Second Annual Celebration of Justice Louis Brandeis Day
Last year our school inaugurated the first annual Justice Louis Brandeis Day, a day for our students to learn about the life and legacy of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, learn about civic institutions in the United States, and explore questions of ethical leadership and radical empathy. This year the focus was on justice and injustice—and what each of us might do to make a more just world. The first hours included a middle school–lower school mentoring activity; middle school students spent the rest of the day in a variety of in-depth learning rotations ranging from Jewish values and activism in modern history to protection of free speech—and even an “homage haiku slam.”
A morning all-school assembly set the tone—with Head of School Dr. Dan Glass eliciting student input on the legacy of Justice Brandeis and the meaning of justice. Songs and a slide show overview of the life and achievements of our school’s namesake rounded out the introduction. Lower school students then returned to their classrooms to discuss and ponder the concepts of justice and injustice, by playing a Chutes and Ladders-type game (designed by Maker Educator Sandee Bisson). Meanwhile, middle school student mentor groups prepared to lead their lower school mentees in an activity inspired by Malala’s Magic Pencil, written by Nobel Peace Prize winner and best-selling author Malala Yousafzai. Middle school mentors joined their mentees for a read-aloud of the book by lower school teachers, after which they together addressed the question: If you had a magic pencil that could change world for the better (as Malala imagines doing), what changes would you make? Working together (in mixed media), mentors and mentees created drawings of “a more just and peaceful world.”
At 11:00 a.m., while the lower school returned to its normal schedule, middle school students split into “Battle of the Advisories” mixed-grade groups to engage in learning rotations exploring four topics:
Jewish Values in Action: Learning about twentieth century Jewish activism in the Labor Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Gay Rights Movement, and brainstorming how Jewish values can be applied in activism today. (Led by Josephine Hill and Abbe Wainwright.)
Our identities: Led by educators from Bimbam and the JCCSF in collaboration with Debby Arzt-Mor, Jennifer Baumer, and Jody Bloom, this workshop exposed students to aspects of Brandeis's identity; they then drew their own identity maps. Students then interviewed one another, and filmed their reflections about how their own identity intersects with spirituality and Judaism.
First Amendment protection of hateful speech (led by Neal Biskar and Ashley Bitton): Students watched a video on the Westborough Baptist Church, a hate group that targets Jews and the funerals of fallen U.S. soldiers. The students then engaged in a “four corners” debate, defending whether they strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree that hate speech is rightfully protected by the Constitution.
Homage Haiku (led by Isaac Jacobs-Gomes and David Jefferies): Given excerpts from speeches, poems, and essays about social justice, students wrote haiku inspired by the source text. “Using direct quotes in haiku is encouraged,” explained Mr. Jacobs-Gomes. “We celebrated with a haiku slam!”
As Dr. Glass said in a follow-up email to the faculty, “I want to thank all of you for helping to execute such a wonderful program; and I especially want to thank the committee who took on leadership roles in designing and coordinating such compelling workshops and experiences for our students. I am so proud to be doing this work with all of you, and so grateful to you for continuing to bring this exciting tradition to life in our school.” MORE PHOTOS