RainbowThe room was silent. You could hear a pin drop. It didn’t matter that there were more than 150 people seated or standing in the gym. The room could not have been quieter empty. Eyes were facing front. No one was shifting in their seat. The entire focus of the room was towards the podium.

These respectful, dignified reactions were beautiful to watch on Tuesday morning. Our students, regardless of how they personally felt about gay marriage, Judaism and homosexuality, or any related issues, made an incredible statement with their behavior. That statement, as they listened to an alumna tell her story of hiding her identity and gradually coming out, was that each individual is deserving of dignity and respect. It continued as their peers stood in front of them to introduce clips of the movie Hineini: Coming Out in a Jewish High School which depicts the story of a student in a Boston Jewish high school grappling with her sexual identity. As the students moved upstairs into workshops that they had selected earlier in the week, the level of dignity and respect that they afforded each other as they discussed topics that could be potentially fraught with emotion was similarly high.

This is a powerful statement.

I recently saw that this past week had been declared National Random Acts of Kindness week by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. What occurred here, in my mind, was much more powerful than a random act of kindness. While we encourage our students to engage the world with derekh eretz and look for moments where they can do tikun olam, there is something even more meaningful when our students actively work as a group to create an environment that provides dignity and respect to everyone. It recognizes that as a community, we are responsible for setting the tone in each and every conversation that we have with another person.

Through our actions and our words, we shape the environment around us. This Tuesday’s program, a product of collaboration between the Tzibur Club and its advisor Becky Friedman-Charry, Robin Stanton, and Rabbi Josh Rabin, laid the foundation for creating an environment that is more accepting of our individual differences. When we return from break, students will have the opportunity to again shape their environment by engaging in acts of tikun olam at our school and in the community for our Upper School Chesed Day. Step by step, we are changing our school and our world.

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