This week, JCDS Middle School students cut the ribbon and inaugurated the long-awaited, newly-constructed single-stall gender neutral bathroom. Our fifth to eighth grade students gathered in the Chadar Ochel to do something familiar to all: learn, reflect and bless. In this case, we reviewed the words that Rav Abaye, the fourth century Talmud scholar, famously crafted: Asher Yatzar.

As Jews, we are given so many opportunities to stop, pause, notice and show gratitude. When one sees the wonder of a rainbow, hears the roar of an ocean or notices something beautiful in nature, we have a blessing to recite. Asher Yatzar is a blessing of thanksgiving for the workings of the human body, without which we would not be able to live our lives healthfully and in service of God.

The text of the blessing is as follows:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר יָצַר אֶת הָאָדָם בְּחָכְמָה, וּבָרָא בוֹ נְקָבִים נְקָבִים חֲלוּלִים חֲלוּלִים .גָּלוּי וְיָדוּעַ לִפְנֵי כִסֵּא כְבוֹדֶךָ, שֶׁאִם יִפָּתֵחַ אֶחָד מֵהֶם, אוֹ יִסָּתֵם אֶחָד מֵהֶם, אִי אֶפְשַׁר לְהִתְקַיֵּם וְלַעֲמוֹד לְפָנֶיךָ אַפִלּוּ שָׁעָה אֶחָת. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי, רוֹפֵא כָל בָּשָׂר וּמַפְלִיא לַעֲשׂוֹת:”

“Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, who formed humans with wisdom and created within them many openings and many hollow spaces. It is obvious and known before Your Seat of Honor that if even one of them would be opened, or if even one of them would be sealed, it would be impossible to survive and to stand before You even for one hour. Blessed are You, Adonai, who heals all flesh and acts wondrously.”

At JCDS, living healthfully not only means biologically or medically, but also living with dignity, comfort and an acceptance of our full selves. Having a gender neutral bathroom is an important step toward ensuring a safe and positive learning environment for our community. The importance of maintaining a daily regimen for our physical health is widely understood. Movement is medicine. The need to stay fit, exercise and eat healthfully is accepted and embraced by many. What isn’t always as obvious is the importance of social-emotional health and wellness and how bathroom choice is part of that experience.

Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, our new single-stall bathroom will help continue our journey to safeguard the dignity of each member of our diverse community.

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