“Judaism believes there is no duality in nature…Either everything is profane or everything is sacred. It is up to man either to extend Kedushah to every niche and corner of the universe or to desecrate even the Holy of Holies…One may serve God by building a house, or by healing the sick, provided that he is aware that he can accomplish nothing without Divine help.”
More than 30 years have passed since Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Maimonides School founder, made that observation at a meeting of parents. But in classrooms and lunch rooms, on playing fields and at computer keyboards, its profundity is manifest every day of the school year.
“Religious life” at Maimonides School knows no boundaries. Certainly there are classes under the category of Judaic Studies, and chagim, both joyous and solemn, are celebrated with passion. There are daily school experiences that can be labeled “religious practices": davening at set times, chesed projects, kashrut as a common denominator, bentsching after eating, and Shabbatonim and retreats away from the familiarity of the Maimonides campus.
Authentic Judaism, however, transcends such categorization; indeed, it provides the framework for every element of the Maimonides School experience. What else would one expect in a community of mitzvot? Torah is the blueprint for individual choices and connections, be they carried out as classroom conduct, respect for others, protection of the environment, or advocacy for Israel. The laboratory for practical application of halachic knowledge is right outside the synagogue door. Tzniut, often translated as modesty, is the guideline for appearance and behavior. Tzniut is more than a word; it is a philosophy of interaction that elevates all involved.
When religious observances at Maimonides are in the forefront, they are all-embracing, replete with sincerity and intensity. Kindergarteners prepare for Shabbat with special ceremonies every Friday. Elementary School classes learn about middot (character attributes) and then put them into practice. Upcoming holidays are celebrated with pageantry and song in special assemblies. In the Middle and Upper School, daily davening is broken into appropriate age groups; students of Sephardic heritage conduct their own minyan. Extracurricular opportunities include the annual journal of Torah thought as well as weekly newsletters on Torah topics and Israel affairs. Students of all ages prepare and deliver appropriate divrei Torah. Festivals are occasions for spontaneous dancing or serious contemplation, and for personal gestures like mishloach manot or flowers for Shavuot.
The richness of students’ religious experience at Maimonides extends to the greater community. Collaboration with the National Conference of Synagogue Youth on programs and activities is common, and students assume leadership roles on the local and regional level. Recently, the school joined Young Israel of Brookline to organize and operate a Bnei Akiva religious Zionism program, led by four shlichim from Israel who also contribute to classroom understanding and appreciation of Hebrew language and Israeli culture.
Judaism, the Rav told the parents back in 1971, is “an experience of intoxicating beauty, enriching man’s life, inspiring his heart. . . . It demands sensitivity and inner responsiveness on the part of man. This experiential quality is very hard to impart through special classroom techniques. This must be absorbed by osmosis, by involvement, by living participation. . . . We try our best to create such an atmosphere.” These inspirational words remain part of the fabric of our school, today and always.