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Weekly D'Var Torah

Parshat Hashavua: Toldot by Kyra Lozow

In this week’s Torah portion, Rebecca and Isaac have twins, the smooth-skinned Jacob, who Rebecca favors, and the hairy Esau, who Isaac favors. After coming home from a hunting trip, Esau asks his brother for some lentil soup, but Jacob tells him he must trade his trade him his birthright. Years later, when Isaac is old and blind, Jacob tricks his father into giving him the firstborn blessing. Read the full text in English and Hebrew: Genesis 25:19 – 28:9.

Also don’t forget to check out this week’s Dvar by 12th grader, Kyra Lozow.

In this week’s parsha, the part that stood out to me was when Esau asked Jacob to pour him some soup. Jacob responded and told him that he could have the soup if Esau sold him his birthright. Without thinking Esau agrees to the terms because he says he is going to die anyway. This is a perfect example of short term gratification. Esau was not thinking about his future and what he would lose if he sold his birthright…which is long term gratification. Rather, all he was thinking about was how hungry he was.

Something I have learned from dance and throughout high school is that sometimes I have to sacrifice short term gratification which in the moment seems difficult to deal with but in the long run I know it was the right thing to do. Since I have dance every night of the week that means I sacrifice things such as hanging out with friends after school. There are definitely some days that I wish I could do that but I know that dance is something that has helped keep me mentally and physically fit which is long term gratification. Instead of thinking about right now I think about the future and about the positive aspects that dance continues to bring to my life.

All of us wake up everyday and go to school. Sometimes I lose focus and feel like certain subjects in school are pointless but then I remember how essential school is to prepare me for my future and even if I don’t enjoy a class there is still something I can get out of it. Even though I will probably never touch Math in my future it is still teaching me problem solving skills and different ways to work my brain. So when I keep my long term goals in mind I am a much more motivated person.

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Hebrew Immersion Program

Don’t Take HIP for Granted

The funny paradox about a Jewish school is the reality that while we maintain a connection and an importance for the land of Israel, we simultaneously take for granted our relationship with Israel. Few other schools in Colorado mandate what a student’s second language will be. Few other schools teach the history of a foreign country at multiple different grade levels, or celebrate the national independence of a country other than the United States. And few other Colorado schools will send an entire grade to a foreign country for a whole month. I haven’t researched it, but I’d bet that, in fact, no other type of school does that. 

And yet, Denver Jewish Day School does all of those things. And as much as we celebrate them and rejoice in them, we don’t see it as that exceptional. It’s just what we’ve done, every year, for the past 11 years.

Being Jewish means loving Israel. Being Jewish means feeling a connection to Israel that defies distance. It even defies language, although the HIP trip is meant to strengthen the linguistic connection. And being a Jewish day school student means that your commitment and connection to Israel, far away as it may be, is part and parcel of who we are and what we do. Israel feels like so much a part of us that we sometimes forget how remarkable it is.

For our students, Israel becomes much more a part of them when they go there. They’ve learned about it and they know the food and the language and the history and the culture. But until they go there, and smell the sea air of the Mediterranean, and see the same Western Wall that their ancestors built, and stand in Independence Hall to hear the recording of David Ben Gurion proclaiming the creation of the state of Israel, it isn’t quite real.

HIP is a really special program: knowing that our school has created a lasting relationship with our homeland for over 170 students gives me great pride. Never take for granted what a special thing it is, or how special of a place it is. And if you are reading this and thinking ‘That sounds amazing. Why haven’t I ever been to Israel?’, then you should go. Nothing will make you understand Israel better than going to Israel and seeing it for yourself.

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Head of School

This Thanksgiving, I’m Thankful for our Strong DJDS Community.

Another week has come to a close, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. We at Denver Jewish Day School prepare to welcome Thanksgiving with gratitude to our school community for its continued investment in our kids and in this school. We are also thankful for the way in which our students, faculty, staff have come together during a divisive time in our country.

Our nation indeed seems divided, but this upcoming week reminds us of all the great people and things we have to be thankful for in our lives. We, as members of the DJDS community, have far more in common with each other than that which divides us. The Jewish values that make up the backbone of our community, our middot, help us bridge our differences and bring us together in understanding and respect. Today, our mission is more important than ever.

Our values teach us to see the holiness and humanity in every person. They also teach us that we must work together to repair the world, and make it better for our children. Let us focus on our students, strengthening them and teaching them to be strong leaders who can work with those who think differently than them. Let us continue to encourage dialogue, so that our students can grapple with diverse views, and divisive issues. Let us emphasize how deeply we believe in our core values, including inclusiveness and openness. Each of them (and each of us) is a vital part of this community, and we will continue to work passionately to ensure their continued success.

As we sit around our respective tables this coming Thursday, we should remember how much we all have to be thankful for. Spending time with your families, I encourage you to talk to each other, listen to each other, and do your best to understand each other. I am confident that we will all be better off if we do so.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Thanksgiving.

Avi

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Uncategorized

Parshat Hashavua: Vayera by Benjamin Wolpo

In this week’s Torah portion, three guests arrive at Abraham and Sarah’s tent. They inform Abraham that God will give the elderly Sarah a child. The prophecy comes true and they name their son Isaac. God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham obliges but is told that it was a test of faith and offers a ram to sacrifice instead. Read the full text in English and Hebrew: Genesis: 18:1 – 22:24.

Also don’t forget to check out this week’s Dvar by 9th grader, Benjamin Wolpo. 

This week’s parsha has the story of the three angels visiting Abraham and Sarah. Abraham invites these strangers into his home without hesitation. His welcoming personality is open to everybody no matter what they look like. Little did Abraham know, is that inviting these three strangers into his home would reveal Abraham and Sarah’s future of Sarah having a child at over one hundred years old. Abraham teaches the lesson that we should all be open to all types of people out there. This can mean including new friends in a game, or starting a nice conversation with someone who looks like they have had a bad day. Abraham’s kindness would reward him with the knowledge of having a child, so who knows what your kindness can do for you.

Thank You and Shabbat Shalom.

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Weekly D'Var Torah

Parshat Hashavua: Lech-Lecha by Gavin Sher

In this week’s Torah portion, God makes a covenant with Abram promising to make his ancestors a great nation. God changes Abram’s name to Abraham. Abraham has a child with Hagar and names him Ishmael. God then promises Abraham’s barren wife, Sarah, that she will have a child. Read the full text in English and Hebrew: Genesis: 12:1-17:27.

Also don’t forget to check out this week’s Dvar by 11th grader, Gavin Sher. 

In this week’s parsha, the Aibishter speaks to Abram, and commands him to journey to the land of Canaan, were he is to continue to spread the Aibishter’s wisdom.  As the parsha continues, a massive famine forces the first Jewish people out of Egypt, and into the land of Israel.  Furthermore, Abram settled into the evil city of Sodom, and begins the Aibishter’s important work. Overall, this parsha speaks of a number of immense changes that directly affect the Jewish people as a whole. I believe that this parsha teaches a very important lesson, to embrace change with open arms.  Just as Abram was skeptical of his new lifestyle in Sodom, many Americans are skeptical of our new President, Donald Trump.  This parsha does not only teach the effects that change can have on a society as whole, but it teaches that change is necessary for improvement.  For without change, there is nothing to learn from.  Without change, society can not and will not be exposed to potentially life improving ideas, and values.  Just as Abram, and the Jewish people learn to live with their fluctuating state, the American people must do the same.  For unity, and acceptance for change is essential to a maintaining a successful religion, and nation.  Thanks for listening, and Shabbat Shalom.

*Aibishter is a Yiddish reference to Hashem and means, “The One Above”

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Student Story

The Other Side of the Curtain – with David Last

Over this past summer, DJDS 11th grader David Last spent time volunteering at Children’s Hospital in Aurora. Given the amount of time David had spent in the same hospital the prior two summers as a patient, it’s truly a remarkable story. We sat down with David earlier this year to get an inside scoop about why he chose to volunteer his time:

So you had been a patient at Children’s Hospital in Aurora fairly frequently the past two summers. Why did you choose to go back there to volunteer?

During the summers of 2014 and 2015, I was a patient at the Children’s Hospital in Aurora. During my time as a patient at Children’s Hospital, my siblings volunteered there very frequently, and it made me so happy. This summer, a part of me felt like it was my turn to give back to a place that has already given me so much. Most people in my position would probably tell you they’d want to avoid going back to Children’s Hospital unless they needed treatment or a surgery, but I wanted to go back and volunteer my time.

Did something in particular inspire you to volunteer at Children’s Hospital?

While at Children’s, I was always in the patient’s bed. I was focused on my experience and my efforts to get better.  I never saw what happened on the other side of the curtain, and rarely thought about what my siblings and the siblings of other patients were going through. I started volunteering because I never realized how much is going on in the minds of the patients’ families. As I started spending more and more time with other patients’ siblings, I could tell how much it meant to them for me to help take their minds off of things. Whether it was playing some catch outside or even playing some video games with them, a couple of minutes made a huge difference. Going from last summer to this summer, it felt like I had done a complete 180. I realized I was a part of something much bigger than just being a patient. There were professional sports teams and entire 50-piece orchestras that would come in to visit these kids, but what amazed me the most is that there were kids from all ages that were volunteering. It really made it feel like a family. These people would come to Children’s Hospital for the same hours that I did every day, and I knew we were doing something special.

How did you spend your average day volunteering at Children’s Hospital?

After I checked into the volunteer office and got my badge, I’d go into the creative play center with some other volunteers just about every day from 9:00am-3:00pm. I would primarily spend my time visiting with the siblings of current patients. The amount of siblings ranged from 1-13 every day, so each day was different. The activities were typically split up between the mornings and the afternoons with a lunch break in between. We usually tried to get the kids to go outside in the mornings before it got too hot. The most important part of any day I volunteered was staying aware of the kids and siblings around me. I remember times at Children’s when I wanted to be left alone and I remember times when my siblings wanted to be left alone as well. I found it was easier for me to pick up the signs from the siblings of patients because of this, and they definitely appreciated it. 

If you could tell us about one moment that stands out in your volunteering experience, what would that be?

A couple kids asked me why I walk with crutches, and I tried to give them a simple answer. I would tell them I was born with a disability where I can’t walk well and I’ve had multiple surgeries to try and help correct that. When I shared that information with some of the kids, they would grow even more comfortable with me and tell me all sorts of things about themselves as well. This experience is one that I will never regret, and hopefully I will get to volunteer at Children’s Hospital again very soon.

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Alumni

A Letter to My Fellow Alumni: by Leah Schweid

Being an alumnus of RMHA (or DJDS or Herzl) means you have experienced something that many people can’t say they have. Small classes, long lasting relationships with teachers, Color Wars, and Shabbatons. I look around and see how successful my classmates and schoolmates have become, and I can’t help but think it had something to do with the school we all grew up in.

I started at Herzl in 1996 and graduated from RMHA in 2010. I was one of those K-12 kids. Throughout that time, I had the privilege to see so much change going on around me. I didn’t really understand it then, but now I realize just how important merging Herzl and RMHA was. It was a place to build a foundation for Jewish kids. Not just so they could go to a Jewish school, but so they could continue on to be successful members of the community. I learned so much more than just how to be a good student. I learned important skills like time management, team work, and how to be welcoming and be friends with someone who comes from a very different background then I do. Most importantly I made some of my best friends to this day at RMHA. Friends I will no doubt have for a lifetime.leah-blog-pic-edit

I began to volunteer at DJDS after I graduated from the University of Colorado, with a few others, as an effort to help maintain and continue to grow the alumni connections to the school. We realized that not only was this something the school really wanted to work on, but that alumni were looking for a way to stay connected to the school as well. I recently started the official position of alumni coordinator at DJDS. I will be working in this position while continuing to be a full time Realtor here in Denver. I am excited to help put together events, reconnect with alumni, and maintain the alumni database so the school has the ability to keep as many of us in touch as possible.

So why is it important to stay connected as alumni to Denver Jewish Day School? Staying connected is the best way to keep this community going. This is an opportunity to create networking relationships, maintain and build friendships, and keep the school moving forward for generations to come. I’m excited to help in this next step!

If you have any questions, ideas, or would like to help with our alumni outreach efforts please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at alumni@denverjds.org.