In 1958, Helen McElroy gave birth to a baby girl Lucy, who was born blind, deaf, and cognitively disabled. After one year of caring for Lucy at home, Helen admitted her to the Walter E. Fernald School in Waltham, a state facility for severely disabled children and adults. At age 16, Lucy died while in the care of the Fernald school. Lucy’s family never knew where she was buried.
Last week, as I was driving to work on Rt. 128, the car in front of me stopped suddenly. I pumped my brakes, coming to a complete halt, and prayed that the car in back of me would do the same. The situation ended safely, but my heart was beating quickly, and I drove the rest of the way to Gann in a state of high alert.
At that liminal moment, in the seconds when I was wondering if the car in back of me would crash, a zillion thoughts ran through my mind. I thought of my three children, of my husband, of my friends. I thought about Gann and about the work I want to do in the world. It was a moment of being startled, of waking up, and of absolute attention. I was fully present to where I was and to where I wanted to be.
During the Hebrew month of Elul, we blow the Shofar each morning to prepare ourselves for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The call of the Shofar is the Jewish way to be fully present and to ask: who am I and where do I want to be? It requires us, for a few moments, to be fully “awake” to the conditions of our world and to notice ourselves and our fellow human beings.
This past week, we welcomed our wonderful students back to school. One of the highlights of the week was the opportunity for ninth-grade parents to plant seeds, together with their children, on the new Gann Farm. As teachers and parents, we blessed our children with the traditional Jewish blessing parents give on Friday night of Shabbat.
A colleague at Gann recently introduced me to a modern adaptation of the traditional blessing. The adaptation reads: "Hayi asher tih'yi vahayi b'rukah ba'asher tih'yi. Hayeh asher tihyeh veheyeyh barukh ba'asher tihyeh," which can be translated as: "Be who you are and may you be blessed in all that you are."
While these two blessings represent the ancient and modern, they also reflect the ways we interact with younger and older children.
It is my honor to welcome you to the 2019-2020 school year. My name is Dr. Dalia Hochman and I am Gann Academy’s new Head of School. This year, our school enters its third decade with many new and exciting changes. As many of you might recall, we have historically sent out a “Shabbat Shalom Message” every Friday afternoon. This year, the weekly message, entitled “Shavua Tov,” will be delivered to your inbox at the end of Shabbat, when Jews historically look for three stars in the sky in order to commence the Havdalah ceremony, marking the end of Shabbat and the beginning of the work week.
It is only fitting to write a Shavua Tov message, as Gann’s seal is the Havdalah candle. This special candle has three or more strands of wax interwoven and braided together. The New Jewish High School chose this seal to represent the different strands of the Jewish community coming together. At the time, the idea of a pluralistic, Jewish high school was a radical and ambitious concept.