Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are collectively known as the High Holidays or the Days of Awe. They also bookend a period called the “Ten Days of Repentance (teshuvah).” In the upper school this year, we designed a three-part program over ten days to reflect that time period. We started with part 1 on the Friday before Rosh Hashanah, and then continued with part 2 last Friday and culminated this past Monday right before Yom Kippur. The primary purpose of the program was to help students understand the Jewish concept of teshuvah and how to apply it by setting self-improvement goals that are attainable, challenging, and measurable.
For part 1 of the program, each grade gathered to watch a short video called “The Urgency of Change”, conveying the idea that teshuvah does not have to take place over a long period of time. Then students spent a few minutes reflecting on their own behavior and determining a goal for themselves. In part 2, students returned to their same grade-level groups and participated in a “Four Corners” activity that explored the extent to which their choices affect their communities. For part 3, we gathered the entire middle school together and the entire high school together. We heard from a few students who were willing to share their goals with the group and they talked about the obstacles they faced and the extent to which they felt they had been successful. We closed the program by giving each student a small notebook representing the “Book of Life” and encouraged students to write short, positive messages in one another’s books to get them feeling hopeful and optimistic heading into Yom Kippur. Students found meaning in the program and we hope that they used it as a springboard for introspection and improvement during this reflective period in the Jewish calendar.