ALUMNI

Brandeis Today

Brandeis Today News

List of 6 items.

  • Winter 2022 Sukkot in Yosemite

    “To be spiritual is to be amazed.” ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

    In October, Brandeis revived the beloved community event, Sukkot in Yosemite, after a three-year hiatus. Over 180 families traveled to Yosemite Valley for several days of exploring, hiking, meditating, praying, singing, and celebrating together. This tri-annual journey to Yosemite is freeing. Being immersed in nature gives us space to re-establish balance in our lives. It calms our nervous system and urges us to leave behind the demands of our busy lives and to instead focus on the basics - meals with friends, bike rides across the park, and an awareness of being a small part of a very large and timeless universe. This community gathering invites all of us to cultivate awe at the natural wonder surrounding us while reorienting our perspective to the immediacy of the present moment. After four days of wow in the Sierra Nevadas, there is no doubt the time nourished our spirits, strengthened our friendships, and imprinted memories deeply tied to the Brandeis experience. 

    For the past four years, Brandeis has been one of fourteen schools participating in Dr. Lisa Miller’s Collaborative for Spirituality in Education, a project developing curricula for teaching spirituality in schools. Professor of psychology and education at Columbia University, Teachers College, Dr. Miller’s research asserts that spirituality supports health and happiness and that spirituality also encourages our children to be more engaged and better citizens. Her research also shows that a spiritual practice can be a panacea for depression and anxiety, conditions seemingly prevalent in children today. This work intersects naturally with one of the three core tenets of in the Brandeis 2023 Strategic Plan. which also guides our planning and core practice at the school: "Ethics and spirituality are good for our children and our world." We believe that the challenges of this century will require ethically-fluent and spiritually-grounded leaders. Our students are given many tools to develop their authentic spiritual identity that is rooted in each child’s own life experience and background. Spirituality is practiced in many ways at Brandeis with an emphasis on social and emotional learning, mindfulness, Jewish rituals and traditions, and the values of chesed (kindness), ometz lev (integrity), and tikkun olam (service).” 

    How do these practices impact our students? Our students use mindfulness and breathing techniques to calm their bodies and minds. They celebrate Shabbat and practice gratitude for a week well-done. We see our students organizing projects of tzedakah whether collecting toys for children in need, or serving meals to the poor, hungry, and homeless at local shelters. Our values are embedded into our curriculum and our students are encouraged to reflect on how they appear in everyday interactions. These regular practices of service and gratitude nurture a mindset of abundance, and foster growth and learning in our students while reinforcing the idea that every person can make a meaningful and positive contribution to create a better world.

    Spiritual satisfaction reminds us and our children that we have everything we need and more. The things you can’t buy, the screen that turns off, is our individual power to experience radical amazement in our everyday lives. From stargazing under a dark night sky to a community-led tefillah in an amphitheater surrounded by trees, taking time to actively nurture our souls and be reminded of our interconnectedness, is something that is profoundly important for our collective psyche. A trip to Yosemite with a view of Half Dome can jumpstart your journey of awe, but so can simply looking up into the sky at sunset on your drive home. It is our goal to give our students the vocabulary, the skill sets, and a safe space to hone their spiritual awareness and their understanding of themselves as they grow and mature at Brandeis.

    Take a moment before 2022 draws to a close to fill your bucket with something you find transcendent. Revel in it and breathe it in deeply. I wish you sacred moments like these and the ones we shared in Sukkot in the year ahead. 
  • Fall 2022 Returning to Their Brandeis Roots

    As the 2022-2023 school year kicks off, Brandeis is flush with rosy-cheeked students abuzz with excitement to see their friends, share stories of summer adventures, and settle into the rhythms of the fall. Many students eagerly await familiar rituals like blowing the shofar on the bluetop on the first day of school, which marks the start of the year and all of its promise. 

    For some of our students, their first day at Brandeis is also the beginning of something new they will have in common with one of their parents. This fall we are delighted to welcome a number of students who will be the second generation of their family to attend our school. 

    For alumni, reconnecting with Brandeis during the application process can prompt some predictable nostalgia, but it often leads to expressions of profound appreciation for what was an impactful time in their lives. For Naomi Horton-Vienna '98, it was important that her daughter Lucy ’31 develop a solid foundation in Judaism in order to understand more about her identity and her family’s history. Naomi remarked, “Brandeis gave that to me in a way that changed and shaped who I am. I am forever grateful for that experience.” Naomi is already looking forward to the many ways her daughter will build on their family traditions by bringing home the lessons she learns in school. 

    Another common theme is the desire for their children to be surrounded by the same supportive teachers our alumni knew as Brandeis students years ago. Kindergarten parent Ariela Morgenstern ‘92 reflected, “It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to have my child go to Brandeis, where, as a student, I absorbed the creativity, self-expression, and Jewish values that I still cherish. I want Lilah to be surrounded by teachers who will spark a love of learning in her, which is what Brandeis provided for me.” Ariela told us that her return to the Brandeis campus this past spring rekindled warm memories of beloved faculty and staff, who went out of their way to foster an environment of acceptance and belonging. 

    The extended Brandeis community is a support system that enriches the educational experience for students and sustains families in joyful and challenging times. We come to know each other through the many events that take place on campus, at practices and games, performances, birthday parties, holidays, and scores of other gatherings that keep our calendars full. Relationships evolve over many years at Brandeis and seed connections that extend into the greater Bay Area Jewish community and beyond. Talya Kesselman Brass ‘94, has told her daughter Sara, a new student in the Class of 2025, so many stories about her time at Brandeis. “It is exciting for us to enroll the next generation of our family at Brandeis. The San Francisco Jewish community is incredibly unique, and Brandeis is at the heart of what makes it so special. We are proud to invest in this school and continue to watch it flourish.”

    The Brandeis experience is one that creates a legacy of strong values and the knowledge that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It is especially meaningful when our alumni return to us with children of their own! Welcome back Naomi, Ariela, and Talya! We are so happy to have you back! 

    Do you know of other alumni families who would enjoy being featured in this newsletter, if so please let us know! 
  • Summer 2022 The Return to Israel

     
     
    The inaugural Brandeis 8th Grade Israel Trip took place in the spring of 2007. At the time, there were multiple travel options available to our students, including visits to Yosemite and Washington, D.C. In 2010, it was decided, both because of the cost associated with multiple excursions and time spent away from the classroom, that there would be one annual overnight trip. The opportunity for Brandeis students to experience Israel, a land so important to our school and vital to our curriculum, made the decision easy and thus was born the Annual 8th Grade Israel Trip, the pinnacle of our student’s experiential education. Our students were notable to visit Israel in 2020 and 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, this year we are happy to share that the restrictions were lifted and our beloved tradition was reinstated.

    At Brandeis, the study of Israel is a key subject central to student learning and one of the five pillars of our Enduring Understandings of Jewish Education. Like the Enduring Understandings, the trip to Israel synthesizes many years of study which imparts on our students a deep connection to Israel and its people. The history of Israel (ancient and modern), arts and culture, geography, and traditions come to life for our students in this sacred homeland of the Jewish people. 

    “At Brandeis, we endeavor to graduate students who are engaged with Israel, ready to deepen their understanding of the challenges it faces, leading to a meaningful, lifelong connection to the Land, the State, and its inhabitants. The 8th Grade Israel Trip has a central role in realizing this vision,” says Debby Arzt-Mor, Director of Jewish Learning. While traveling across Israel, students explore, learn, pray, and play together while securing the bonds of their friendships on the eve of their graduation from Brandeis. This journey is meant to be a defining moment in their education at Brandeis - one in which Israel becomes a real place and a meaningful experience in their lives. 

    Jenny Rinn, Director of Lower School and one of this year’s chaperones on the trip shared it best in her summary of what the Israel Trip contributes to the education of our students, “As this trip rounds out their Brandeis education, so does it commence new beginnings and perspectives. As our soon-to-be graduates anticipate the transition to high school, we hope they embrace the unknown that lies ahead of them with wonder and awe. The Israel Trip is a practice of welcoming new possibilities with enthusiasm and curiosity.”

    And with that, I say “Mazel Tov!” to the Class of 2022 who will be graduating in just a few short weeks. May you go far and accomplish your heart’s dreams. Our teachers, parents, grandparents, friends, and our entire community support them now and always on their journey. 
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  • Spring 2022 From The Head of School

    On Friday, March 11th, we hosted over 200 grandparents and special friends on the Brandeis campus, our first large-scale in-person event since March of 2019. The sun was shining, our students were abuzz with excitement, and our guests were thrilled to join us for student performances, visits to the classrooms, and a chance to get to know other members of the extended Brandeis family. The program was designed to let visitors experience “a day in the life” of our students, and included a joyful Shabbat celebration before lunch. Students proudly showed off what they love about Brandeis while confidently hosting their special visitors and making sure everyone felt at home.
    On Friday, March 11th, we hosted over 200 grandparents and special friends on the Brandeis campus, our first large-scale in-person event since March of 2019. The sun was shining, our students were abuzz with excitement, and our guests were thrilled to join us for student performances, visits to the classrooms, and a chance to get to know other members of the extended Brandeis family. The program was designed to let visitors experience “a day in the life” of our students, and included a joyful Shabbat celebration before lunch. Students proudly showed off what they love about Brandeis while confidently hosting their special visitors and making sure everyone felt at home. 

    I opened the program with the Shehecheyanu blessing to mark this milestone moment, and I share my full remarks highlighting our diverse, welcoming community here.
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  • Winter 2021 Brandeis Medical Advisory Group 

    Brandeis Medical Advisory Group 

    Like schools around the country, Brandeis has had to marshall a variety of resources to enable students to safely attend classes in person during the pandemic. A particularly invaluable source of expertise and creative thinking has been our Medical Advisory Group.
    Brandeis Medical Advisory Group 

    Like schools around the country, Brandeis has had to marshall a variety of resources to enable students to safely attend classes in person during the pandemic. A particularly invaluable source of expertise and creative thinking has been our Medical Advisory Group.

    This group of current and former Brandeis parents, all of whom are respected physicians, has advised our Head of School and offered guidance on everything from reopening plans to our ongoing policies and procedures related to masking and vaccines. The group also holds regular all-parent forums via Zoom to address questions about the changing landscape of the pandemic and keeping families safe and healthy. They provide ongoing reassurance and expertise to the community, along with a hefty dose of compassion, patience, and good humor. 
     
    We are also grateful to Dr. Bob Wachter, the Chair of UCSF’s Department of Medicine and a frequent contributor to UCSF’s Medical Grand Rounds pandemic-era video series, who is the father of two Brandeis alumni. In collaboration with Dr. Wachter, we were able to partner with Mission Wellness, a specialty pharmacy who led the first of two on-site vaccine clinics for 5-11 year olds in November. These clinics are open to the general public, and we are proud to host such an important event on our campus. 

    Thank you to the members of the Medical Advisory Group! We are grateful for your dedication to the welfare of our community. 
     
    Dr. Rebecca Berman, Dr. Matthew Cooperberg, Dr. Erin Gordon, Dr. Louise Greenspan, Dr. Franklin Huang, Dr. Erica Lawson, Dr. Samantha Kamras, Dr. Won Kim, Dr. Aaron Kornblith, Dr. Lucy Kornblith, and Dr. Jonathan Terdiman.  

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  • Fall 2021 Welcome From the Head of School

     
    We are excited to launch Brandeis Connects, a new quarterly communication tool that will make it easy to learn more about the Brandeis community present and past, stay connected with classmates, and learn about the many ways you can engage with our school. We hope it will help you continue to remain connected and be part of the sustaining and caring community for which Brandeis is known. 
     
    From Head of School Dr. Dan Glass:

    We are excited to launch Brandeis Connects, a new quarterly communication tool that will make it easy to learn more about the Brandeis community present and past, stay connected with classmates, and learn about the many ways you can engage with our school. We hope it will help you continue to remain connected and be part of the sustaining and caring community for which Brandeis is known. 

    Since its founding fifty-eight years ago, Brandeis has thrived because of those who have invested time and the financial resources to support the Brandeis mission and educational experience of our students. We are grateful to have a community that gives so generously to ensure a thriving Jewish day school in San Francisco which in turn contributes to the thriving Jewish community of the Bay Area. 

    All of the ways you remain involved and connected have a positive impact on our school. We look forward to finding ways to invite your continued support and hope that you will share the ways Brandeis has made an impact on your children and families. 
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