Developing our own ‘crowns of a good name’
This week I had the privilege of joining our Year 4 students and their parents, grandparents and special friends for “Eleh HaShemot” (These are the names) – a beautiful event which celebrates their initiation into the tradition of study of the Tanach.
“Eleh haShemot” are the first words of the book of the book of Shemot (Exodus) and are followed with the detail of the names of some of the Hebrews who were able to cross the Sinai and enter the land of Israel. Our educators took this as an opportunity for meaningful personalised Jewish learning whereby our students researched their own names to explore their familial, linguistic and biblical origins.
The event continued on to a shared learning activity which saw the families engage in discussion of the positive characteristics of each Year 4 child which they represented in an art activity where they applied these to a poster of the name.
This activity allowed the children a framework to move beyond the origin of their name and to think about what they wanted their name to stand for. Pirkei Avot 4:13 (Ethics of the Fathers) states that “There are three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of royalty, but the crown of a good name supersedes them all.”
This was an invitation for our families to have a conversation with their child about their crown of a good name. They discussed their emerging identity and provided a positive reinforcement for the characteristics that define them as a wonderful individual.
I thought I’d explain the Eleh HaShemot event because it typifies the approach we take to Jewish learning at the King David School.
We care so much about Jewish learning because it is a vital pillar of our students’ identity development. We wish for our students to love their interactions with Jewish learning, to feel positive about their Jewish identity and to have a Jewish toolkit which they can use to explore their world.
In line with our Progressive Jewish ethos, we teach Judaism in an inclusive and non-judgmental manner that is designed to accommodate informed choice about the role that Jewish tradition, ritual, religion, philosophy and ethics will play in their lives.
We know that emergent identity is negotiated through communal, familial and individual contexts, and as such, we design learning that allows our students to explore who they are and who they are becoming. We invite our families to join in where we can, because we understand that placing Jewish identity within a familial narrative, through intergenerational learning, is a powerful way to reinforce a sense of belonging and to genuinely acknowledge the varied approaches to Jewish life that thrive in an inclusive environment.
We also like to provide avenues for individual expression and experiential learning activities that allow our students to integrate their knowledge within their self-concept.
Of course this is achieved with the creativity, joy, warmth and love that characterise the unique approach of our exceptional Jewish life and learning team.
Through our dedication to rich experiential and classroom-based learning activities we ensure that our students develop a positive affiliation with Jewish learning and strong sense of identity and character. This forms a great base for each student to develop their keter shem tov – their crowns of a good name.