We at JCDS strive to create a community where our students and families can show up as their complete selves with their own unique identities and life experiences. That is how we measure the strength of our community, and nowhere is that more clear than when we see our students giving back to the community and to one another in ways that are unique to their personality and interests. They give of themselves to one another with great generosity of spirit.

I hope you enjoy this piece by Joanne Baker on the eighth grade service projects, each a wonderful and unique reflection of the student spearheading the effort.

Even the Worst of Times Brings the Best of Times
By Joanne Baker, Rosh 8th Grade

“All who work for the community should work for the sake of Heaven, for the merit of the community’s forefathers will help them, and their righteousness endures forever….”
—Ethics of the Fathers, 2:2

Even the worst of times brings the best of times, thus despite the limitations COVID has put on the eighth graders’ in-school service projects, our oldest students have still found meaningful and beautiful ways to fulfill their missions and “go beyond themselves, identify a need in the school, and create an in-school service project to enhance, help, or elevate individuals or classrooms at JCDS.” How remarkable these young adolescents are in their commitment and service to the community, even though an abundance of caution has necessitated that many of this year’s projects take place outside the walls of our school.

Having to remain at a distance makes working closely with others tricky, yet each eighth grader has designed a purposeful personal project to go beyond JCDS and into the greater community at large. Here is a short sampling of these projects in the students’ own words:

“I have been writing letters to kids in the hospital to make them feel a little bit better. I add tic-tac-toe boards or other games, and even my email address, to be in touch with them. I’m hoping this will lift their spirits and make them feel like there are people out there praying for them and their health.”

“Every Tuesday from 5:45 to 6:45 p.m., I spend half an hour on Zoom bonding with a fifth grade student while teaching him more math. I also take pictures of wildlife around JCDS and hope to show people how much nature the area around our school contains.”

“I am painting a mural on a wall of the gym. There are themes of teamwork, kindness and helping others in this mural, and I hope that by painting it, I can both add some artwork to the gym and spread positive messages.”

“Weekly, I Zoom with a fourth grade student. Together we work on Hebrew as well as forming a friendship. I think it is a very unique opportunity to meaningfully connect with a younger student and make a [positive] impact.”

“Currently, I am working with Karen [in Admissions] as an “ambassador” for the school. We meet twice weekly to send letters to prospective JCDS students, Zoom with parents and/or students who are interested in the school to answer their questions, make gifts/packets to send out to families and perform other tasks to make sure that anyone interested in coming to JCDS gets to see how welcoming our school is.”

“During recess, when the weather permits, I am painting the cement barriers around my school to brighten the atmosphere of the school and to try to make everyone’s day a little bit brighter. I also plan to write cards to military veterans or to those in senior citizen homes.”

Making time to help and give to others is both a Jewish tenet and a basic human imperative. From a very young age, JCDS students grow to understand this value, and by the time they reach eighth grade, it is part of their very fabric. In these difficult times of social isolation coupled with an unusual concern for one’s own health and safety, the in-school service project has taken on even greater meaning and purpose as our oldest students go beyond themselves for the common good and well-being of others.

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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