Jewish Journal


September 5, 2002

Students, Schools Remember Sept. 11


This year, Jewish schools and supplemental schools will incorporate a new memorial day into their calendars and curriculums. Educators throughout the community are quickly organizing how their students will commemorate the one-year anniversary of Sept. 11. While the terrorist attacks are clearly a national tragedy, Jewish administrators are taking this opportunity to reinforce children's Jewish identity while mourning the devastating loss.

Rabbi Mitchel Malkus, head of school at Rabbi Jacob Pressman Academy at Temple Beth Am in West Los Angeles, is preparing to help his students remember Sept. 11. "The event brought back a lot about how Jews are seen in the world and Israel's relationship to everything that goes on in the United States," Malkus said. "When you couple that with what's going on in Israel, there's a sense of aloneness Jews haven't felt in a long time. For us, it was an American event, but we experience it not just as Americans, but as Jews."

Pressman Academy students will memorialize the day differently, depending on grade level. Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders will have a special commemoration as part of their morning tefillah. The lower grades will mark the day with age-appropriate discussions in their classrooms.

"Part of our mission is to develop students who are committed Jews and engaged in America," Malkus said. "This is a perfect moment to see how we, as Jewish people, fit into larger American society."

Meanwhile, Milken Community High School of Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles will have a special town hall meeting in honor of Sept. 11. During the program, students will read Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Four Freedoms speech, which was originally given after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Both speeches will also be read in New York City that day. In addition, students will have an opportunity to present their own responses to the historic event.

One group of Milken students is making a commemorative video in response to the attacks. The presentation will include reactions from people involved in the tragedy, as well as responses from student body members. Lior Agam, a senior, will present a Sept. 11-related sermon along with the week's Torah portion.

"We wanted to do a combination of marking the day, but making it nonpolitical," explains Dr. Matt Albert, the school's student life director. "We value life so much as Jews. To kill in the name of God is antithetical to Jewish law. I'd like our students to have that same feeling."

Religious school students in the fourth through seventh grades at Temple Beth Torah in Granada Hills will participate in class discussions with Rabbi Sheryl Nosan, the school's education director. "We're a fairly small community, and I know all the children in our school," Nosan said. "I'll visit each classroom personally and will be spending time with our children in small groups."

The synagogue, which shares facilities with the Episcopal Church of St. Andrew and St. Charles, will have an interfaith commemoration after religious school hours on Sept. 11. Nosan will officiate with the Rev. Gregory Frost.

"There is something that transcends our differences [with other faiths]," Nosan said. "We've experienced something tremendous as a national community. We can use that unity out of tragedy to try to build a better future. Our approach to the questions might differ, but we're asking a lot of the same questions."

Regardless of how schools choose to memorialize Sept. 11, it will be a core event in the children's lives. "The generation of kids in our schools will be shaped by this event, and it will affect how they view the world," Malkus said "I don't know if schools will commemorate it from now on, but kids will remember it."

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