Lots of private and public schools offer an annual day for grandparents to visit their grandchildren. Grandparents Day, Grandfriends Day, Special Friends Day…there are a handful of names to describe sweet programs that offer the oldest members of a family a way to connect with their youngest at school.
At Rashi, we call it something else: Generations Day. This name is deeply meaningful, going well beyond celebrating individual family ties. Generations Day is a reminder that we as Jews are inextricably linked. It is a recognition of our collective experience over thousands of years—the rituals and values, the religious practice and cultural expression, the endless wandering and wonder at our own survival, the persecution and renewal that live in each one of us. Generations Day stands for strength, unity and joy.
Generations Day has always been a Rashi highlight. I say this as a past parent who felt the delight of my own parents engaging with my children every year for five years. Pictures drawn together, lessons observed, challahs to take home. Small pleasures writ large.
But Generations Day last week was, bar none, the most poignant moment I have ever experienced at Rashi. Intertwined with the joy was the heaviness of knowing that Jews in Israel had just been murdered senselessly and mercilessly. I have no doubt that every grandparent in the building was, at some point, thinking about the events of Oct. 7 as they visited classrooms, talked with students about what makes a community a community, and created Venn diagrams illustrating what they and their grandchildren had in common and how they were different. Everyone was happy to be there, yet there was so much more swirling beneath the surface; it is hard to find the words to describe this. There was a communal understanding that this Generations Day—perhaps more than any since Rashi’s founding in 1986—held special significance. It embodied l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation, the continuum of the Jewish people, the visible coming-together of past, present and future.
When, at the end of the day’s programming, we gathered in the theater for Kabbalat Shabbat and sang Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah” (“The Hope”), our shared experience as Jews was never more evident. Grandparents, parents, students, faculty and staff stood and sang together. Hope was written on every face even as we mourned the 1,400 Israelis who died and prayed for the more than 230 innocent civilians who were taken captive. So much emotion in just one moment. I felt as if I was witnessing the force of our ancestors combined with the power of our children and all the generations to come.
Rashi and all Jewish schools are here for this moment. On Generations Day, we honor our elders and show students that their lineage has immeasurable value. It doesn’t matter how religious you are or how often you go to synagogue or whether you believe in God. What matters is that your child knows that they matter, that their Jewish heritage and identity are majestic and important, and that in the Rashi community they will be safe, they will be proud and they will lead their generation.
Ilyssa Greene Frey is the director of admissions at The Rashi School and mom to two Rashi alumni.
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