Throughout the holidays of Chanukah and Purim, we are invited to recite the Al Hanisim prayer inserted in the middle of the Amidah and the Birkat Hamazon (grace after meals).

עַל הַנִּסִּים וְעַל הַפֻּרְקָן וְעַל הַגְּבוּרוֹת וְעַל הַתְּשׁוּעוֹת וְעַל הַנִּפְלָאוֹת וְעַל הַנֶּחָמוֹת שֶׁעָשִׂיתָ לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה

Al hanissim, v’al hapurkan, v’al hag’vurot v’al hat’tshuot v’al hamilchamot sh’asita lavoteinu bayamim hahem baz’man hazeh.

“We thank Thee for the miracles, the redemption, and the triumphant victories, and liberation which Thou hast wrought for our fathers in days of old at this season.”

This morning, as we recited this prayer during the middle school t’fillah (prayer) service, I was struck by the final paragraph of this prayer: “Then Your children entered the shrine of Your House, cleansed Your Temple, purified Your Sanctuary, kindled lights in Your holy courtyards, and instituted these eight days of Chanukah to give thanks and praise to Your great Name (Siddur Tehilat Hashem).”

Snapshots of the miraculous Chanukah celebration that our school enjoyed together this week flooded my mind. Our children indeed kindled the lights in our holy courtyard (also known as the U-Shaped Parking Lot). And they provided all of us with feelings of warmth and gratitude as we stood by clapping and singing while experiencing the voices and dance movements of our young JCDS community members.

To be able to join together as a community during such celebrations is because of the commitment we all feel toward one another. We want to be together. We want to experience the very thing that separates us from other institutions. Our community is at the core of a JCDS experience and it was a top priority for our faculty and staff to make that happen one way or another this year.

Though this year’s celebration mostly took place outdoors in the cold, we were warmed by being together. It was yet another example of our personal and communal ability to pivot and adapt to the realities that present before us. This is what it means to be part of the Jewish community.

Shira Deener is head of school at JCDS.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

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