a reminder that in the midst of all the change and instability of 2020, life goes on.
One thing that startled me was seeing someone I didn’t recognize wearing a shirt with the words Hyman Brand/Midland on it. I wondered, “Have I somehow missed that we have a second ‘Midland’ Campus? Is this man perhaps the Head of School at the other Hyman Brand? If so, shouldn’t I introduce myself to him?”
Instead, I asked around and discovered that Midland is a small school. They do not have enough runners to make up their own team, so they run with HBHA in order to compete in meets.
Thinking about it, I realized that while Hyman Brand is a community in and of itself, no community stands alone. We are all part of overlapping communities. I am part of the HBHA community, the Beth Shalom community, the Radiant Yoga community, the Pardes Educators community, the Jewish community, and many more! Each member of our community is in turn part of dozens of other communities, spreading out through the country and the world.
It was one of those simple but deep thoughts that created an internal shift. We are all part of each other's lives, and these connections span across the globe. Perhaps I needed to feel this as we approach a very turbulent election: We are all connected, we are members of one grand, shared, human community. It has been so easy to see other people in this country as “they.” But there is no “they,” only “we.”
This week, as we begin our Torah anew, I want all of us to view strangers - not as adversaries we are competing against - rather as people created in G-d’s image: people who, given a different shirt, would fit right into our community. Being on different teams - or in different communities - doesn’t make us enemies. It makes us part of a larger community, made up of people who find passion, pride and excitement in the same things we do.
One of my favorite commandments in Judaism comes when G-d describes our duties in celebrating Sukkot. In Deuteronomy 16:14, G-d tells us, “And you shall be joyous in your holiday, you, your son, and your daughter, your man-servant, and your maid-servant, the Levite, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow, that are within your gates.”
It is such an odd commandment! While it is clear how we can be commanded to do something, how can we be commanded to feel something? As a parent one can say, “Get in the car, we are leaving!” and expect results. But we can’t very well say, “You will enjoy going to the dentist or else!” Nevertheless, this is exactly what G-d commands of us!
To make matters even stranger, we are commanded to make others feel happy too. It’s our duty to feel happy and to make those around us feel happy - from those closest to us (our children) and moving outwards to those in the periphery of our lives - the stranger, the orphan and the widow.
As strange as this mitzvah is, it is a mitzvah. Not only is it a good deed, it is “commanded” upon us. No matter how one might feel at the time - scared or brave, worried or carefree, discontent or satisfied - the mitzvah is the same: We have to get happy; how do we achieve this?
The good news is, the Torah gives us a simple formula for success. Becoming joyous and making others joyous is as simple as being together and eating in huts (Sukkot)! We spend time outdoors, feeling the crispness of the weather, enjoying the changing of the leaves, and taking pride in having built a pretty little hut.
This Sukkot is a little different than most. In normal years we take pride in having visitors in our Sukkot. I suspect that there will be far fewer visits this year than usual. But no matter, we will find ways to be joyous. And here is a little help:
Yesterday, Johnson County released updated gating criteria based on their new understanding of the risks involved with opening school. This will undoubtedly affect our own operating procedures in a way that could allow our Lower School students to be in school more often! We are busy reviewing the new criteria, and adapting our own school’s gating criteria to the new standards. Know that we are working on it, and we hope to share good news with you next week!
I wish everyone a Chag Sukkot Sameach - your holiday should be full of happiness and joy for you, your children, and everyone with whom you come in contact.
With warm regards,
Dear Friends and Families,
Probably the most distinctive part of Yom Kippur is fasting. But the Torah itself never commands us to fast. The actual mitzvah (or commandment) given in the Torah is found in Leviticus 23:27, which states that, “On the tenth day of this month it is the Day of Atonement; there shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall afflict yourselves.”
This is a troublesome commandment that our rabbis had to deal with! After all, it's easy to imagine an escalating battle of ‘Who’s Holier.’ One holy person might say, “This year, in order to properly afflict myself, I rubbed soap in my mouth and eyes.” “Ha! This you call holy?” His friend might say. “I covered myself in honey and sat in an ant hill all day.” And so on.
What’s brilliant about how the rabbis handled this verse is that it's not what we do to afflict ourselves, but what we don’t do! We don’t eat or drink. We don’t wash or bathe ourselves. We don’t. We don't anoint ourselves with lotions or perfumes. We don't wear leather sandals. And we don't have marital relations.
By focusing on what we don’t do instead of what we should do, the rabbi has leveled the playing field. After all, no one can not eat any more than anyone can not eat. And so on.
On a deeper level, what fasting and the other prohibitions show us is how very fragile and needy we all are. In 25 short hours, we feel ourselves starting to break down. We are cranky, tired, achy, and smelly. All one has to do is take a short break from our daily maintenance: the things we do unconsciously and by rote to maintain our humanity, and we are laid low.
This year, perhaps even more than ever, we would benefit from seeing the fragility of our own humanity, and the human fragility in each other.
As head of school, I am awed by the responsibility I face this year, and I am humbled by the support you have given me. At the same time, I know that I am fallible. I make mistakes. And as humans, you do too. It’s not personal. It’s just part of being human.
As a community -- committed to each other, taking ownership of our mistakes, acknowledging the basic goodness and kindness of each other, and offering forgiveness for each other’s imperfections -- we reach beyond ourselves. We become something more complete and more perfect.
I hope that everyone has a meaningful Yom Kippur - whether you are fasting or not. May this be a year of strength for each of you, your families and for our whole community. May our prayers be accepted and may we be sealed in the book of life!
G’mar Chatimah Tovah,
Dear HBHA Friends and Family,
As we enter into Rosh Hashanah, we take time to reflect on our past year, and to hope for our year ahead. This past year has been a hard one, and I think we all hope that 5781 is a less stressful and tumultuous year! As challenging as it has been, 5780 has also been a telling year. This year we got to see the strong stuff that makes up our community. It's during times like these that people and communities show their true colors.
In the past year, I have seen that the Kansas City Jewish community is loving, patient, passionate and tenacious. At a time when many businesses, organizations, and schools are feeling their foundations cracking, HBHA is continuing to move ahead, doing what we have been doing for the past 54 years: serving the children and families of the community by offering loving attention that helps our students thrive and grow academically, socially, emotionally - and as emerging leaders in our community. Not to mention the top-tier Jewish and secular education.
To finish off my last email of 5780, I want to bring to mind the Vidui (confession) Prayer we say at Yom Kippur. The liturgy goes through the alphabet, mentioning a sin that we have committed, one for each letter. What stands out to me is not the list of sins, but that we say them in the first person plural -- we. We stand as one community and we are in this together. There is no community I would rather ride this out with than ours.
May you and your families have a sweet, happy, healthy, successful and uneventful year in 5781!
There is so much uncertainty surrounding our lives, and worries about school have shifted to the top of the list for many of us parents in the past few weeks. As we finish our first week of in-person learning, concerns like the ones listed below are likely troubling us all:
- How will HBHA respond the first time a student gets sick?
- What kind of guidance will HBHA provide about when I can send my children to school? Or what do I do when my child or an immediate family member becomes ill?
- Will the virtual learning technology work so our students can stream in?
When does the gating criteria kick in to shift to an all-virtual schedule?
Well, I have some good news and some bad news; and even a few answers.
The bad news is that HBHA has already managed our first quarantine situation. The good news is that it was managed well, and the family in question is the Tilove family!
That’s right. One of my sons came down with a sore throat on Tuesday night and stayed home on Wednesday. He had a strep test which came back negative, followed by a COVID test, for which we are still awaiting an answer.
My guess is that his sore throat came from the rapid change in Kansas weather. Or simply exposure to new germs after many months of staying at home. But in this day and age, we can't be too careful. So the entire Tilove family remains hunkered down at home until we get the results of his COVID test.
As the first parent - and staff member - to go through this experience so far this year, I’d like to share what I’ve learned.
- We miss being together in school. Snow days are awesome. But snow months get a little tiresome!
- HBHA is on top of things when it comes to working with families facing health concerns. Nurse Elisa Pener, along with the many trusted medical practitioners on our School Reopening Task Force, are staying up-to-date on the latest in COVID science to help keep our school community safe. We remain in close contact with the Johnson County Health Department when questions arise. At the same time, our families have been wonderful partners - taking an active role in pandemic safety at HBHA. Thanks to each one of you who has already reached out to Nurse Pener to discuss and resolve health concerns before it becomes a potential problem. It is up to each of us to keep us all safe, and I encourage you to reach out to Nurse Pener if you have health-related questions.
- The technology isn’t always perfect: We are still ironing out kinks in the system, but we are working on it. As the head of school I - along with our dedicated team - am determined to make it better. As a parent, I’m being patient, as I remind myself how much new equipment, time and energy has gone into trying to anticipate and navigate every possible technology challenge before school started.
- If you need to get tested, you should ask if the test will be an instant 15 minute test or if it will take 24-72 hours to get results. I got my results in 15 minutes (negative!), but we still await my son’s results. While we are 99% sure it is not COVID, we are electing to remain in quarantine until we know for sure.
As for the gating criteria, our School Reopening Task Force is staying on top of the local COVID numbers. We continue to meet weekly to review and make sure we are making the best decisions possible, using the latest information provided by local officials.
We look forward to another all-virtual week of school, starting Sept. 14!