The call of the shofar that resonated through the Brener Building gymnasium on the afternoon of Sept. 30 did not signify the end of the month of Elul.
Rather, Brian Cohen, associated principal, Middle School, sounded the shofar to mark a beginning.
The ancient call to action culminated the breakout ceremony of Maimonides School’s first theme of the year: Arvut, translated as “mutual responsibility.”
“All 550 of our students will spend the year learning about the various circles of mutual responsibility, and teaching one another through art, music, drama, and text study,” said Naty Katz, head of school, in a letter to the community.” We believe the lessons inherent in this important theme will be experienced in a unique and profound way due to the multi-sensory nature of the project.”
As announced during the kickoff event, various aspects of arvut will be studied and then taught by a specific breakdown of grades. Students in the Early Childhood Center through Grade 2 will address the concept of responsibility in school -- to one another, and among students and teachers. The focus for Grades 3-5 will be responsibility for the local community.
Middle School students – Grades 6-8 – will learn and then teach about global responsibility, to all people and to the environment. The Upper School’s area of expertise will be the concept of kol Yisrael areyvim zeh la’zeh – responsibility for all Jews.
“Two major original pieces of art with the arvut theme will be created and mounted in the entryways to both of our school buildings,” Mr. Katz continued. “It is hard to describe the excitement we feel as we bring experiential Jewish learning to Maimo on a major scale.”
The arvut breakout began with classroom learning sessions and culminated with an unprecedented assembly of studdents in Grades 1-12 in the Brener Building gymnasium. Coordinating the introduction and all of the thematic activities this academic year is Benji Hain, Middle School director of student life, who leads experiential learning schoolwide.
Part of the breakout was a video, viewed by individual grades, about a substitute teacher who boasted to his students that he never needed anyone’s help. Then as part of a science experiment, he was transformed into a small household pet. After he was restored through his students’ intervention, the teacher professed a new appreciation of the concept of arvut.
The video’s conclusion was a live performance on the Brener gymnasium stage, featuring Reena Slovin, associate principal, Elementary School, with seven actors from Grades 1, 2 and 3. Senior Arthur Bloomfield produced a separate breakout video. Music and lyrics for a special arvut song were composed by Andrew Malkin, the Elementary School music teacher, and Mr. Hain.
“Torah study, original texts, music, art, and drama, led by our students in peer-to-peer learning – this dynamic and innovative program promises to provide a meaningful and memorable learning experience for our students,” Mr. Katz declared.