I recently had the pleasure of watching our Year 2 students perform the ancient ritual of blowing the shofar for our Prep students. Although the students were flushed and short of breath they clearly loved participating in this activity.
Throughout the Hebrew month of Elul the shofar is blown every day across the School. At a recent Grandparents and Special Friends’ Shabbat service David Opat, Vice Principal Student Wellbeing, characterised the shofar sounds as the Jewish alarm clock that rouses us from our slumber ahead of the High Holidays.
I think that this metaphor is an apt one as this is the time where it is traditional to ‘wake up’ to ourselves and participate in reflection and repentance.
At the start of the School year I presented our students with a challenge to try to do one action every day that was directed towards making the life or experience of someone else better. I explained that the action could be an act of empathy or inclusion, like asking someone if they are ok or widening a circle to ensure that they feel welcomed to sit with us at lunch.
I asked our students to consider the nature of the community that they wished to be a part of and to take action to ensure that this was what was being experienced by all of our members.
I am aware of some wonderful small and larger actions that KDS students have engaged in throughout the year. Every day I have teachers, parents and students reporting on acts of generosity and involvement in social justice initiatives. I often see students go out of their way to invite others in, to jump to the support of their friends and to volunteer within a wide range of community organisations.
Unfortunately, we need to acknowledge that this level of inclusion and acceptance is not the universal experience of every member of our community. I am certain that we can all do more to ensure that one-another feel more valued, respected and embraced. And to challenge those who are not living up to this creed.
I take the call of the shofar as a reminder to reengage in the mission and to do what I can as Principal to improve in my nurturing of an environment where these values are normative. I cannot do this alone and so I also wish to use the ancient sounds to rouse all of us to reflect on what we can do to build up our community.
Can the parents be more welcoming to new faces within the community and can they act to encourage their children to be more open to their peers? Can our staff be more cognizant of positive actions and of taking the time to highlight and celebrate these as exemplars for other students? Can our students be more mindful in their language, actions and choices to always consider the experience of those around them?
I believe that over many years The King David School has deservedly garnered a reputation for compassion, empathy and inclusion. We must not rest on our laurels rather, we must constantly consider our programs, approaches and actions to ensure that we are working hard to foster an environment that is true to this mission.
Our Jewish tradition provides a structure for us to take pause to repent and reflect and I take this opportunity to call upon all of us to do so in order to ensure that each of us are contributing to our positive environment to the best of our capacities.