I've just spent the last two days in Los Angeles, meeting educators and visiting day schools all over the city. I find it energizing to sneak peeks into others' classrooms and discover how like-minded institutions are educating their students. In all the schools I visited, Purim preparations were in full swing; students wore tie dye and pajamas, halls and doors sported festive Shushan decorations, and I watched a fully-costumed Purim shpiel. Beneath these Purim disguises, guard shacks and security personnel reminded me that the safety of our children remains a primary concern. Behind the Purim masks, teachers worked hard to ensure student learning and maximize student engagement. And under the Purim costumes, these beautiful urban facilities toiled to create communities of learners confident in their Jewish identities and competent in their abilities to expand their learning.
These schools are on mind as I reflect on Akiba. Knowing that the same excitement pervades the halls of Akiba heartened me. We, too, wore patriotic colors and neon in anticipation of Purim and adorned our halls with lavish decorations. We, too, recounted the story of Purim and the heroics of Esther and Mordechai and sang and danced with joy over this ancient victory. In our own urban oasis, our passionate and dedicated teachers create a community in which our students are connected to each other and to their heritage; through their teaching they cultivate curiosity in our students and nurture a sense of belonging.
So, while I may have coveted whiteboard walls, technology labs, and a black box theater, my trip reinforced for me the commitment, excellence and beauty of home.