Levine's Mission Extols Humanity
Tom Elieff, Head of School

For eight months, I have been on countless Zoom calls. This is what I hear constantly from our community and civic leaders:

"Stay the course.

Hunker down.

Don't let up.

This thing is real."

Here is how I contextualize those messages for our school ...

Resist the temptation to sign your child up for indoor sports.

Pause and think twice about unmasked get togethers, parties, and that multifamily cabin weekender.

Consider moving your tutoring sessions, coach's visits, piano teacher, etc. to virtual experiences.

Thanksgiving 2020 poses a unique challenge -- as we are all exhausted by this pandemic. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of family celebration, connection -- engaging in your family's unique vocabulary of humor and good-natured ribbing of each other's quirky habits. There is no gathering as robust, hearty, laughter-filled than Thanksgiving.

Yet, the pandemic complicates this holiday -- it dampens its spirit.

That cherished mythology of Thanksgiving's origins -- of Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a meal of reconciliation and acceptance -- is upended by both this crushing pandemic and our maddening politics of 2020. Those iconic American paintings depicting that idyllic feast -- today that scene seems so elusive, almost unfamiliar.

Our nation can't even agree on common sense, simple protocols, like wearing masks, that will help to protect not only our individual health but the health of our community. Being a doubter, or in denial, is an attitude that to me, as the leader of Levine, contradicts the spirit of this holiday.

As an educational leader, my Thanksgiving message is to stand for the power and dignity of honest, intelligent human discourse -- what our teachers strive to model every single day-cultivating voices, eliciting perspectives, testing hypotheses, honoring differences, posing counterpoints. In other words, it's what's in our school's mission: sharpening critical thinking and guiding student conduct toward kindness and respect.

This year's middah, let's never forget, is KAVOD, respect. Doing the right thing means safeguarding each other -- not just one's family, but all of our families, so that their children can continue to experience, in-person, what our teachers are imparting to them.

Our very mission extols human goodness.

To me, there is a simple way to instill goodness in our children, which means goodness for our future. Let's start with common sense, safe practices, like the three W's:

-       Wear your masks,

-       Watch your distance,

-       Wash your hands.

The more I can keep our teachers' and students' experience uppermost in my mind, the more I can re-envision those early American paintings of the first Thanksgiving. What I then see is a portrait of humanity at its best: laying down arms, agreeing to common bonds, reveling in mutual peace, and having an honest and meaningful conversation.