The saying goes, “A picture paints a thousand words.” I tried to find the derivation of this quotation, and it is attributed to many different people, including Albert Einstein, Napoleon Bonaparte and, perhaps most likely, an advertising executive named Fred Barnard. The idiom evokes the sentiment that a single image can convey a story as effectively as a long, descriptive text. As much as I love to read and write, there are times when visual imagery is the most powerful medium to convey a message. This idea was at the core of our most recent family portrait project.

On Tuesday morning, older EHS students took a walk with their younger buddies. They strolled through the corridors of our school, which had been transformed into picture galleries. Every EHS family submitted a picture of their family, and the pictures were set in simple black frames. On display at every turn were framed photographs of families from our community. This project was organized by EHS’s IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity Acceptance) committee. Several committee members were inspired by a traveling photo exhibit called “In Our Family” from the Family Diversity Project and wanted to bring the experience to EHS. This exhibit helps schools introduce the breadth and diversity of families.

Some people might think Jewish day schools are homogeneous environments, but in the year 2021/5782, nothing could be further from the truth. Our school of 68 families and 104 students represents an array of diversity; some of these differences are visible to the eye, and others are hidden below the surface. We are a community of religious diversity; we have Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, interfaith, secular and culturally Jewish families. We have families with all different configurations of adults who live with and “parent” their children: one mom and one dad, two moms, two dads, single parents and step-parents. We have families with disabilities and chronic illness, both mental and physical. We have families with a wide range of skin colors whose heritage comes from countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. We have families of different sizes ranging from one child to many.

Each gallery tour had a docent from the IDEA committee to facilitate conversation. We asked our students, “What are three things you noticed from your gallery walk? What are two things that were unexpected? What is one thing you are still curious about?” The conversations were rich and thoughtful because the images on our walls spoke a thousand words. They spoke of love, warmth, caring, belonging and safety. Our students appreciated that each family is unique and different in their own way, yet they all offer the ingredients of what a child needs to grow into a healthy, well-adjusted and confident young adult. The secret sauce only has a few ingredients, and they are love, acceptance and support.

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