High Holy Days Message From Head of School
Tom Elieff, Head of School

As we experience these Days of Awe in 5781, things feel unsettled -- we might say, to quote Hamlet, "Time is out of joint." When we approach the Day of Atonement next Monday and endure a day of fasting during this period of suffering that started six months ago, we might wonder, haven't we been through enough affliction this year?

Consider this: Over a million lives have been lost in the world, with over 31 million cases. We've seen mass cancellation of gatherings and fear and trembling everywhere.

Defiance is so understandable: Why must I search for what I've done wrong while we've navigated all the wrongs thrown to us?

Yet here's another perspective. In times of deprivation and isolation, we appreciate the small, good things. When our lives are reduced to basics and rooted in essential survival, we savor the simple acts of kindness.

One adjustment to this time of somber self-reflection would have us ask: What did I not appreciate enough this past year? Did I recognize or ignore goodness when it was right in front of me?

What may come to mind are the front line workers we either know about firsthand or have seen constantly in the media, the lifesavers celebrated on yard signs in our community. Nurses, hospital workers, paramedics, fire fighters, hurricane rescue workers.

But what all of us here at Levine see and experience each and every day in our school are the ones who are not celebrated in the media. The ones who also deserve front line worker and heroic status are, yes, our teachers.

Teachers are front line workers because they are putting themselves out there every day, caring for the growth and development of students, taking a risk by walking into the classroom each day, devoting time between classes of in-person instruction to ZOOM for those who choose to stay home. Children get affirmation and identity from teachers. Families can pursue their purpose because of teachers. The engines of society keep running because of teachers.

Everything about a teacher's livelihood is about lifting others -- getting to know others; caring for others; fulfilling potential of others; rooting for the success of others.

During these days of Teshuva, of acknowledging our wrongs and returning to our good selves, let us ask: Did we show respect to our teachers? Did we truly appreciate our teachers? Did we recognize their lasting commitment?

If any of our teachers have felt that I have not valued them, honored them, or celebrated them as they deserve, then I surely apologize.

May good deeds, kindness, and Kavod guide our actions more urgently in this New Year.