- Judaic Studies
By Blake Cohen, Denver JDS parent
What is the overarching principle we apply as parents when choosing a school for our children? All things considered, the school must help prepare the child, in concert with the child’s family, for life as an independent adult. This preparation takes many forms, and includes a lot more these days than just the Three R’s: “readin’, ‘ritin, and ‘rithmatic.”
Last Thursday my wife Clarissa and I had the pleasure of attending the fifth and final installment of the Denver JDS Divrei Chaim (Words to Live By) Series on chesed, or kindness. The presenters were Denver JDS alumnus Shapir Rosenberg and Upper Division Judaics teacher, Craig Halper.
Shapir was the speaker at last year’s Annual Dinner, so we were already familiar with this articulate and thoughtful individual. Shapir has carved an impressive professional path and is now a psychiatry resident on the East Coast, specializing in grief counseling for patients with terminal illness and their families.
Craig Halper, is a teacher at Denver JDS and has been for the past 31(!!!) years. In fact Shapir was one of his students, studying Torah and Talmud with Craig.
Their presentation on chesed was both insightful and moving. The approach was through the lens of doctor-patient relationships, and included examples of scholarly studies on empathy in caregiving, first person accounts of the experience of being a patient, and stories from the Talmud. From an early age, Shapir had experienced what kindness does and does not look likein the medical profession, having lost his mother to cancer shortly before finishing the sixth grade at Denver JDS. May her memory be for a blessing.
Shapir and Craig thoroughly prepared for their presentation, handing out 50-page packets that included the studies and stories which lit the way for our learning. The materials they provided were fascinating and led to lively discussion with the more than 30 attendees.
Shapir and Craig also cited several passages from Talmud that illustrated kindness through the lens of Torah, in that unpredictable, thought provoking, prismatic way that only Torah can achieve. It was remarkable to see Shapir and Craig reading the Talmud passages together, Craig reading the Aramaic, and Shapir the corresponding English. These stories, with all of their unexpected twists and mad wisdom confounded expectations and led us to understand the material from unanticipated perspectives.
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.
We are lucky to have a school in our community that offers opportunities for learning like the Divrei Chaim Speaker Series, not only for our children, but for us as parents, grandparents, alum, and other stakeholders. Clarissa and I are grateful for the opportunity for enrichment that Denver JDS provides.