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The View From the Fishbowl

Merrill's Musings

PJA Principal, Merrill Hendin has the best view of PJA from her office.  Here in this blog, she'll share with us what she's seeing at PJA, what she's been thinking about, and, in general, share her thoughts.

We think you'll enjoy the view from the fishbowl too.

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The Practice of Kavod

January 29, 2012
5 Shvat 5772

Hello from the very rainy fishbowl!

It has been ages since my last post and so much has transpired that I am not sure where to begin. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the North American Jewish Day School Conference held this year in Atlanta, Georgia. The topic for the conference was 21st century learning and we covered things ranging from the day school value proposition to working with children with learning challenges. Keynotes addressed important topics such as the importance of Jewish education, specifically Jewish day school education, and presenters came from all branches of Jewish education. The conference included schools from RAVSAK, the Jewish community day school consortium of which we are proud members, Solomon Schechter schools, the Conservative movement day school, Pardes, the reform Jewish Day school consortium, and Yeshiva University, the Orthodox day school group. It is a wonderful way to meet people, hear about the different things happening at day schools across the country, schmooze over dinner, find quiet places to talk after and in between sessions, daven (pray) together and learn new and exciting approaches to the many aspects of day school education.

I had the great fortune to be invited to participate in an ELI talk, modeled on the TED talks with which we are all so familiar. These talks will be made available to the public very soon and will hopefully be a springboard for many more such talks in the future. Among the people I was privileged to hear at my ELI talk was Rabbi Marc Baker of the Gann Academy in Massachusetts. Earlier in the conference I participated in a critical friends group with Marc as well, dealing with the difficult topic of working with families of students with learning challenges. His talk at the ELI talks focused on self reflection and how one bring the values they believe to be important to the work that they do every day with families, faculty, and of course students. It was a thoughtfuland insightful talk which gave me pause to think about how we at PJA view the middot (foundational values) important to us, and internalize them as individuals.

How do we view Kavod (respect, honor) in our own lives and in the lives of our Jewish Day School? Kavod is one of the central middot on which our school stands. It is a central value for all of us to aspire to ‘get right’. What does it mean to ‘get Kavod Right?’ I have given this a great deal of thought and as an administration we have spent time over the past few weeks talking about Kavod in general, and specific to our school. This will be a topic of our coming inservice and will be something we work harder to enforce in our student and parent body.

As a brainstorming activity I asked myself this question and here is what I came up with.

At PJA Kavod looks like:

  • RESEPCTING EACH OTHER- our friends, our teachers, our parents, our Rabbis, everyone who walks through these doors.
  • Eating Kosher food
  • Wearing a Kippah during times of tefillah, meals and Jewish Study (or all the time if you are so inclined)
  • Abiding by our school’s dress code (to be found in our parent handbook on the website for those who didn’t know we had one)
  • Speaking respectfully to our teachers and other adults in our building, whether they are the people who teach us every day or make sure our building and classrooms are clean, we honor them and respect them all the same
  • Communicating appropriately with our friends, colleagues, and community members. Yes, this is a big one and in this day and age can be misused all too easily. Remember that texting and emails are easy to abuse and should be used carefully and with utmost respect. It is easy to say things via email or text that are not as easy to say in person. If you cannot say it face to face, you should probably not say it via text or email either. I try and remind myself of this every day.
  • Keeping our school clean and neat by picking up after ourselves, not leaving papers, books, back packs, garbage, lying around in the halls or in our classrooms. Everything has a place. If you see garbage lying around, pick it up and either recycle or throw it away. If you see property lying around and you know who it belongs to, give it back to that person or bring it into the office.
  • In class when speaking with your classmates and teachers remember that we have a certain way we speak appropriately with each other. Not everything is ok to say and there are proper ways to communicate concerns or needs.

This list can and will grow. I have only begun to scratch the surface. I welcome you to add to this list by doing your own brainstorming at home, in your classrooms, on your own at a quiet time or place.

Let us always remember how important KAVOD is to our everyday life. It is essential to our relationships and to maintaining our strong moral compass.

Thank you for participating in this conversation with me.

With utmost KAVOD to you all,


Posted by in daily life at PJA on Monday January, 30, 2012 at 09:33AM


I think this is a wonderful post and I remind my girls, often, about being within the Kavod loop.  Oftentimes they are better behaved at school than at home.  I'd like an equal dose of Kavod from them at home as well.

I think part of what makes our PJA community so special is the respect we often have for each other as staff/faculty, the respect we have for our students and for our parents, and the respect that we parents have for each other.  A reminder about that is important now and again so I do appreciate it very much.

from on 01/30/12 at 11:33AM


I appreciate your post and agree with what you wrote. Unfortunately, many of the students, families and faculty are not in sync with your thoughts about kavod. Baseball caps are not kippot...white shirts are not often worn by some...parents at times do not use email and texting appropriately.

Your post is an excellent reminder to the parents of what PJA is and their role in keeping strong Jewish values in the school. Keep reminding us.

I look forward to you continuing to lead the school with energy and commitment and bringing more Yiddishkeit to PJA.

from Aharon N on 01/30/12 at 02:33PM

Thanks to you both for your comments and your support both at home and at school. I really do believe there isn't anything more important that we can teach our children and model for them, than Kavod, and  i agree that we all need reminders every now and again as to the importance of these simple and meaningful acts.  Let's all aim to STAY IN THE LOOP!

from merrill hendin on 01/30/12 at 10:03PM

Gut Gezogt!

from Len Shapiro on 02/04/12 at 09:22PM

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