To prepare for Yom Kippur I must be ready to be as honest with myself as possible. I have an entire year to prepare for this. I can’t worry about the bagel and lox and all the wonderful delicacies that will come soon. This is my time--and as I prepare myself for this day, it's important to strive to be that better person that you thought you prayed for last Yom Kippur.
I was knee-deep in a fairly stressful crisis during that weekend, trying to protect the harvest and the tender plants that I feared might not survive. But I was able to celebrate the moments, enjoy the discoveries of the children, feel the magic of the community coming together in a time of need. It was moving. It was powerful.
There has been much discussion this year about how, with the loss of traditional synagogue services and rituals, the High Holiday experience that people are used to and comfortable with will be inaccessible. This will leave many Jews wondering what to do, themselves lacking the ability or even just the will to go through such long prayers alone. While that is undeniably true, I believe that this year presents us with a unique opportunity to get more in touch with the essence of the holidays, if only we are willing to change our typical focus.
After educating some of the Denver area’s most successful high school students, we find that the students who truly thrive are those who stretch far beyond academic excellence. Yes, of course, good grades play a role (but that’s obvious, right?). But the happiest, most fulfilled, most confident teenagers have developed 4 core non-conventional life skills that parents often miss.
In the coming months, I know that we will have to keep grinding and climbing, but I know we will reach our peak and things should get easier eventually. I am going to make sure that whatever ends up happening, Denver JDS will give its students the best possible education in the safest possible environment. It is our job to help shape and mold our next generation, especially in these most trying of times.
Now, more than ever, Denver Jewish Day School gives me the opportunity to recognize what gratitude really means. Despite how vigilant we need to be to keep our community safe and still maintain community, it is a privilege to be part of this community, and I am grateful for every day that I get to spend with our students and faculty, no matter how different school looks right now.
Perseverance and hard work pay off. Failing at something the first time is merely a First Attempt In Learning. Watching our students embrace this work under the extraordinary circumstances of this school year’s start has made every moment of planning (and replanning) worth it. It reminded me again that we, and our children, can do hard things.
"What took place on the Farmette this summer is what makes all my work here worthwhile," said Ms. Pallas. "To see the Farmette bring so many families together and all of the smiles it put on children's faces, it truly warmed my heart."
Isaac's experience at Herzl/RMHA was core to the development of the values that he tries to carry with him every day -- including a focus on curiosity, compassion, community, and creativity. He continues to be amazed at how strangely good Color War was as a simulation of graduate school (late nights, building things, debating, and teamwork)
Team Denver JDS - composed of seniors Shira Fox and Eitan Kochavi, junior Jonas Rosenthal, and freshman Rachel Kaufmann - had to rework and choreograph their planned presentation to fit the new medium, and did so with flair, staging a Shark Tank-style presentation of the student group in question seeking to win a grant from an incubator foundation, inspired by the activities experienced in Marty Zimmerman’s Non-Profit Entrepreneurship course.
If you had the opportunity to watch this year’s DJDS Varsity Boys Basketball team, I’m willing to bet you were eager to watch them play again. The reason is simple - this team genuinely knew how to play the game of basketball the right way and they had fun doing it. This team loved to share the basketball and always made the extra pass. As you watched these boys play, you quickly realized that their style of play was contagious, as was their genuine bond - a true brotherhood.
As a result of COVID-19, I have not really been looking forward to this day because I know it won’t be the same as the past and future graduations. But today I saw all of my classmates, following social distancing guidelines, and it gave me closure. It might have been the last time I see my entire class together. We were robbed of many experiences and I did not understand how much I needed to see everyone together one last time before we graduate. It truly made me so happy.
I have watched these young men and women for the past seven years face the challenges of school, adolescence, and the larger world with courage and grit. I have watched them captain our basketball team to the greatest season in our school’s history. I have watched them help our fledgling literary magazine earn an award in only its second year of existence. I have watched them excel in the classroom, and take leadership roles in all facets of our school community. I have watched them take advantage of all that our wonderful school offers and grow into mature young men and women.
For me, the most difficult part is understanding that high school is over. However, as the world continues to adapt, we understand that as the oldest students in the school, it is for us to support what we know to be the best decision. We understand that while we feel like victims, the true victims are the unemployed, the hungry, the sick, and the needy. We continue to stay optimistic and we hope that the community here in Denver is healthy.
We are blessed at Denver Jewish Day School to be inspired by our student body, comprised of children who each bring something unique and divine to the table every day. This is our blessing for them on this Passover holiday which is unlike any we’ve experienced before yet still filled with opportunities for learning, self discovery, and growth.
There is so much to worry about….on every level. My son is graduating this year. What will his college experience look like? How many times do I have to ask my kids to walk the dog? I used my last paper towel this morning. But for 24 minutes this morning, my life was filled with community, hope, and comfort. It led to clarity that can serve as a beacon in the wake of whatever unfolds in the weeks to come. For that, I’m eternally grateful.
My work is not easy. The world hasn’t always been friendly to Jews. Religion and intellect aren’t readily seen as going hand in hand. Paying for school in a milieu where public schools and schools of choice thrive isn’t a top priority for many. But what I can say unequivocally is that my son and his classmates, who graduate in May, are going into the world proud, thoughtful, and ready with a skill set and a mindset they could not have gained without Denver Jewish Day School.
Growing up as an Orthodox Jew in Denver Colorado, with a graduating class of three people (the first-ever graduating class from RMHA), helped Eric retain a sense of individualism and confidence, that he carries every day in the bigger wider world. But wherever he goes, he is still most proud of his two wonderful children who are the a product of two RMHA graduates.
As a visionary head of school, I do not have the option to be complacent. Sitting back does not lead to growth or learning for anyone, and I see it as my job to model the values of our institution; kindness, integrity, curiosity, community, and purpose. I feel renewed, invigorated and alive with my own work to evolve and transform and I want to thank you for being on this journey with me.
Intensives are a fun and creative way to ease students back into their school routine while introducing them to new topics that may interest them. It's another thing that gives Denver JDS students a unique experience and that truly sets Denver JDS apart from other schools.
I’ve been thinking about the school’s magic. Why are the kids at graduation always so confident and well-spoken? Why do they thrive in college and graduate school? Why are they so much fun to be around? Here are three things I’ve noticed as a parent:
This week, 19 students in grades 6-12 came together to solve this driving question: How can you persuade a group of decision-makers that Denver JDS should or should not adopt Esports as part of the athletic program? We have employed an array of modalities to examine this question and this cutting edge billion-dollar industry.
This is a tremendous opportunity for our students to grow in ways they never imagined, and to develop personal connections with the Jewish national homeland, something for which our people have yearned for longer than most other world cultures have existed. It is a gift, but also a great responsibility to shape the narrative of the next generation of young people’s relationship with the State of Israel.
I work at Denver JDS because it combines two things I love to do, working in the office environment and working with kids. This school gives so many opportunities to grow as a person and grow within my religion!
I felt an immediate sense of community as soon as I walked through the front doors of Denver JDS. Fostering a supportive and warm community forms the very foundation of my teaching practice and philosophy so I knew Denver JDS was going to be an excellent fit for me!
We would recommend Denver JDS to other families because of its mission of providing a program strong in both social-emotional and academic training and because of Denver JDS’ amazingly warm, inviting and inclusive community. Thanks to all of you for making this a smooth transition for us!
I chose to leave my last school to come to Denver JDS because I believe in Jewish Education, I believe that students are amazing no matter where they are, and because I have wanted to teach at Denver JDS for many years. This was the perfect time to come to Denver JDS.
I love the community here - both from my days as a student, and now! I have so much faith in the school leadership and knew from my earliest conversations with them that everyone is here to help raise and educate our Jewish children. I am so thrilled to be part of that!
I work at Denver JDS because every path in life that I have taken has been lit by my passions for education and Judaism. Denver JDS finds the perfect crossroads of the two things that matter the most to me. I am so happy for the opportunity to share these passions with a like-minded community.
I am a huge fan of the culture and the inclusion that I've seen here at Denver JDS. All walks of life are welcome and the class sizes make it so manageable to teach and work on fun new skills and activities
Upon reflection, I realized the source of my excitement about the start of the school comes from my deep-seated beliefs about the importance of Jewish day school education. There are so many compelling reasons to send your children to Denver JDS. Here are three that rise to the top for me.
Like teachers of any subject, I hope to convince my students that the subject matter of our course lives not only in the classroom, but “everywhere.” Practically speaking then, my goal was for my students to create an experience that others would enjoy, using history as the raw material. The challenge of producing an “experience” for a real audience tends to bring out the best in students, in part because it draws on skills that go beyond what is normally required to complete an academic assignment.
We want to nurture what our kids experience in their physical space and social well-being at Denver JDS. As a PTO, we can help contribute to those objectives. PTO went through a process of asking for wish lists from both divisions, consulted with administrators and teachers, while focusing on the social, fun aspects for our kids. Here's what we're now able to do!
Both Craig and Shapir embodied chesed, as well as scholarship. Chesed, along with the other Divrei Chaim (Words to Live By) and middot (values) that are the foundation of the Denver JDS community are what truly prepare our children for their lives in the world. Teachers like Craig produce alumni like Shapir, graduates who are able to navigate life, in all its challenges and successes, with self-reflection, kindness, and scholarly curiosity.
PBL units are often grounded in real life scenarios and should be as “authentic” as possible. Our sixth graders recently demonstrated their expertise by taking on a science and English challenge: create a marketing tool, e.g. a website, travel magazine, or promotional video for a fictional island based on the island from Theodore Taylor's The Cay.
When I reflect and evaluate how we are doing as a school I look at the big picture. This time of year we get some important big picture data that indicates how the school is doing at preparing our students for the real world.
By participating in the National Geographic Society's Geo Challenge, our sixth graders learned the value of cooperative learning, how to put creative thinking and problem solving into action, and the value of grit and determination.
I really enjoy getting to experience and witness how science applies to real life. To me, that is the coolest part about Eureka Week and science at Denver JDS. Students have the opportunity to research something they find interesting, and then explore it further and make it relatable.
If we can get kids of different ages to take risks, get out of their comfort zone and to learn to work together as a team in the vein of theater, then why can’t these same kids go out in the world and behave the same?
I really think what this week’s parashah is trying to teach us is that to help others be the best people they can be, first you need to be the best you you can be. In order to make others happy, you have to make yourself happy.
Kids are way more fun to talk with than grown-ups. Granted, their vocabulary and cultural context may not extend quite as far as most adults’, but they are wonderfully opinionated and thoughtful about the things that matter to them. So why is it so arduous to elicit more than a grunt or “fine” (if you’re lucky) as a response to the age-old question at pick up: “How was school today?”
As parents, it’s important to be able to navigate this complicated topic in age-appropriate ways. With help from organizations like The Blue Bench, we can do our part to recognize risky situations and teach children about boundaries and consent.
As I got ready to watch the Human Fountains on Thursday night at Denver Jewish Day School's Annual Dinner, I couldn't help but think of what so many people had asked me earlier in the night. "Can you believe what this group has turned into?" Most guests naturally couldn't fathom that a one-time Color War act could end up being shared millions of times online and eventually land on national television.
Parshat Pekudei mostly consists of the details relating to the mishkan’s structure. Essentially, the tabernacle, or mishkan, was a portable temple that the Jews used while they were wandering for 40 years. It is one of the most holy places in all of Jewish history. Because God’s presence was there, it makes perfect sense why the Torah would delve into such detail about the contents that lay within it.
What I’m seeing is teamwork and excitement and the building of community. It’s not that kids are rooting against each other, they’re rooting for one another. Each kid is being allowed to shine in his or her own way whether it’s winning points for his or her team through a board game, academic competition, a skit, a dance or some other performance or activity.
I built a PC because I want to be a computer engineer when I am older. I learned what all the different pieces do, like the power supply and the memory cards and the graphics card and mother board. The mother board basically supports everything and creates the computer from the other components.
It sounds like we need to struggle. We need to be under pressure to create something great. If we just had things smooth and easy the accomplishment would not be as great. In some cases, maybe the greater the pressure, the greater the achievement. Appreciation for our weaknesses and the things that make us scared is so important because the product they give us could change our lives.
At Denver Jewish Day School, we encourage our Upper Division students to join one of our sports teams. We have a no-cut policy, meaning that every child who wants to participate can. I recall numerous times watching a child start a season as an unsure participant — with little experience — and then blossom in just the space of a couple of months into a confident leader and, more importantly, a good teammate.
February is known as Heart Health Awareness Month. In our Lower Division physical education classes, we have been discussing what does it mean to be heart healthy? How can we lead physically active and healthy lives? Our students have discussed the concepts of heart rate, pulse, and how our blood and oxygen travel from our lungs to the heart and out to the rest of our bodies.
The more I understand what our children are doing, and the philosophy behind the school’s choices and priorities, the more connected I feel, and the more invested I feel in my choice to send my children to this great school.
This Friday, February 1, our Lower Division students will participate in a Celebration of Literacy Day. Each year this day serves as a reminder of the power of books in the lives of our young students. From celebrating favorite characters, to chatting with authors, to simply listening to an adult share a book out loud — the day brings a feeling of joy about books!
Denver Jewish Day School began offering a Words to Live By (Divrei Chaim) Speaker Series at the beginning of this school year. I have attended all three of the events to date. Each time, I learn something valuable, not only as it applies to my kids’ education, but also for myself.
There are many trips to Israel but HIP is uniquely powerful and educational. There is really nothing else like it and our school community is uniquely blessed to be able to offer such an impactful experience to our students.
In October, we invited all parents to participate in a survey to give feedback about our Judaic studies program, including the goals and the subject areas of focus. We received over 90 responses, spread between both divisions, and we are pleased to share some of the findings here.
Toward the end of October, we welcomed members of the Hebrew at the Center team. During their visit, they had the opportunity to meet with some parents and board members about our Hebrew program. We wanted to share some of the questions and answers that came out of those meetings related to the work we're doing to improve Hebrew for all of our students
Experiential Learning is about many things. It is certainly about community — having fun and bonding as a class. But it is also about curiosity — pushing one’s intellectual boundaries in a way that is just not possible in a traditional classroom.
Children are born curious; it’s our job as teachers and parents to channel their curiosity and provide a framework for exploration. We do this by giving students voice, fostering investigation of their interests, and providing spaces for authentic learning. Our creation spaces provide a place for students’ curiosity to flourish.