Rosh HaShanah Message 5784

Originally shared with the SJCS community in September 2023 to mark Rosh HaShanah 5784

On this final day of 5783, we can look back with satisfaction and appreciation, and we can look ahead with anticipation and excitement. 

Over the last year, with the pandemic waning, we have begun to realize the opportunities of our new setting in the heart of North Seattle. SJCS has held together strongly, achieving standard-shattering rates of student retention and re-engaging with members of our community from across the school’s history. We have solidified our outstanding professional team by combining skilled veterans with impactful newcomers. And we have drawn inspiration from our timeless intellectual heritage and our mission to carry forward the founders’ vision for a child-centered, community-based educational program, while innovating to meet the distinctive challenges and opportunities of our times. 

This week, we had a special opportunity to celebrate our status as the Seattle Jewish Community School. Giving our students rich experiences in riding public transportation and rooting for the home team, proudly wearing their school colors, took lots of planning and called not just for “all hands on deck” but for “all eyes on sidewalks, escalators, platforms, and stadium ramps.” Julia Sliwoski led the way with expertise, inner and outer aplomb, and steady good cheer. Our teachers capitalized on learning opportunities, leading students to build models of the light rail, study maps, sing jingles with the names of the stations, and consider the benefits and challenges of public transportation. Everything that proceeded visibly, and everything that proceeded behind the scenes, made me an abundantly proud Head of School and an abundantly proud Seattleite. (And the Mariner’s won besides. Go, M’s! Go, Squirrels!)

Looking ahead, I am delighted to share news of the arrival of three professionals who have recently joined (or re-joined) or will soon join our team, enhancing what we offer to our students.

  • Shoshana Stambaugh, a beloved SJCS teacher of long-standing, returns to lead singalongs with our cohorts every other Thursday, complementing their music lessons with Jade Dikelsky. These sessions will continue through the end of 2023 and hopefully into 2024.

  • Hadas Goldstein, an experienced teacher from Haifa, Israel, who moved to Seattle last year, joins our team to provide Hebrew enrichment. Hadas will be at SJCS on Tuesdays and Thursdays, working with Joyce Steuermann—and Mihal Bat-Or, while Joyce is on maternity leave—to enrich what we offer, especially to students for whom Hebrew is a native language.

  • Josh Gladstein will join the SJCS team in October, as our School-Based Occupational Therapist. He will work with SJCS teachers, students, and families every Thursday and will be at our partner Jewish day schools on other days of the week. Josh is a graduate of the Seattle Hebrew Academy and the Northwest Yeshiva High School and is a Doctor of Occupational Therapy. We are so pleased to be able to offer his OT services at our school.

We strive always at SJCS to strike a thoughtful balance between keeping tuition accessible to a cross-section of our community while also providing an outstanding program to our students and compensating our employees fairly. In this context, we are especially grateful for philanthropic support, and we are committed to using donations in the service of the mission and the educational program, as the three examples above all reflect. Adding employees necessarily stretches our budget, yet we aim always to extend what we provide for our students, their families, and Seattle’s Jewish community. We deeply appreciate the contributions that make this possible. 

So we come to a new year! Each fall in synagogue services on Rosh HaShanah, congregations recite this line several times:

היום הרת עולם

HaYom Harat Olam

“Today the world is conceived”

Certainly, we can read these words as a reference back to primordial times, but the Hebrew suggests the present tense as well. Along with an anniversary, Rosh HaShanah provides us with a new beginning. Looking to the future—as we well know—includes some uncertainty, but great possibility as well. Even at schools, with their aims for steady progression, we have learned that, just as we secure foundations for children, we also need to prepare them to navigate the unknown, guided by values and supported by connections. Rosh HaShanah reminds us that we all have the responsibility, along with the opportunity, to conceive anew, guided by these same values and supported by these same connections that we seek to transmit to the children.

Our mission puts the very same endeavor before us every day. How fortunate am I to be engaged in this forward-looking journey with this community. Onward to 5784!