Seeding the Jewish Future With Hebrew: A Twist on Tu B’Shevat

We recently completed a very exciting set of virtual “parlour meetings” to share the school with different cohorts of prospective parents.  It is always nice to have an opportunity to share our school with people and these form critical touchpoints on the journey from interest to admissions.  Of course, during these meetings we spend time sharing our school’s North Stars because what better way to paint a picture of #TheOJCSWay than trying to bring our North Stars to life!  One talking point we emphasize is how our ability to “learn better together” is amplified by our proximity and relationship with the Israeli Embassy.  How blessed is our school to have access to people and resources that come with being a Jewish Community School in a nation’s capital!  Today, our students got a firsthand (virtual) opportunity to see this relationship in action…

We were thrilled last spring when in the changeover in Embassy personnel, we asked to collaborate on what we started calling “A Celebration of the Hebrew Language” – a day for our community to acknowledge and celebrate the miracle of modern Hebrew, to join together in Hebrew-focused activities, to learn more about the teaching of Hebrew, etc, etc.  Our original plan was to hone in on the January birthday of the founding father of modern Hebrew, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, as an ideal date; and with us able to facilitate in-person learning from August through Winter Break, we were on schedule and on task for a special day.

And, of course…the unplanned pivot.

While still hoping for an in-person experience, we postponed this special day until Tu B’Shevat, believing that there are all sorts of natural connections between celebrating the rebirth/growth of the Hebrew language in Eretz Yisrael and celebrating the rebirth/growth of trees (and wider environmental concerns) in that same Land.  And, of course…we did not wind up back to in-person learning by the 28th.

So…without being able to predict the future and wanting to make the best of things, we went ahead today with our combined “Celebration of Hebrew” / Tu B’Shevat at OJCS in partnership with the Israeli Embassy!  It may not have all the bells and whistles that it could have – and will in the future – but it did include…

…and highly informational video put together by our own Morah Ruthie (and Josh Max), starring some of our Grade 8s (with an overgrown older guest) and special appearance by our friends at the Embassy!

…special Hebrew and Tu B’Shevat programming during Jewish Studies time!

…specially integrated information and activities prepared by Jewish Studies Faculty and integrated by General Studies/French Faculty into their blocks.

…and a few multigrade shared experiences.

[Check our social media for pictures and videos from the day!]

Whereas in the future we will be able to incorporate other aspects of our program and other partners in our community, we still feel blessed that we are able to pull off a special day.  On a day that we celebrate the physical seeding of plants and trees and connect the dots to our larger responsibility as Jews to the physical land of Israel (and our responsibility as humans to steward the physical world), it adds meaning to celebrate the miracle of modern Hebrew and to acknowledge the role it played and plays in seeding the Jewish future.  We look forward to the ongoing planting of these twin seeds in the soil of our school, to watering them through meaningful engagement, investment and partnerships and to celebrating their bloomings each season with our Israeli Embassy partners.

Chag sameach!

Author: Jon Mitzmacher

Dr. Jon Mitzmacher is the Head of the Ottawa Jewish Community School. He was most recently the VP of Innovation for Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools.  He is the former Executive Director of the Schechter Day School Network.  He is also the former head of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, a K-8 Solomon Schechter, located in Jacksonville, FL, and part of the Jacksonville Jewish Center.  He was the founding head of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Las Vegas.  Jon has worked in all aspects of Jewish Education from camping to congregations and everything in between.

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