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Our ECCs hosted Back to School Night on October 11, four days after the horrific attacks in Israel. As an Israeli and a Jew, I have been struggling to absorb the level of hatred that enabled any human to commit these atrocities against any person, much less children. As we had planned for the evening, Kristin Zeldes, Director of the Edlavitch-Tyser ECC, and I both spoke about kedusha — holiness, the lens we have chosen to guide our intentions this school year.
Kedusha can be a complicated subject and has a special meaning in Judaism. To make something kadosh, or holy, is to separate it, or imbue it with special meaning. It is about being intentionally present to appreciate the divine. In their article, The Sacred and the Profane in Consumer Behavior: Theodicy on the Odyssey, Russell W. Belk, Melanie Wallendorf and John F. Sherry, Jr. write, “A time, place, or community becomes sacred to an individual when it is treated differently, accorded a sense of powerful significance in one’s life.”
Early childhood is one of those sacred times and by making kedusha an intentional and purposeful presence, it easily connects with young children. Young children have an incredible ability to be fully present in the world — they experience it with fresh perspective, deep curiosity, and a desire to form connections and relationships. This is a time where children are given the space to be children — to feel safe, loved and encouraged, enabling them to build up their sense of self in preparation for continued education and the world beyond. When we are able to be present with children in these moments, we too are given the opportunity to appreciate these beautiful sacred experiences.
As our team of ECC educators explored this idea of Kedusha, we began by thinking about Shabbat — the day treated differently from the rest of the week, thus giving it special meaning. Our team asked, what we can learn about kedusha by reflecting on the rituals and values of Shabbat? How can we engage children in making Shabbat a time and space that is holy and intentional? When our Anafim class made challah dough for the Nahar class to braid, the children thought about giving, and how we build community when we share. This led the Mapal class to think about how they could make their space special for invited guests — an idea the Shorashim class embodied when they helped the Nevatim class set up their new room.
Our first exploration into Shabbat and this concept of Kedusha led to the idea of giving, supporting, and building our community — which is so reflective of our larger Jewish community. Around the world, the first response to this attack was to give. Donations of money, food, and military gear poured into Israel. Therapists offered their services and educators jumped on Zoom to work with Israeli children kept out of school. Reservists around the world flew home to help defend Israel and Jewish communities came together to share resources and offer comfort.
As I sat on my back porch, watching the trees dance in the wind while I spoke to my sister-in-law sheltering in a stairwell in Tel Aviv, I was struck by the disparity of our environments. She advised me to be present and appreciative of the peaceful moment — acknowledging that too many do not have the same privilege. As we all work to process the trauma of this recent attack on Israel, I look at these young children, engaged and fully living each moment and remind myself to appreciate this space and the purposeful presence that the children invite.
The brightest light we can shine against the evil of today is the potential future of tomorrow. By committing space, time, and community to our children, we commit to our future, our collective understanding of what it means to be human, and living a life that makes the world a more beautiful place than we found it.
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