Passing the Torch (or in this case, Torah).

Dear Ezra Community, 

I have a short-sleeved plaid shirt that gets a lot of mileage at this time of the year. I like it for a few reasons; it is loose, breathes well, and looks like a button-down shirt even though it only has a few buttons at the top. Most importantly, it belonged to my grandfather, Stanley Cohen. I wear this shirt when I feel like I need a little extra support or a push into a day that might be potentially challenging. While I never knew Stanley, his love of music and his senses of style and humor are a big part of who I am as a person and as a teacher. While priestly status traditionally passes through the father, thanks to my parents’ decision to hyphenate my last name, I also take with me a small part of Stanley’s inheritance as a Kohen or member of the priestly class. 

While my status as a “Ben-Bat-Kohen” (the son of a daughter of a Kohen) does not actually mean anything in Jewish tradition, I can’t help but share in a sense of pride when I read the priestly blessing in this week’s parasha, Nasso. When Moses is almost ready to finish setting up the Mishkan or Tabernacle, he is told to assemble the priests and confer the blessing upon them that they will give to the people. This blessing, today known as Birkat Kohanim, or the Priestly Blessing is traditionally recited on major holidays in the diaspora and on shabbat or even as a part of daily services in Israel (depending on Ashkenazi/Sephardi customs). 

Now, as we prepare to close the 2021-2022 school year, it gives me great pleasure to be able to confer that same blessing on all of us as a community. This year has certainly had its challenges, but I am grateful to be in a community where we not only embrace those challenges, but work together to find solutions that work for a wide range of learners and participants. This blessing, often called the Threefold Blessing, is in fact three different brachot and each part is deserving of its own attention. When combined together, it is the ultimate blessing of belief, wellbeing, and peace - one that we particularly need right now. 

We have been able to come together as a community in numerous ways this year. The act of choosing to be involved in a community of Jewish education is in itself a blessing and keeps us connected. As we move into the summer, while school may not be in session, we are still here for you as a community and are looking forward to introducing new ways to stay connected and to learn and celebrate together. We also welcome parents and community members alike to come and visit us or schedule a tour so that we can share some of the amazing stories and successes of our school with you. 

I’ve written before about how much pleasure it gives me to get to see new traditions take hold. Today, I had the privilege of witnessing not one, but two newer traditions. The Staci and J.Z. Glazier Torah Achievement award is given each year to an 8th grader who goes above and beyond to contribute to our community by reading Torah. This year, we awarded the prize to Itamar Lebowitz and Jordan Hass. At the end of the Torah service, where the 8th graders led our school in Tefillah for the last time, the Torah was passed from student to student until it reached the 7th graders, eager to step into new shoes of leadership. As the faces of the younger students looked on, eagerly awaiting their own turn, I was filled with an enormous sense of pride and appreciation. Next Thursday, when our 8th graders have graduated, our 7th grade will have the opportunity to lead and we will start getting ready for another great year at Ezra. 

Wishing you all a good end of the week and a peaceful Shabbat. I feel truly blessed to be a part of this community.