Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Beautiful D'var Torah on Parshat Vayechi

Today, Davis Academy 5th grader, Ryan Reiss, shared these words of Torah at a Davis Academy Board Meeting. His remarks were beautifully delivered and very well received. It is exciting to think that this was Ryan's FIRST D'var Torah. Surely the Jewish people can rejoice in knowing that he will only grow in his wisdom, humor, and appreciation of Jewish tradition. 

       Hello, my name is Ryan Reiss and I am currently in 5th grade, here at Davis Academy. Rabbi Micah asked if I would like to share a D’var Torah — a short speech about a weekly Torah portion – with you today.  Of course, I accepted his invitation.         
       To start off this D’var Torah, I will be reciting a poem/creative writing about the topic, blessing.
      “Food, water, Davis, an amazing family, love, supportive friends, awesome teachers. Those are just some of the many blessings that God has given me. I could go on for days listing them all. Blessings can be found anywhere if you look for them. I believe that they are little thank yous from God for what we have done for him. Of course not everything is going to be a blessing. I think those things make us appreciate the blessings in our lives even more. We should take time every day to say thank you for all we have. God gives us so much, and we should be more than grateful for it.”
      “Vayehi” is this week’s Parsha.  It is the last Parsha in the book of Bereshit or Genesis. The main topic is the character of Jacob, also known as Yisrael, offering blessings to his many children and grandchildren before he passes away.
      There are so many blessings in my life, and in our entire community, that it’s easy to relate to this week’s Parsha.  For me, one of those blessings is my Davis Academy experience.  I have made so many special friends on my journey so far at Davis. The teachers here are outstanding, and I am very excited to continue on my journey to the middle school. When I think back on the last six years, there are so many blessing moments: getting back from summer, winter, or spring break and seeing all of my friends again, playing football out on the playground, feeling stressed out about having to finish my current events, statistics project, and book report all in the same week, and finally completing the last project felt like it was heaven on earth. One thing that is just vivid in my mind is laughing out loud with all my best friends surrounding me at lunch. I have so many memories of lunches when I almost spit out my drink.

      If you think about it, this Parsha is really about “L’dor v’dor,” “From generation to generation.”  This means to me, that I am blessed to have the education, the family history and the support to allow me to carry on the Jewish religion, customs and values to my kids and grandkids, as they will carry it on to their kids and grandkids. When I was younger, I always sang the song, “L’dor v’dor,” without even thinking about what it meant. Now that I have written this D’var Torah, I now recognize how many blessings are hidden in these two meaningful words.  All you have to do is dig a little deeper to find them. Thank you all for listening. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Gary Rosenthal Artist Visit

This week our 6th grade students participated in one of the most important Davis Academy B'nai Mitzvah/Project IMPACT traditions-- the Hiddur Mitzvah project with world famous Jewish artist, Gary Rosenthal.

Because of his longstanding connection to The Davis Academy, Gary Rosenthal comes to The Davis Academy each year to meet with our students and guide them through the creation of two beautiful pieces of Judaica: a yad (Torah pointer) and mezuzah. The yad is for use at their Bar/Bat Mitzvah and the mezuzah is donated to various worthy causes. During this year's visit, Gary noted that he has worked with more Davis Academy students than any other single community in his long and dynamic career. What a point of pride for The Davis Academy.

In addition to the special purpose of the yad and the mezuzah, there's a deeper lesson hidden in the Gary Rosenthal Hiddur Mitzvah project. It is the fact that no two creations are the same. Like our students, each is a unique and beautiful creation.

Here are some pictures of the kids and Gary. Before we know it, they will be taking their places as Jewish adults, strengthening their communities because of their deep Jewish knowledge and roots.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Chanuah 2016: Gifts and Blessings

One of our favorite songs at The Davis Academy starts with the words, “We are gifts and we are blessings.” That song, L’dor V’dor, is sung at nearly every special school celebration. We sing it not only because of its moving melody, but because of the many meaningful messages it conveys. As I contemplated what words to share with our Kehilah this Chanukah, the words above kept coming to mind.

 If you ask our children, they’ll tell you that they love Chanukah because of the presents. But if prodded a bit, I believe they would inevitably grant that they love Chanukah not only for the presents but for the presence. The mindful and authentic presence of family and friends, gathered around the Chanukiah or at other celebrations—this is what our children value most. They value the loving feelings, the sense of care, protection, support and joy, the intimacy and the connection, that comes from being surrounded by the comforting presence of loved ones and their broader community. The combination of presents and presence more fully explains the true joy of Chanukah. But there’s more still.

“My health, my family, going to a great school, my house, being really good at soccer, getting to play a musical instrument, being a mensch.” When you ask any Davis Academy child what their most valued and valuable gifts are, these are the types of things they share. Together, as parents, grandparents, and teachers, we have instilled in our children an appreciation for the truest gifts of life. These are the gifts that remind us of our humanity and that they are blessed to be able to share. We have also sewn into the fabric of their souls the awareness that each of them is a gift not only to their parents and teachers, but to the world that yearns to be mended through their unique contribution. 

This Chanukah let us give the ultimate gifts—the gifts of self, of love, of presence, of quality time, of laughter, of shared activities, of kind words, and of generous attention. How good it feels to give these gifts freely, joyfully, but also with the expectation of something in return. That something in return will be a holiday season that readies us to enter into 2017 with the strength and wisdom that we need in order to keep our focus on the things that matter most to us, our children, and to those we love.