Tag Archives: Pluralism

Articulating a School’s Core Beliefs

Core Beliefs WordleAs a Head of School, it is my job to find the words. It is my job to remind everyone what should already be evident and to teach it to those first encountering us. I have other significant roles; this one, though, is one I cherish. I cherish the chance to articulate the school’s values because Albert Einstein Academy is not just school; it is an investment. As a school, we are being asked to articulate our core beliefs as part of our re-accreditation process. Our core beliefs encompass much more, though, than our school; our core beliefs establish what we do for the community. Core beliefs are more than mission; they pave the way to mission fulfillment.

We have a stated mission to set our sights in a particular direction; it is like our Torah. To know how we achieve our mission and why we choose certain paths, we need a “Mishnah,” of core beliefs. Below, please find a draft of AEA’s Core Beliefs. This draft reflects feedback from the faculty, staff, and the board of directors. It is still a draft. I welcome your feedback, too, positive or negative, grammatical or philosophical.

The list incorporates many Jewish ideas and teachings. Each belief has a consequence for what we do. Taken together, the list also demonstrates how AEA goes beyond a K-5 schooling.

We are what we believe, particularly when belief is put into action. Our statement of core beliefs indicates the value-proposition we are making. Our community and our world benefit from students who see value in themselves and others, who seek to understand the world and its differences, who take responsibility with love and without fear, and who bring honor and dignity to what they do. AEA is an incubator for a vibrant, meaningful future for our students, our community, and the world. As an institution, AEA is an investment in that future, may we merit it soon.aea new admission logo

Our Core Beliefs

 Albert Einstein said, “I never teach my pupils, I only provide conditions in which they can learn.” We draw on the following core beliefs to provide these conditions at AEA:

בצלם א-להים ברא אותם

(b’tzelem e-lohim bara otam: In God’s image, God created them.)

We believe that each person, having been created in God’s image, has divine value. As such, we educate the whole student, using multiple modalities and differentiating instruction for each according to his/her way.

 ראשית חכמה יראת ה׳

(raysheet chokhmah yirat haShem: The beginning of wisdom is awe of God.)

We believe that curiosity manifested in asking questions is the path to wisdom. As such, we encourage our students to see the world with awe and wonder, to be inquisitive, and to think critically.

 אלו ואלו דברים א-להים חיים

(elu v’elu d’varim e-lohim chayim: These and those are the words of the living God.)

We believe that “these and those,” as sides of a debate, represent equally meaningful manifestations of one living world. As such, our pluralism respects different commitments that reach for one truth, and our academic curriculum is integrated across subjects to reflect that oneness.

 ערבות הדדית

(arvut hadadit: mutual responsibility)

We believe that we are each responsible for the other. As such, we teach personal and communal responsibility. We regularly explore social justice and freedom as part of responsibility to the wider community.

 אהבת ישראל

(ahavat yisrael: love of Israel)

We believe that love of the Jewish tradition drives our efforts. As such, we live Jewish values and practices daily. We teach Hebrew as the language of the Jewish people. We actively forge a positive relationship to Torah and the State of Israel.

 כל העולם כולו גשר צר מאוד,והעיקר לא לפחד כלל

(kol ha’olam kooloh gesher tzar me’ohd, v’ha’eeqar lo lefahched klal: All the world is a narrow bridge and what is essential is not to be afraid at all.)

We believe that living and learning are a lifelong journey. As such, we teach that it is essential to try new things and encourage experimentation. We teach that mistakes are opportunities for learning; failing forward builds confidence and deepens knowledge.

 הדר כבוד הודך

(hadar kavod hohdekha: the honorable dignity of Your glory)

We believe our purpose is sacred. As such, we conduct ourselves with honor and dignity by cultivating good character and by striving for excellence. We take and teach personal ownership for our self-presentation, for our learning, for our school, for our community, and for the future.



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Filed under Chailites, Education, Jewish Community, Jewish Wisdom, Leadership

Hallowing Pluralism

Carving a Pumpkin with GanAlbert Einstein AcademyChailites, October 18, 2013

What’s the Head of School at a Jewish day school doing, carving a pumpkin with Gan students?  Pumpkins are a big part of the Gan [Kindergarten] curriculum every year around this time.  The day after our carving, the Gan visited Ramsey’s farm to pick their own pumpkins.  For most students, though, carving pumpkins is a Halloween thing.  Here is what I told our school’s students and what I am telling you about Halloween at Albert Einstein Academy:

Halloween is different.  We can celebrate the harvest as we do on Sukkot and on Thanksgiving.  Pumpkins are a recognizable gourd, symbolic of the autumn harvest.  Both Sukkot and Thanksgiving have additional themes of redemption:  God sheltered us in the wilderness wandering from Egypt to Israel for forty years; the Native Americans shared food and food cultivation techniques with the Puritan pilgrims helping the pilgrims survive harsh winters.  Halloween is different.

Whatever its origins, we know that Halloween is not a Jewish holiday.  What does that look like for our students?  Halloween is, in no way, celebrated at school—no costumes, no candy, no decorations.  Outside of school, however, I know is a different story.  Halloween outside of school is a beautiful story about our school.

We are a pluralistic Jewish day school.  What does that mean?  In essence, it means that within a Jewish framework, we value multiple expressions of Jewish life.  Perhaps more than any other Jewish institution in Delaware, we exemplify all that our community has to offer; we are the big tent under which there is room for all ways of being Jewish.


The Pew Research Center recently published a study on the contemporary American Jewish community.  Much ink has been spilled or pixelated in response.  While many bemoan the rates of affiliation, religiosity, exogamy, etc., many others are buoyed by the vibrancy of choices people articulate.  As a Rabbis Without Borders fellow, I lean toward the latter.

Looking at our school, I know the strong basis for the optimistic reading.  Where else do non-Jews come to study not only general studies but also Hebrew and Jewish values? Where else do you find Chabad and traditional Jews enjoying a great curriculum of secular studies with Jewish holidays off?  Where else do Israelis send their children to learn their mother tongue and English?  Where else do children learn the many different ways Jews pray and why?  Where else can a child ask questions about any of the above and get an answer?  My answer: a community Jewish day school like Albert Einstein Academy!

So, don’t be surprised if some students take serious measures to avoid Halloween and others dress in costumes and go trick-or-treating, if some students stay home and consciously hand out treats to neighbors and others go door to door collecting money for UNICEF, if some students carve jack-o-lanterns and others retire their Sukkot ya’acov-lanterns, if some students decorate their home and others darken it, or if some students go to sleep as if October 31st was just like any other night.  That is who we are:  all these sources of practice brought together to learn how to be together.


Oh, if you want to learn more about one aspect of Halloween in the context of our curriculum theme for the year–“Einstein Goes South of the Border”–check out Mexican artist José Posada’s satirical skeleton lithographs, which were later incorporated into dia de los muertos.  If you missed the first DVLI conversation about the Pew study this Thursday morning, the Siegel JCC is hosting another Wednesday, October 30th at 7pm.


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Filed under Chailites, Education, Secular Holidays