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Words from the Head of School

The Mirror of Our Regard

Dear Brandeis community,
With the High Holidays behind us, we are in a time of resetting—resetting our minds and intentions for the year ahead, and resetting the Torah for another year of reading—turning toward the new, with an eye toward the ancient.
In Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s weekly drash (interpretation), he shares an account of the first parashah (portion) of the annual Torah cycle that is all about creation and creativity. I was struck by a particular line in it:
To see the good in others and let them see themselves in the mirror of our regard is to help someone grow to become the best they can be.
This resonates deeply with the work that we are doing here at Brandeis with social-emotional and spiritual learning—when we see the goodness in one another, when we engage in the process of creating a kind and connected learning community, both parties and the community as a whole benefit. As Rabbi Sacks also wrote, and as we quote in our 7 Ways We Learn and Work Together, “Small acts of kindness can change and humanize our world.”
Last night Jason Goldblatt, parent to eighth grader Carly and Robbie ’15, shared a Ted Talk with me that considers similar questions. In it, Professor Christine Porath describes her research at Georgetown University on the impact of what she calls incivility in the workplace: how putting people down or creating a culture of negativity on teams depresses productivity across the board. One of the interesting findings from her team is that even being witness to unkindness—not being the object of someone’s disdain, but just being in the room to see it—reduces the output of the individuals. Which is just to say that incivility impacts the entire group, not just the target. The Ted Talk is an interesting, quick listen—one that made me appreciate anew the joyful space for learning at work that we have here at Brandeis—and it suggests that we might tune Rabbi Sacks’s lovely line, above. When we let others see themselves in the mirror of our regard, we are helping them grow to be the best they can be, yes, but we are also helping ourselves and our community do the same.
Wishing you all weekends full of kind regards, my friends.