Monday, May 8, 2017

Israel Sendoff Shabbat Speech

The following remarks were written and delivered on behalf of The Davis Academy 8th grade class of 2017 by their classmate, Halli Friedman. She spoke beautiful and moved parents, teachers, and even some of her classmates to tears. A number of people have asked to read her remarks and they are posted here to honor that request! I'm sure you'll agree that such thoughtful, wise, and reflective words from an 8th grader deserve to be celebrated!

Shabbat Shalom!
          As my time at the Davis Academy draws to a close, I decided to write a letter to myself -- my Kindergarten self--  telling little Halli everything she has to look forward to at this special school. 

Dear Halli,
          Wow! Today is your first day at Davis. I bet you’re excited and nervous to be at a school other than the small Bnai Torah preschool.  I know all of the older kids may seem intimidating at first, but just remember that one day you will be one of those big kids!  Don’t be scared of the big building and tall students, because you are in a warm, safe, nurturing place, where you can focus on learning. You have so much ahead of you; I almost wish I could trade places with you.  Almost.

Oh, and by the way, you’re really rocking that froggy name tag and those pigtails!!   

          Halli, your time at Davis will be more than just learning algebra, diagramming sentences, and dissecting frogs (by the way, be sure to pick a lab partner who will not be absent on frog day.)  Davis is much more than a school.  It’s the place where you will find your identity as a student, as a friend, and as a Jew.

Davis will teach you to love and appreciate being a student.

          The teachers here are unlike any other.  Filled with ruach (spirit), these teachers are dedicated to seeing you thrive.  If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get to have Mrs. Kramer in first grade, so you can take your shoes off in class.  Or maybe you’ll get Ms. Patterson, who sings all her lessons;  or Mr. Barry and Mrs. London, who teach like pirates.  Or the third grade teacher, Mrs. Fried— nevermind. All Davis teachers are unique and special, but they share one thing:
a love for their students.   

        My teachers taught me that your input will determine your output, and that hard work and dedication are the keys to success.  Not just in school, but in everything.  Thanks to the great teachers and amazing resources, over the next 9 years you will build the foundation for a lifetime of learning.  And it all culminates with the greatest learning experience of them all — the Israel trip.

Davis will also teach you how to be a good friend, sister, daughter, and person -- basically a mensch. 

          You will learn that word in your first week, I bet.  And others, like words that will become part of you — Kavod, Tzedek, Chochma, Kehillah, and Ruach.  These are the values that will guide you in how you treat others.  From making sure no one sits alone at lunch, to learning to share your dot markers; from paying attention to mystery readers, to greeting guests when they come into your class.  If you take these Davis values to heart, you will form friendships here that will last much longer than 9 years. 
You will also discover your Jewish identity at Davis, because after all, it is a Jewish Day School.

          At first, you may not immediately find your inner Jew, I know it didn’t happen that way for me. The first time I truly felt connected to Judaism was while receiving my First Siddur.   I held my new Siddur, and I pulled it tightly to my heart. I thought, now I can really pray and be connected to tefilla and kabbalat shabbat.  But Judaism at Davis isn’t only about prayer.   You’ll soon start learning to speak Hebrew, and you’ll see that the shared language of our people will connect you to Jews everywhere.
          You will also get to chant from The Torah in fifth grade alongside your beloved homeroom; you will create a one-of-a-kind Yad with artist Gary Rosenthal in 6th grade, and you will celebrate your Bat Mitzvah at school during a special Tefillah.  By sharing all these experiences with your classmates, teachers, and family, your Judaism will not only grow deeper within you, but will spread out and connect you to your Davis community.

          Of course, your journey will be literal too — Savannah, Charleston, Washington, and more.  And of course, in 8th grade, Israel.  You and your classmates will get to travel to the holiest place for the Jewish people, our homeland, as one big kehillah. I could not be more excited. You will get to learn with, laugh with, fly with, eat with, and pray with your 69 best friends for two whole weeks!! What could be any better than that?  This trip will mark the end of the first journey of my life, the Davis Academy Journey. This trip will combine everything I have learned about Judaism, myself, and my friends into two unforgettable weeks.  Everything we have learned, all that we have experienced, has been building to this.
          Halli, when you are sitting in these bleachers in 9 years, I hope you feel the same way I do right now: so excited for what is going to come ahead that its hard to stop smiling — but also a little sad, because it means the Davis Journey is coming to an end. The Israel trip is the perfect conclusion to a Davis Academy experience, because it weaves together everything we are as students, friends, and Jews, like the braids in a Challah. 

          At each Tefillah and Kabbalat Shabbat, the middle school counts rocks to mark each day that passes this school year. Rabbi Micah reminds us frequently, “Teach us to count our days so we may acquire a wise and loving heart.” The rocks remind us that we have all of those days to make memories, have fun, and maybe learn something new, because this is a school. Throughout your whole experience at Davis, count your days, and appreciate each one, so that you, too, may acquire a wise and loving heart.

So to Kindergarten Halli, all you other Machinies and Kindergartners, lower schoolers and middle schools, I wish you the best as you continue on your own unique Davis Journeys.  And I offer this advice: cherish everything.  Treat every day like it is your last day at Davis.  Israel may be the final trip, but the journey lasts 9 years and every stop on the way is important.

With Immense Love,

Halli from the Present

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