Nearly one year to the day of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn. that cost 20 children and six educators their lives, Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County was again awash in a sea of green and white.
Students stood in solidarity during morning tefilah wearing the school colors of the now leveled Sandy Hook Elementary School, just as they did in December, 2012. Then, just like today, SSDS students planned the school-wide effort via Facebook.
This time, however, they explored their understanding of this modern-day calamity through the lens of their own Jewish history. The one-year anniversary of the Newtown tragedy coincides with Asara B’Tevet (10th of Tevet), a fast day commemorating the Babylonians’ break-through of the walls of Jerusalem on their way to destroying the First Temple in the Sixth Century BCE.
“The fast day enables us to recall a dark period in our Jewish history that impacted the freedom and safety of our ancestors,” said Rabbi Fred Elias, Schechter’s school rabbi. “Today’s commemoration also gives our students a tangible way to connect the idea that just as the Jewish people persevered through their connection to peoplehood, community, and common ideals of peace—wearing green and white and performing acts of chesed—we demonstrate our desire for healing and peace.”
Students prepared a series of poems, readings and tefilot that were shared during morning tefilah.
Learning that residents of Newtown, Conn. decided against a public commemoration to mark the first anniversary of the shooting, opting instead to launch a “Year of Service,” SSDS faculty and students launched their own series of community-service projects. These include “Caring for the Community”, “Caring for Children,” and “Promoting Safety,” Students will run food and toy drives, continue visits to the elderly at the Jewish Home at Rockleigh, and create advocacy campaigns for child safety. It has been reported that Newtown also asked its residents to put a candle in their windows on Dec. 14, to show their commitment to the idea of service to each other.
Similarly, in the aftermath of Newtown, Schechter’s 6th Grade Middle School students mobilized to bring refuah (healing) and hizuk (strength) to the families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Community, actions that caught the attention of New York-area television and print media.
Students organized the collection of tzedakah (charity) to purchase teddy bears for the residents of Newtown; organized a letter-writing campaign to members of the Sandy Hook community; SSDS twins wrote personal letters to Arielle Pozner, twin sister of Noah Pozner, z”l; and also joined schools across the United States in sending snowflakes to adorn the new school students of Sandy Hook Elementary School will attend when it opens in 2016.