This week I had the pleasure of chaperoning The Davis Academy's 6th grade trip to Charleston, SC. Among the many trip highlights, one particular experience stands out: our Thursday morning tefilah service.
Marion Square is a large open space in the heart of Charleston. On the side of the square closest to Calhoun Street there is a Holocaust Memorial built by Charleston's Jewish community. It was there that we gathered on the morning of September 10th, 2015 to start our tefilah service.
We started our tefilah with the sound of the shofar. Students reflected on what that sound means to them. During the micamocha prayer that celebrates the Exodus from Egypt we took a few minutes to think about the plight of refugees that weighs heavily on the hearts of so many in the world today. In the time usually dedicated to silent prayer we asked the students to explore the memorial site and then asked them to tell us what meanings they found there. After Mourner's Kaddish we heard the sound of the shofar once again and considered whether the shofar's cry carried any additional meanings.
We concluded our tefilah not at the Holocaust Memorial but with a silent procession from the memorial to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church-- the site of the tragic shootings this summer. There we read the names of the victims, explored the possible connections between the Holocaust, the refugee crisis, the Charleston shooting, and 9/11. For our closing song we sang, "Praying with our Feet." The song speaks of the ongoing quest for a more just and peaceful world as well as our individual and collective responsibility in making it so.
As 5776 approaches all of us in The Davis Academy community can celebrate the fact that we are empowering our children to rise up and take charge of our increasingly complicated world. We can and should celebrate the values that unite us, the children that we love so dearly, and vision so deeply embedded in Jewish tradition that calls us to action.
On behalf of our entire Davis kehillah I want to wish us all a Shanah Tovah.