Reflections by Purim Ball Honoree Laurie Brumberg
April 11, 2016 by
First, thank you to the Purim Ball chairs, volunteers, and the Advancement Office for pulling off this always-amazing event. And thanks to everyone in the room — because in addition to your auction bids, volunteer time, and scholarship contributions — your being here is a measure of what’s so special about JPDS — the power of community to loop back and enrich our children’s education, while itself being shaped by the wonder, kindness, and joy of our children. Surely our teachers teach what is taught in many schools, but JPDS does it a little differently — and when they say they cultivate mensches, they mean it.
On December 21, 2003, two big things happened: our son Gabriel was born, and the North Campus was dedicated as the permanent home of JPDS. For us, it always seemed fate that those beginnings came on the same day, and that we found our way here.
We see at JPDS equal commitment to learning; to creative play and experimentation; and to ethical awareness. Natural curiosity is teased and pulled, like taffy, until it stretches into new lesson plans and other classes. Whether it’s Reggio Emilia, the scientific method, or Torah study, this is a school that values the process, and insists that children question, interpret, and defend their position — they do it in Pre-K building projects, in science, and when parsing texts to uncover rich meaning. Kids are challenged to find the “Big Idea,” to ask why and how, and dig deeply. When curiosity and passion call, JPDS is prepared to follow, and build or refine a curriculum around it. Our children observe, design, write, and problem solve. And they explain how and why they did it. Those are valuable skills.
Our kids balk (and we even louder) at the succession of projects and presentations they are asked to complete — every year in every class. But what are they doing? At a formative age, they learn to choose and follow their interests, to make claims and stand by them, and present their work. By sixth grade, they’re all good at it. And probably without realizing it, they’ve developed poise, assertiveness, and comfort in their commitments.
And how on Earth is it?… how lucky are we? that this elementary school is so much more than a school? Just look around. It isn’t just school spirit. It’s a network of connections, of conversations that echo and repeat outside the classroom. Ours is a network of shared joy, care, and chesed. We are a community of families. And our kids see that. Every event. Every meeting and volunteer assignment. Every Shabbat dinner. They learn from our involvement, and they too are strengthened in community.
And like rich meaning in a complicated text, our community is diverse. Dan and I value very highly the fact that JPDS is a community school. As important and central as our Jewish identity is, so too is the fact that we are a Jewish community of many differences, and this also is something our children learn from daily. It helps them question, develop empathy and respect, and take personal responsibility for the paths they see as their own. It’s an important first step to living in a complex world.
We didn’t anticipate sending our child to day school, nor did we imagine that an elementary school could provide such a rich and meaningful home for our entire family. It absolutely has. Much has changed in 8 years — not least the small boy in glasses who is now a confident and engaging 12-year-old.
We’ve been touched and blessed in countless ways by JPDS. We will always be grateful, and still just around the corner.