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Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome

Some people love a good plan. They want to know their schedule days, or sometimes weeks, in advance. They thrive on routine and live for order. Others, like yours truly, love a blank page, or day turned upside down. “Flying by the seat of your pants”—that phrase would describe my best day. A thwarted plan, a rainy day, a wide-open path allows me to do what I do best: improvise, adapt, and overcome.

Unfortunately, when the pandemic hit our beloved city and community, we all had to adjust our expectations and change course. With little preparation, our department had to do the same, and for the last six months, we have all rallied around the call to improvise, adapt, and overcome. This isn’t exactly a new approach. Throughout the Torah, we see both our matriarchs and patriarchs applying the same mindset. When the future was unknown, the path bumpy, the road filled with danger and uncertainty, our ancestors channeled the same ethos.

God chose Abraham and said, lekh lekha (go forth). There was no map, no clearly delineated plan. What kind of immeasurable faith did Abraham possess before he stepped into the unknown? What about Sarah learning she would give birth to a son in her 90s. Imagine the doubts, the fears, and the excitement she tempered, worried she would face yet another year of longing. How did Moses muster the courage to face the powerful and tyrannical leader with whom he once broke bread? How did he forge a path into an unforgiving desert with an Israelite people clamoring for reassurance, freedom, safety, a plan! After the destruction of both of our temples, rabbis needed to reinvent the only way they knew how to communicate with God. Quickly they took us from sacrifice to prayer, hopeful that their adaptation would hold their community together for generations to come.

Time and again, our people have continued to flee persecution, battle antisemitism in its deadliest forms, and find new and creative ways to live our Judaism in often-hostile environments. We have had to improvise, adapt, and overcome in each generation. This moment is yet another test of our strength and willingness to do so. This moment affords incredible opportunity. We can stand up for the causes we believe in and engage in our families’ growth and learning in ways we’ve never imagined. We have the opportunity to take
part in a revolution to eradicate the racial disparities that have plagued our nation. We have the opportunity to teach our children how to pray with our feet, raise our voices, and vote with our Jewish values at our core. Most importantly, we have the opportunity to engage ourselves and our familyin deep and meaningful Jewish learning.

It is our time to improvise, adapt, and overcome. Our department is here to partner with you in this effort:

Improvise: Kadima B’Bayit — We have always treasured our role in connecting families to each other and creating community. This new moment called for us to focus on the social and emotional growth of our families, and to do so in a highly personalized fashion.

Personalized Family Learning Plan
For 3rd-6th Grade Families to explore relevant and meaningful topics in a personalized way that meets the learning needs and desires of their families, while having opportunities to develop stronger relationships with other BJ families and staff. This will replace our family elective model.

Adapt: BJ Teen Bundle — We don’t often give our teens the credit they deserve for being highly adaptable in times of stress and uncertainty. BJ teens were almost instantaneously ready and willing to adapt to online learning and social programs.

Grade Cohort Learning for the Whole Year
After several successful years of events and opportunities for the teens in the BJ community, we’ve decided to create a comprehensive BJ Teens Bundle. This new structure has advantages for teens, families, and staff, and will offer a more streamlined program. We will now be offering grade cohort learning for the whole year (8th grade together, 9th/10th grade together, and 11th/12th grade together).

Overcome: Kadima@BJ — When faced with the closing of our physical doors, our Kadima@BJ program overcame all odds to offer extraordinary programming on multiple platforms to help keep our families engaged and connected virtually. These goals will continue to move us forward.

This virtual plan will allow us to:
• Ensure that our students can receive a Jewish education while staying safe, healthy, and socially and emotionally supported.
• Ensure that our students and families feel socially and spiritually connected, even while physically distant, and that BJ is a space they can turn to in times of need.
• Ensure that we are creating an environment where our students can be active Jewish participants in this virtual world.

Isaiah di Trani, a 13th-century Italian, Jewish tosaphist (a commentator on
the Talmud), wrote: “ We are dwarfs astride the shoulders of giants. We master their wisdom and move beyond it.” Our ancestors did not cower at the idea of change or uncertainty. They faced roadblocks, pitfalls, and unfavorable terrain with faith and agility. We stand on the
shoulders of these giants, those risk takers, those that worked to improvise, adapt, and
overcome so that we might have a Jewish future. It is our hope that future generations will similarly look up to us for how we tackled this unprecedented moment in time.

I could not be more proud to work alongside an incredible Family Life and Learning team: Rachel Barnehama, Laura Schultze, Makai Dorfman, Danielle Freedman, Emma Miller, Tobie Franklin, Michael Harlow, and Shira Averbuch.