Senesh held a virtual conversation about Asian American Jewish identity and how the Jewish community can create a place of belonging for all. This conversation was meant to be moderated by Rabbi Mira Rivera, the first Filipina-American Rabbi to be ordained at The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and Associate Rabbi & Director of Pastoral Care at Romemu in Manhattan, but she unfortunately could not join us at the last minute due to personal reasons. The panel included Executive Producer of LUNAR: The Jewish Asian Film Project Gen Slosberg, Senesh JoCI fellow Maryam Chishti, Senesh teacher and alum Marisa Miller, and Senesh alumni parent Pam Miller.
Lower School parents joined us to learn about how identity and bias are taught in the classroom at Senesh. They heard from Lower School Director Shelley Fogelson and then Senesh Diversity and Belonging Consultant Imani Chapman led them in a workshop that paralleled what their children are learning.
Senesh parents joined us on Zoom to hear directly from Tova Harris and Maryam Chishti about their work at Senesh and get to know these amazing members of our community.
Families with children ages 2 through 8 years old celebrated Sigd with Hannah Senesh Community Day School and Be’chol Lashon. Together we learned about this special Ethiopian holiday that celebrates Torah, Israel, and community with Ethiopian music, dance, food, story, and other traditions!
Senesh held a virtual conversation with two-time James Beard Award-winning culinary historian and food writer Michael Twitty, moderated by WNYC and NPR Journalist Matt Katz. Mr. Twitty discussed what food tells us about our lives and our histories, reflected on the culinary intersections of Black and Jewish food traditions and on his own Black, Jewish, and gay identities.
The food we eat tells the story of who we are, where we come from, how we live, and what we believe. Our Senesh community has so many fascinating stories to tell, and what better way to share the stories than through the food we eat with our families at our Passover seders? For Passover 2021, we compiled a book of Senesh recipes and family journey stories to share with each other for the holiday. Senesh Seder Stories, like last year’s Senesh Haggadah, continues our work to celebrate and share the richness of diversity in our own community and in the global Jewish community. Within these pages you will find a plethora of recipes, traditions, and stories that reflect the deep well of experience our community holds.
In this workshop parents explored how to engage in conversations about racism and inequity with our children and in our communities. First, they develop a shared language by unpacking definitions of racism, equity, bias, privilege, and more; then, they broke into groups and practiced navigating these discussions with their fellow Hannah Senesh parents. Parents created a safe space so they could begin to develop some authority and comfort when talking about these issues.
Earlier this year, Senesh alumni partnered with Keshet for a program on understanding the deeper context of gender in Judaism and Jewish texts. Using the example of the daughters of Tzelafchad, we analyzed how the bible addresses an apparent gender discrepancy in Jewish law, and how to take steps to advocate for one’s own identity, the way these women did within biblical history. Thank you to Keshet and everyone who joined us to explore this issue!
Parents joined us as we read and discussed books Rebecca Walker’s Black, White & Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self, a moving account of the complexity of growing up biracial in the US. This discussion was led by Martha Nadell, PhD (Senesh parent and Associate Professor of English, Brooklyn College, CUNY).
Senesh alumni joined moderators Bryan Oren and Yolanda Savage-Narva for our antiracist workshop series. Alumni used real world examples of racism to implement antiracist skills they have learned. Head of School Nicole Nash opened the session with an update of the diversity, equity, and inclusion work taking place at Senesh. We are grateful to hear about the steps Senesh is taking to become a more inclusive institution, and look forward to more opportunities to continue the conversation.
On July 15, 2020, the Senesh Parent Diversity Committee’s first monthly workshop focused on the origins of race and racism and the impact of slavery on housing, health care, schooling, and other areas. Participants discussed the concept of whiteness and how to discuss this with their children. For the first workshop, participants read or listened to 1619, the New York Times project about the slavery and its aftermath. Associate Professor of English, Brooklyn College, The City University of New York and Senesh Parent Martha Nadell facilitated the event.
On June 9, 2020, the Hannah Senesh Diversity Committee held a judgment-free conversation about recent events across the U.S. focusing on race and racism. There were opportunities to share educational resources for children and adults on this difficult topic. The discussion welcomed all points of view, honoring Hannah Senesh’s values of kindness, openness, responsibility, perseverance and Journey.
Parents were invited to check out our Jews Around the World Book List online and order books that interested them. This list included books about various Jewish communities that Senesh students were learning about in the classroom and that we are highlighting during Senesh holiday celebrations. Learn more about the books and order them here.
This was a special opportunity for parents to voyage to new and perhaps unfamiliar lands as they read and discussed books by a diverse group of writers. The first book was The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride. This memoir weaves together McBride’s autobiography, recollections of his mother, and a reconstruction of her life as an Orthodox Jewish woman in interracial relationships in the southern United States and Harlem in the first half of the 20th century. Parents discussed the book on a virtual call.
While working and learning remotely, we created our first-ever Senesh Haggadah. This school-wide project grew out of a desire to celebrate and share the richness of diversity in our own community and the global Jewish community. What better way to share the wealth of our traditions and interpretations than with a Passover Haggadah to help guide us on this journey of Jewish peoplehood together.
In this Haggadah, you will find examples of how Jews across the world and in our own community observe Passover. Through pictures and stories, you will see ritual objects and traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation. We have included personal stories of journeys to freedom and helpful discussion prompts to use throughout your seder.
We honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a special day of service with our partner Repair the World.
At our Hanukkah Community Art Festival, we had a special reading of multicultural children’s books and craft projects that reflect Hanukkah traditions from around the world.