Dear HBHA Community,
Over the past few weeks, attention in the news has appropriately shifted from nonstop coronavirus coverage to the recent incidents of racial injustice throughout our country, most notably the tragic and deplorable murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery and the ensuing protests that have taken place throughout the United States and around the world.
There are no adequate words that can express our sadness and anger to these and similar acts of brutality that communities of color have had to endure for far too long in our country. As Americans and professionals in a Jewish Community Day School, we can and must allow ourselves to experience these difficult and uncomfortable feelings. More so, we must take concrete action and do our part to ensure no other families have to experience the agony of losing sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers in this way.
Our school’s mission states that we aim to help our students “become honorable and contributing citizens.” Our Profile of a Graduate further adds that our graduates will demonstrate “Actions that embody respect for the dignity of all people and all faiths.” Our Torah commands us to “Pursue Justice relentlessly,” while our prophets tell us we must be “A light unto the nations.”
These values provide us purpose as a people and as an institution. We are committed to developing the whole child based on our rich Jewish tradition, helping guide them to become righteous upstanders and change-makers in the world. We are proud of our school’s efforts to both teach meaningful content and engage our students in transformative experiences. We explicitly ask our students to grapple and grow toward these ideals, and while we are proud of our work, this week we recognize that there is more to do.
Doing more requires us to use our creative energy to develop and implement innovative curricula and transformational experiences appropriate for students at each developmental stage. It requires a willingness for all adults to honestly examine our fears, biases, privileges and relationships with communities who are disproportionately affected by injustice. It requires a willingness to reach out and connect with those who can work with us to find concrete and meaningful solutions to the disparities and distrust that have been laid bare by these tragic events.
Today, we know we have a great deal more to learn. And we have a renewed determination to live up to our highest ideals and to give our students the opportunity to become their best selves and be champions for justice and dignity for all people. We know as parents that these are not easy conversations, but we stand beside and with you as you try to make sense of what has happened and also provide hope that there can be - and is - a better way forward.
We make this statement not as the final word, but rather as our opening remark. It is a reaffirmation of our school’s commitment to social justice and as a pledge to use the tragedies to call for further action. This will likely lead to new programmatic ideas which will then become part of our school’s curriculum.
In the meantime, we encourage each family to have conversations with your children about racism and injustice. These are difficult, awkward, and sometimes painful conversations. However, discussing and empathizing with the experience of others is core to who we are as a people. What’s more, it is critical to raising children who are willing to stand up, speak up, and act.
Below you will find two articles to help you navigate these challenging conversations with children/teens of all ages. Of course, we are also here to listen to your thoughts and ideas, and to provide support and guidance should you need it.
Adam Tilove, Head of School
Todd Clauer, Upper School Principal
Dr. Jessica Kyanka-Maggart, Lower & Middle School Principal
Rabbi Avi Weinstein, Head of Jewish Studies
Photo courtesy of Julia Shapiro Photography
Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy Board of Trustees, Administration, Faculty and Staff are proud to announce the Commencement for the Class of 2020 will be held at 7pm on Monday, May 18, 2020, in a private ceremony. The community is invited to watch the ceremony in one of two ways:
- live from their cars in the Jewish Community Campus parking lot (attendees must remain in their vehicles) or
- via livestream on Facebook Live. Viewers do not need to have a Facebook account to watch the graduation proceedings
This live, in-person outdoor graduation ceremony will take place in the main parking lot at the Jewish Community Campus. Just as with any graduation, seniors will deliver their planned speeches and will receive their HBHA diplomas. New this year, is an outside graduation, set up for social distancing, and shared with a streaming audience. School administrators will present from a podium that will be set up in the grass circle at the main entrance so attendees in their cars can view the proceedings while they listen in on a special FM radio station.
The school is working with HBHA parents and Campus security to ensure this one-hour event remains safe, yet accessible. Immediate family members of the graduates will be given parking spaces closest to the podium and speakers. The addition of technology will ensure the audience can hear from their car. And, perhaps most important, participants will be encouraged to cheer for each graduate by using their car horns after the speeches.
“The ceremony will contain most, but not all, elements of our traditional graduation ceremony to ensure everyone’s safety and continued health. We know this has been a challenging time for all of our students, especially our seniors, who are missing all of the usual end-of-year activities. We are pleased we can do something special - and safe - to celebrate the culmination of their time at HBHA,” said Todd Clauer, HBHA’s Upper School Principal.
Since HBHA moved to a distance learning program in mid-March, students have kept up with their studies online, and remained connected with their teachers and classmates through Zoom lessons and collaborative projects. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, HBHA Upper School students missed two class trips: the Civil Rights Tour of the South that ninth and tenth graders participate in - in partnership with University Academy students, and the Jewish Heritage Trip to Poland and Israel for juniors and seniors.
“While we cannot make up for the events they have missed throughout the course of the pandemic, we are pleased to be able to offer them a social distance-style graduation experience,” said Clauer.
Seniors in the class of 2020 will attend the following post-secondary institutions:
- Addison Brand, University of Kansas
- Eli Cohavi, University of Denver
- Gavi Glickman, Yeshivat Orayta then University of Maryland Honors Program
- Mirra Goldenberg, University of Colorado
- Ethan Herman, Tulane University
- Sara Saidel, Young Judea Year Course then University of Maryland
- Ayelet Schuster, Bradley University Honors Program
“On behalf of the entire staff and faculty, we are so proud of our 2020 graduates and wish them only the best in the years to come. Through our school’s individualized college prep and guidance process, our seniors have been very thoughtful in selecting the right fit for themselves, in terms of their continuing education,” said Adam Tilove, HBHA Head of School.
HBHA Alumni offer advice to the Class of 2020 upon their graduation:
Congrats, everybody! Take the time to be proud of all of your hard work, you deserve it!
Sophomore at Muhlenberg College
Class of 2018
Stay connected to your Jewish identity as you enter this next chapter. This looks different for everyone, but exploring which Jewish traditions and values resonate with you most can be grounding as you gain independence.
Graduating Senior at Washington University in St. Louis
Class of 2016
In Pirkei Avot 2:4, Hillel says, “do not say ‘when I free myself of my concerns, I will study,' for perhaps you will never free yourself.” As you venture out into the world, I hope that you follow Hillel’s advice and make time to continue your Jewish education in your own way. Mazal tov on graduating from HBHA!
Middle School Judaic Studies Teacher at the Leffell School (Hartsdale, NY)
Class of 2010
Greetings Graduates! Today's world isn't the same as it yesteryear's, so take in all the advice you can from experienced professionals, digest it, and from there make your own well-informed decisions. You earned a great education at HBHA, now put it to good use.
Saint Luke’s, Strategic Planning
HBHA class of 2000
Dear Families and Friends,
It has been a crazy semester but here we are, almost at the finish line! I want to take a minute to express my gratitude for the many blessings I have in my life.
To the talented and hard-working employees of HBHA, thank you.
To the brilliant and energetic members of the Board of Trustees, thank you.
To the committed and passionate families of HBHA, thank you.
To the supporters of HBHA, thank you.
And to the leadership at the Jewish Community Foundation, the Jewish Federation, The J KC, the Menorah Heritage Foundation, and the synagogues of Kansas City, thank you.
And finally, to the resilient, hardworking, and flexible students of HBHA, thank you.
HBHA exists because of the community, and for the benefit of the community. And it takes all of our support to make such a community operate. I am grateful to be a part of this school and community.
We recognize that this summer is likely going to be different than any other summer. Plans are being canceled or changed. Camps are being delayed or canceled altogether. While we have been hyper-focused on reaching the end of the academic year, we are looking in ways to keep our kids connected over summer. While these plans are in their infancy, we want to encourage you to make your own plans to keep in touch. One easy way to keep in touch is to join our Parent Forum Facebook page. We want to encourage everyone to get involved in building and sustaining your children’s social connections over the summer.
Next week is a big week with our:
- Class of 2020 Graduation Ceremony on Monday, May 18,
- Kindergarten Graduation on May 21, and
- 5th and 8th Grade Continuation Ceremonies on May 22.
I wish to congratulate all of our students and families on completing a truly challenging and unusual year!
With excitement and anticipation,
HBHA Head of School
Dear Families and Friends,
On the way to work this morning, I heard a DJ on the radio grant a listener’s request. “I’m going to play 8 Days a Week since it’s so hard to tell what day we are on these days.” It’s true. Without going to work and school, the days seem to run together. The work is always lingering as close as the closest device. The workday has gone from 7:45 am - 4:00 pm to ‘whenever I get up to whenever I go to bed.’
So thank goodness it’s Shabbes! Abraham Joshua Heschel described Shabbat as “a sanctuary in time.” It is a space in time. It is unavoidable. When we can’t celebrate Judaism in the synagogue, we still have the sanctuary of time, providing us the structure to separate, rest, and reflect.
Achad Ha’am once remarked, “More than the Jewish People have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” Shabbat may have been created as a concept thousands of years ago, but never has it felt more important than it does today.
I hope this is a meaningful, happy, and healthy Shabbat for each of you and your families.
Before I sign off for the week, I want to remind you that we are running a COVID-19 Emergency Fundraiser for our families feeling the economic impact of this crisis. We have done a phenomenal job so far, reaching almost $18,000 in the past week!
However, all that money came from 68 donors … and we have more than 1,110 friends on Facebook. Knowing there are so many of you out there who love and support HBHA: I ask, encourage, urge everyone who receives this email to dig extra deep right now. Please, if you can, donate $10 to HBHA. If you can do $18, please do so. And if you can give more, we will be so grateful.
This school is important to so many people and has been for so long, but we need your help right now. Remember, any gifts given through May 26 will be matched. Make your gift even more meaningful - and your dollars stretch further - by giving today.
Thank you and stay healthy!
HBHA Head of School
This week, HBHA Board President Li Balanoff guest writes for Adam Tilove's weekly blog:
The past 6 weeks have been a time of rapid change and uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic is a moment in history that we and our children will remember and talk about well into the future. Yes, we will remember the worrying, the social distancing, and the multitude of changes in our daily lives and schedules. We will also remember the amazing displays of friendship and community outreach, the innovative technology that kept us connected, and the blessing of spending unstructured time with our families.
The administrators and teachers have been absolutely AMAZING in this transition. While we miss being within the four walls of HBHA, it is clear that our school is so much more than those four walls. The learning continues online, as does our sense of community. I love when I am home and can hear all of the familiar voices and laughs during my kids’ online classes. I also love getting a front row seat, where I can see how the teachers are engaging the students, and how the students are relating to each other. What a gift!
These relationships and connections are so vital in these times. While we must maintain physical separation, we must not be distant from each other. The heart and soul of HBHA is you! We are committed to you, your health, and your overall well-being.
While reading in attempts to wrap my brain around everything, one conclusion by Rabbi Jim Rogozen jumped out at me. “In Pirkei Avot: Ayzeh hu chacham? HoRoeh et ha’nolad. Who is wise? The one who can see what has yet to be born. Our job, right now, is to look around corners, find our paths, and get ready to walk on them in the months to come. Being ready doesn’t mean that all will go smoothly; it doesn’t mean there won’t be worry or anxiety. But having thought through these challenging scenarios now will help each of us be more confident when it comes time to putting a plan into motion.”
Your Board of Directors has been working diligently behind the scenes to adapt and plan for the future. We understand the uncertainty of the next few months or even years. We are developing plans, budgets and opportunities to ensure the success of HBHA during and beyond COVID-19. We remain committed to providing you and your children an educational opportunity that is unsurpassed and unique – and remains true to our mission and vision of a “strong academic foundation with individualized attention, all emanating from Jewish values.”
We also acknowledge the hardship this pandemic has created for Americans across the nation. If you find yourself in a situation where HBHA tuition falls out of reach, please complete this form. We have additional resources to help our families during this challenging time, and a committee that is devoted to reviewing coronavirus-related needs.
Your PTO will continue working to maintain our community with a sense of meaning, purpose and gratitude. If you have extra time on your hands right now (after those closets are cleaned out and the house decluttered!), please reach out to the PTO. Volunteerism is a great way to stay connected while making a positive impact on the lives of others.
Wishing everyone a healthy spring and looking forward to celebrating the ongoing achievements of our students,
HBHA, Board President