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Saturday, January 25, 2020

“Is Moriah’s mommy and daddy coming to school for its birthday today?” asked one of the pre-K children at the birthday celebrating 50 years of The Moriah School on the 50th day of classes. The school held various “50”-themed parties throughout the school on that day.

“The 50th day of school was a true ‘Moriah Moment’; we were able to see early childhood students celebrating their love of Moriah at a birthday party, lower school students engaged in meaningful learning and our Middle school students creativity shine,” said Erik Kessler, Director of Operations.

The celebration started with the early childhood students coming in their Moriah “spirit wear” involving blue and yellow clothing, the colors of the school. “I gave over the organizing of the day to the individual teachers in each grade,” said Divsha Tollinsky, Early Childhood Director. “I asked them what the kids would think would be fun and age appropriate.” The response was overwhelming.

Nursery is comprised of 51 children, allowing each child to decorate his own number and one child to hold a happy birthday sign. The pre-K children came down to help the nursery children identify and count all of the numbers. Then they all had a party with hats, sunglasses, singing, dancing and a large “50” cake. The more sophisticated kindergarten children had various “50”- themed activities and even made the number 50 with their bodies. “The goal of the day was to have the kids be really excited about Moriah’s birthday,” said Mrs. Tollinsky. “Every child was able to go home and feel like s/he truly participated in the celebration.”

The lower school children were all asked to write reasons why they loved Moriah in Hebrew and English. The answers were compiled into a textedo showcasing all reasons, such as “I love gym” to “I like learning better Hebrew through our teacher on TV in Israel.”

Then the Shlichot Bnei Akiva in the school who have been discussing shmita with the children came up with the idea to connect yovel to Moriah 50, according to Morah Odelia Danishefsky, Associate Principal of the Lower School. They went around to the various classrooms dressed as farmers to act out their lessons. “We always want to connect our themes to Ahavat Yisrael and Midinat Yisrael,” she said.

The middle school had scheduled speakers from each “decade” of Moriah during social studies classes throughout the day. One such speaker was Alyssa Goldberg, class of 1983, who is also a current Moriah parent.

“I got a call from Mrs. Robin Wexler, Associate Principal of the Middle School, asking me to come in to speak about the differences and similarities of Moriah over the years,” said Mrs. Goldberg. “I went upstairs and started searching for all things Moriah and came up with a treasure trove of things.” She was able to find old reports, class cards and even her 8th grade signed scrapbook.

“I brought in an 85-page handwritten report from 8th grade,” she said. “The kids could not believe it was hand written and that I had to go to the library and look at real books to do the research.” She said a lot of the kids had alumni parents and were asking her to verify stories they had heard over the years.

She went on to say how interested and excited the kids were and what a great experience it was for her as an alumna. It has even sparked all sorts of re-connections and discussions with her former Moriah classmates on social media after she started posting pictures of all the things she found. “It’s been really fun!” she said.

The 7th and 8th graders independently developed a mural that included all their faces in the number 50, said Mrs. Wexler. “We called the day 50/50,” she said. “Fifty years to survey the past, and 50 years to inform the future.”

The school led up to the big bash by holding a school-wide contest entitled, “Help Us Wish Moriah a Happy Birthday.” The families were asked to come up with creative ways including songs, poems, and skits to commemorate this significant event.

Current Moriah parent and early childhood music teacher Emily Isak won the contest with her challah shaped “Moriah 50.” She called it “sowing the (sesame) seeds of Torah, chesed and academic success for 50 years.”

“I wanted my kids (in kindergarten and nursery) to be excited about the momentous occasion involving their own school,” she said.

Overall, the day was a huge success.

“Moriah has been tapping into individual student’s needs for the past 50 years, leaving an indelible mark on all who enter our door,” said Mr. Kessler. “Being part of the Moriah family, and part of the 50th anniversary celebrations is a proud moment.”

“As we ‘blow out the candles’ celebrating Moriah’s 50th Anniversary, we stand proud of our illustrious heritage,” said Evan Sohn, class of ’81, and current president of the Moriah Board. “We also stand at the foothill of our next 50 years with strong physical and spiritual foundations, an incredible teaching staff, an inspired parent body and with children motivated to be the next leaders of the Jewish Community.”

To learn more about the upcoming 50th Anniversary Dinner and alumni programming, contact Nila Lazarus, Director of Development, at [email protected]

By Sandra Hoenig-Yahalom, M.D.