Tuesday, February 6, 2018

25th Anniversary Day of Menschlichkeit

On February 5, 2018, The Davis Academy held a day of menschlichkeit in honor of our 25th anniversary. Why February 5th? Because February 5th= 2/5!

Below are some captioned pictures that convey some of the many different activities and experiences that made this day an authentic celebration of our school values: wisdom, community, righteousness, spirit, and respect.

Making new curtains for our school Ark.

Making new curtains for our school Ark.

Spending time learning about therapeutic dogs.

Spending time learning about therapeutic dogs.

Making new curtains for our school Ark.

Planting a daffodil garden in memory of children who perished in the Holocaust.

Making cards for Jewish Family and Career Services.

Special visitors and guest teachers.

Planting a daffodil garden in memory of children who perished in the Holocaust.

Loading lunches and other supplies for the Zaban Couples Shelter.

Special guests and experts informing our kids about disease and disabilities.

Sandy Springs PD came for lunch, recess, and a special presentation.

Bringing world heritage sites to life for Maker Monday.

Lunch with Sandy Springs PD.

A special panel of community rabbis. 

Presenting car seats to Sandy Springs PD.

Making lunches for Zaban Couples Shelter.

Sandy Springs Fire Department came for lunch.

Getting organized for Camp Jenny. 

Decorating special windows. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

#Davis7 Holy Sites Interfaith Field Trip

Yesterday, Davis Academy 7th graders visited three different Holy Sites in the greater Atlanta area: The Roswell Masjid, BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Lilburn, and the Dharma Jewel Monastery. At each site we met with faith leaders of the different traditions, had an opportunity to listen, learn, and observe Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism in action. Now that our 7th graders have visited a mosque, mandir, and monastery they join a small minority of Americans in having firsthand knowledge of what these houses of worship look and feel like. As members of this small majority of Americans who have sought out insight into the religious tapestry of America, they now have a special responsibility to promote tolerance, understanding, and respect among Americans of all faiths.

At the Roswell Community Masjid we were welcomed by Imam Arshad. Pakistani by birth, Imam Arshad grew up in Southern Mississippi. He was appointed as the Imam of the Roswell Community Masjid by the Muslim community that supports this Mosque. Wearing jeans and a hoodie, not yet having had his morning coffee, Imam Arshad graciously answered at least 100 questions posed by our students. The questions were intelligent and respectful, and the answers helped us understand some of the ethos and spirit behind Islam. We learned quite a bit about the Hajj (religious pilgrimage to Mecca), about Muslim views of character development (similar to Middot and Menschlichkeit in Judaism), and much more.

The BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir is the largest Hindu Temple in the Southeast. The building itself tells you much about Hindu faith and practice. While the thousands of individual pieces of marble were constructed by paid craftsman in India, much of the work of building the Mandir and completing the project was done on a volunteer basis by more than 20,000 individuals (Hindu and non-Hindu). Completed in 2007, the entire project was paid for on a donation basis before the Mandir opened. The physical structure of the Mandir is meant to help focus the mind of God and divinity.

We removed our shoes, sat on the floor, and experienced the 11:15 devotional service. During this time Sadhus (monks) dressed in orange, kindled lamps and offered praises to the incarnations of the different deities. After the prayer, our guide (also a volunteer), explained that Hinduism is actually a Monotheistic faith rather than Polytheistic. There is only one God. That God has appeared and continues to appear in many different forms. Hinduism prides itself on introducing ideas of Non-Violence, Vegetarianism, and Tolerance to the world.

After lunch we arrived at The Dharma Jewel Monastery in Tucker. There we were greeted with big smiles and the strong smell of incense. The Dharma Jewel Monastery is a Buddhist Monastery, but in the Chinese tradition. Several generations after The Buddha became enlightened in India, Buddhism spread to China. Fast forward to the present, and The Dharma Jewel Monastery carries on this tradition here in Tucker, GA. We got an overview, learned a bit about mindful eating, and then went up to the Great Zen Meditation Hall. There we sat on cushions and pillows, learned about the sacred instruments in the Hall, were led in a meditation session, and the invited to make a lamp offering (basically making a wish and then placing a candle on the altar). Many of our kids found this moving and exciting.

Taking a step back, it's remarkable to think of all these faith traditions coexisting here in Atlanta. It's even more remarkable to think that their work is largely invisible and/or irrelevant to so many Atlantans. As the Imam said this morning, it takes tremendous courage, self-confidence, and self-awareness to walk into a house of worship other than your own. Our kids certainly have all 3 of this qualities. They were very well-prepared by their Social Studies teachers in terms of basic knowledge of these three faiths. On a deeper level, their insider knowledge of Judaism, acquired through years of Jewish learning and living, gave them a special ability to decode some of the complexities of these other faiths as well as find the common and distinguishing factors among them.

It was a beautiful day.

Friday, December 22, 2017

2nd Grade Siddur Celebration at Berman Commons

The Davis Academy 2nd grade has a very special tradition that takes place on the last day of school before Winter Break: our annual visit to Berman Commons for a Siddur and Shabbat Celebration.

As you may know, each December, The Davis Academy 2nd graders receive their very own prayer books during a special ceremony called Kabbalat HaSiddur. Any Davis Academy student can tell you all about what that ceremony means to them and how they feel about their Siddur.

What you may not know is that the week following Kabbalat HaSiddur, our 2nd graders travel to Berman Commons, our local Jewish assisted living community, to do a revue of that same ceremony. Residents of Berman Commons gather in one of their beautiful common areas. Our children sing their heartwarming songs and then interact with the residents. The singing is wonderful, but it is the interaction, from generation to generation, that makes the whole thing truly sacred. Knowing that our children and the residents of Berman Common share a common love and appreciation of Jewish tradition is something that inspires and brings joy to everyone in the room, and for good reason.

Here are some pictures and a short video of that very interaction.