Friday, January 8, 2016

A Lesson in Leadership

The following D'var Torah was written and delivered at Kabbalat Shabbat today by Lauren Cohen, a Davis Academy 8th grader. In addition to the excellent writing and effective communication, what is striking is how authentically Lauren is able to reflect on the leadership characteristics of Moses in the week's Torah portion. In part, her ability to see Moses' leadership is a result of the many leadership opportunities she has sought ought and taken advantage of during her years of study at Davis. As Lauren spoke it was heartwarming to see hundreds of younger students, her peers, and even her teachers, listening intently and looking up to her.

Good Morning! My name is Lauren Cohen and I am an eighth grader here at The Davis Academy. I began my journey here in kindergarten making this my ninth year. In seventh grade, I had the amazing opportunity to become a student ambassador and join the MSLTI. As a student ambassador, I represent The Davis Academy at events all over Atlanta. Today, as an ambassador, I am here to share a D’var Torah about parsha Va’era, the second parsha in Exodus. Va’era covers a series of topics including Moses’ rise as a leader, the beginning of the plagues, and the Jewish people’s pursuit for justice. This morning I am going to focus on the idea of Moses’ responsibility as a leader.
      Until the age of fifteen, Moses didn’t have much responsibility. As a prince, everything was handed to him on a silver platter; however, when he chose to leave the palace and become a shed, his life changed dramatically. When he became a shepherd, Moses was forced to become a leader and assume responsibility. He took care of and protected his vulnerable sheep. He kept them out of harm’s way. This gave him the experience he needed in order to take responsibility as the leader of the Jewish people.
      While reading about Moses, I learned a great deal about responsibility. To start, I learned that it’s important to stand up for the cause you believe in. Moses chose to go back to Egypt and fight for the rights of the Jewish people. He worked to free us from exile because he believed that no one should be treated so poorly. He took responsibility and didn’t stop until his people, his kehillah, were safe. Next, I learned that as a leader, persistence is necessary. Although Pharaoh frequently told Moses that the Jews may not leave, Moses continued to plea for our freedom. Finally his persistence paid off and Moses led us out of Egypt. Lastly, I learned from Moses to be patient. Moses fought for a long time against Pharaoh and it was important for him to stay positive and believe that Pharaoh would eventually change his mind. Without Moses' patience and persistence, we would have remained enslaved.
While attending the Davis Academy, the most important lesson that I have learned is responsibility. I’ve learned that I must take responsibility for my actions, belongings, and even my assignments. To add, I am responsible for standing up for what I believe in and fighting for justice. I have also learned that I am responsible for setting high standards for others and myself. In order to be a good leader, I must set a good example for my peers and the younger students both at The Davis Academy and throughout our kehillah.
      Looking back at my nine years as a Davis Academy student, I realized that I have changed drastically since kindergarten. When I was five, I was very similar to young Moses in the way that I had little responsibility. I was a shy girl who enjoyed naptime and munchy math. However, as I’ve matured, I have grown and learned to take responsibility. The many amazing experiences I have had here at The Davis Academy have helped me become the mature, confident and responsible girl I am today. When I became a sixth grader at the middle school, I tried out for volleyball. Luckily, I made the B team, and was elected captain. As the captain, I had a lot of responsibilities. I had to be loud, aggressive, and make sure the team was working together. As the team captain, I had to, like Moses, take care of and protect my team. In seventh grade, I was given an amazing opportunity. My language arts teacher, Mr. Rifkin, gave our grade the fantastic chance to spend a day shadowing the executive manager at Macy’s. After submitting an application, writing an essay, and even being interviewed by a former Macy’s manager, I was fortunate to be chosen to be one of the four students in our grade to work at Macy’s. Similarly to Moses, I had to work very hard in order to get what I wanted. My persistence paid off.
Music has always been a huge part of my life.  I began playing piano in kindergarten.  In fifth grade, I was so excited to move to the middle school in order to take fusion.  I thought for a while about what instrument I would play.  You should have seen my parent’s faces after the first day of school when I told them I was going to play the drums. Fast forward to eighth grade.  Presently, I am the drummer for both 8th grade fusion bands. I have the responsibility of keeping everyone on beat and making sure we are all playing together. Moreover, my biggest responsibility is to lead the band. Thanks to the Davis Academy, I have had many amazing opportunities that have shaped me into the person I am today.

      In the future, I know that I will continue to be actively involved with causes I passionately believe in.  Like Moses, I hope to be a leader who never backs down from a fight and strives for justice. While I don’t know where my journey will take me, I know that because of my strong foundation from The Davis Academy, I will be prepared for anything.  

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