One of the perks of working in an institution where I am also an alumnus, is that I get to re-experience important traditions, Ezra rights of passage, and events. It has been such a special experience to share my memories with our teachers (including some of my own former teachers!) and with students and parents. Many of our memories overlap and it is amazing to have so many opportunities to share in these collective memories and experiences. However, it’s even more fun when I get to experience Ezra traditions that are new to me, such as last night’s fifth grade Torah Night.
As I’ve previously mentioned, one of the aspects of an Ezra graduate that I hold most dear, is the possession of Torah reading and tefillah leading skills. Starting as early as preschool, our students gain the skills to sing and worship as a group. As they get older, they move into leadership roles. Our fifth graders have been working hard on acquiring one of these skills, Torah reading. Since the beginning of the year, they have met weekly with their dedicated teacher, Shira Rosenblatt, to learn the different trope symbols, practice the sequences, and ultimately to learn how to read as a part of the Torah service. This particular group of fifth graders have risen to the challenge in a beautiful way and last night was the perfect way to celebrate them.
Our celebration last night took place with our fifth graders and their families, with some supportive sixth grade classmates in attendance and some family members and teachers joined by Zoom. Each student picked pesukim from the first book of the Torah, Bereishit, and explained their process for picking those verses before reading from the scroll which was rolled out and held in the air. Parents and siblings stood behind the scroll as their fifth grader read. Following the reading, each student was presented with their very own inscribed Tikkun, a book that contains all of the weekly Torah readings and also serves as a tool for learning to chant them. The tikkunim are sponsored each year by the Vine family and we are so incredibly grateful for their support.
This event, organized beautifully by Shira and Rabbi Amanda Brodie, connected perfectly to the start of the holiday that we are celebrating today. Lag BaOmer commemorates and celebrates the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer and while leading up to this day, many observe certain mourning practices to commemorate the loss of a large number of Rabbi Akiva’s students who died in a plague. Tradition also tells us that Lag BaOmer was when that plague ended. It has become a day for celebration and for the renewal of practices such as haircuts, music, and weddings, which many abstain from earlier in the counting.
For us this past Thursday, having the opportunity to celebrate and to give thanks felt both important and timely. I hope that we will have many more occasions to celebrate our students and our community as we move towards the end of the school year.
Wishing everyone a festive Lag BaOmer and a restful Shabbat,