“I have an attitude of gratitude,” a beaming student exclaims. As I watch her dance her way toward her classroom, I turn to a colleague and remark that every day feels like “Thanksgiving Day” at JCDSRI.
Gratitude is a core Jewish value and it permeates our school. During all-school morning assemblies, we often sing Birchot ha-Shachar, ‘the Dawn Blessings,’ that reflect the abundance of gratitude we feel when greeting a new day. The joyful sound of children singing the Birkat ha-Mazon, the blessings after meals, echoes daily throughout our building at the end of lunchtime. Our halls and classroom walls are often papered with post-it notes expressing thankfulness, written by students, teachers and staff. Students eagerly decorate the sidewalks in front of school with expressions of gratitude, which can also be found in one of our student’s haikus, written during a poetry unit:
It’s great to have life
fresh air, water, crunchy leaves
fit peace in your life
The name “Jew” – Yehudi – comes from the same Hebrew root as the word “to thank.” This reminds me that gratitude is woven into the very fabric of our identity. Recent scientific research reinforces the wisdom of our tradition: that an attitude of gratitude helps us to live happier, healthier and more productive lives. It can help to provide immunity against disease, reduce feelings of resentment, frustration and regret, and can even help us sleep better. We are more likely to react toward others with patience, kindness, and compassion. It even can help us fly! (Just kidding. But it does help our hearts soar.)
I am grateful to spend every day in a place that so thoughtfully and intentionally cultivates this essential value. Ultimately, however, I see gratitude’s power manifest far beyond our own personal health or feelings of happiness. Instead, I believe its strength lies in reminding us that who we are, what we have, and what we do is not a result of our efforts alone. No – we are the recipients of many gifts: of life; of another’s love and affection; of acceptance; of a helping hand; of hope. In expressing our gratitude, we are humbled and called toward action: we are to multiply our blessings by reaching out to others and working toward tikkun – toward repair. I wish all those in our community – both near and far, known and unknown – the strength to cultivate gratitude and to participate in healing our world.
Wishing all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving,
Head of School