AVI CHAI concluded its general grant making on December 31, 2019.

A Maccabee Moment at Shalhevet High School

Posted by: Deborah Fishman

November 30, 2018

Working in a Jewish day school, you are surrounded by modern-day Maccabees whose heroic actions lead to miracles — big and small — all the time. During Chanukah, AVI CHAI and Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools are featuring stories from Jewish day schools of “Maccabee moments” when students, teachers, and leaders made a difference to surmount challenges, beat the odds, and valiantly further Jewish values and actions in our community. Together we will read them and say “Nes Gadol Haya PO!” Chag Urim Sameach!
A Maccabee Moment at Jean and Jerry Friedman Shalhevet High School
Once a week, all of Shalhevet meets together for an hour in the school gym to dialogue about difficult topics in our Town Hall. A group of students outlines some questions for conversation in advance and one student, the agenda chair, leads a school-wide discussion. Like most of America, our school is currently politically divided. Shalhevet students and teachers both notice how engaging in conversations that don’t become politically-charged and divisive has become difficult. The Agenda Committee saw this issue and decided to use our school’s Town Hall to think communally about how we can and should use conversation to bring us together.
A few weeks ago, we challenged the divisiveness in our community by discussing one of the most polarizing topics of the last few months–the election of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. From the beginning of Town Hall, the students were told that the goal of the conversation was to “improve the culture of politicized conversation at Shalhevet.” Ground rules were laid out: don’t use comments to unnecessarily instigate others, and do try to understand the other side. The default belief of the conversation is to always assume that your peer can teach you something.
Miraculously, instead of the usual combativeness we have come to expect in political debate, we saw our students work towards the common goal of respectful dialogue. While we know that there will still be many times our community will be affected by rancorous public debate, there is comfort in now knowing we can come together to civilly discuss complex issues.
Submitted by Na’amit Nagel, a teacher at Shalhevet High School.

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