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OIEJB Update: April 15, 2024

OIEJB Update: April 15, 2024

What a busy time of year for our office!

As you read this, we are halfway through five history and heritage month celebrations that run from February through June, and in the midst of several religious holidays and observances. April 1 marked the beginning of Arab American Heritage Month, and between Ramadan and Eid, Easter, and anticipation for Passover (which begins April 22), many members of our community have lived and celebrated their faith this spring. Please read below for a recap of Women’s History Month and National Day of (No) Silence, and the histories of Arab American Heritage Month and Passover.

Women’s History Month Celebrations & Assemblies

In Lower School, 4th Grade led this month’s Community Art Project. Students learned about sculptor Louise Nevelson and her distinct artistic style. She is known for her monumental, monochromatic, wooden wall pieces and outdoor sculptures. She was a Jewish woman born in the Russian Empire and what is now Kyiv, Ukraine. As a woman, she had to fight and navigate a male-dominated profession and market. Other grades learned about the historical and cultural impacts of women around the world, including Madame CJ Walker, Dolores Huerta, and Marie Curie. 

Women's History Month Assembly 2024

During March, the Middle School had decorations celebrating Women's History Month and International Women's Day. The Girls Affinity Group held a celebration during lunch to build relationships and share information. There was an Advisory lesson about the history of the month, this year's theme, and the colors associated with the month. The lesson centered on topics such as the gender pay gap and how this breaks down by race. Resources were shared with educators to use in their classrooms, and books were made available for students to read. Several students also helped to create resources during Immersion Week for the Heritage Months. This included posters, lessons, and bulletin boards. 

While March is always a shorter month for Upper School, with Intersession preceding Spring Break, female-identifying students contributed pieces they created in arts classes to a display in the Atrium. With materials ranging from acrylic paints to seashells to tissue paper, the display highlighted once more the great artistic ability of our high school students. The display of artistry continued after Spring Break, with an assembly for both Middle and Upper School students that included a live song performance, readings of poems by famous women poets, and dance.

National Day of (No) Silence

Our office encountered a beautiful example of Continuing Revelation as we marked the annual Day of Silence. Upon hearing the first query shared with classes in the Middle School and the Upper School, “How can we be mindful in our words and actions to avoid silencing members of the LGBTQ+ community?” a student suggested different wording: “How can we be mindful in our words and actions to avoid silencing LGBTQ+ members of our community?” The first query, the student said, felt somewhat “othering,” and our office was grateful for the edit!

If you would like to read more about how we marked the day on campus, please click here

Arab American Heritage Month

As we commence celebrations of Arab American Heritage Month, the SSFS Office of Institutional Equity, Justice, and Belonging acknowledges the particular challenge facing Americans of Arab descent. While they–and Americans of Middle Eastern heritage–have long contributed positively to our country’s history as scientists, politicians, entertainers, and more, popular culture and mainstream media sometimes offer more two-dimensional views. The OIEJB’s goal, therefore, is to push past negative stereotypes and celebrate Arab Americans and Arabs from around the world for their many contributions to mathematics, science, art, and culture. 

People of Middle Eastern descent first began to enter the United States around 1875, according to American.gov, and a second wave of immigration followed after 1940. Today, an estimated four million Arab Americans live in the United States. About one in four of all Arab Americans is Lebanese, followed in number by Americans from Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Morocco, and Iraq; nearly half of Arab Americans profiled by the Census Bureau were born in the U.S.

While some heritage months began as celebrations that lasted one week, the Arab American Foundation sought a full month of recognition in 2017. Initially, a handful of states recognized the initiative, but by 2021, 37 state governors, Congress, the U.S. Department of State, and President Joseph Biden had issued proclamations commemorating Arab American History Month. Please join our office in recognizing the members of our community who share Arab and Arab-American ancestry.

At SSFS, we will celebrate in LS with another Community Art Project. 2nd grade will lead the learning about the art of Palestinian embroidery called tatreez and its symbolic meaning to Palestinian people and artists such as Linah Mohammad and Jordan Nassar. Students will then embroider Arabic words for peace, justice, friend, and love. Other grades will participate in the month by accessing resources and children's books that highlight common themes in the Arab American community. The resources provided about Ramadan and Islam will also be relevant to bring forward again.

In Middle School, there will be displays showcasing artifacts, photos, and information about Arab countries, landmarks, and historical figures. This can help students learn more about their rich cultural heritage.   We will include books written by Arab authors or books that feature Arab protagonists. We will introduce some common games to the students.

Upper School will mark Arab American Heritage Month with an Advisory Lesson aimed at engaging and educating students through facts about what countries comprise the “Arab World” and trivia about Arab Americans’ contributions and achievements. A display on the second floor of the Upper School will highlight Arab American poets, and the Atrium display will highlight Arab and Arab American art and artists.

Passover

Pesach (meaning “Passover” in English) is a major Jewish festival observed around the world in the springtime. Jews gather together to retell the biblical story of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, contemplating and celebrating themes like redemption, freedom, and social justice. 

“You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9)

This spring holiday occurs on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, during the full moon. It lasts seven days in Israel and eight days in the Jewish diaspora, where the first two days and the last two days of Passover are considered festival days on which work is prohibited for those observing strictly. The start of Passover—in the current Hebrew Year of 5783—corresponds in 2024 with sunset on April 22 and lasts until after nightfall on April 30th.

Jews participate in a Passover Seder on the first night of Passover and, outside of Israel, a second seder on the second night. The Seder (meaning “order”) is a communal meal that is structured around rituals, songs, a retelling of the Exodus story, and thought-provoking conversations that engage participants to question and reflect on the themes and values of the story while connecting with shared traditions of Jewish peoplehood. It is a tradition to invite and welcome guests to a Seder and to learn and reflect together on its universal themes. As the Seder has evolved over the centuries, there is a great diversity in how Seders look from household to household and what type of Haggadah—the book that guides guests through a seder—is used. 

Dietary Restrictions on Passover
Throughout the entire week of Passover, students at Sandy Spring Friends School may be keeping Kosher for Passover, which involves eating Matzah (or unleavened bread) throughout the holiday.  This is a mitzvah (commandment) and a reminder of the unleavened bread the Israelites hurriedly took with them into the desert out of Egypt according to the Exodus story. 

“This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. All those who are hungry, let them enter and eat. All who are in need, let them come celebrate the Passover.” (Pesach Haggadah, Magid)

There is a spectrum of practices surrounding dietary laws on Passover, which include avoiding chametz (or foods containing leavened wheat, rye, barley, oats, or spelt), using only special silverware and dishes for the duration of the holiday that have not been in contact with chametz year round, and the prohibition of eating Kitniyot which encompasses legumes (such as peanuts, beans and peas), rice, and corn. Individual students and families may engage with dietary laws and practices in a variety of nuanced ways, so teachers in each division should maintain open communication with families as needed and remain sensitive to individual needs.

Chag Pesach Sameach! Happy Passover!
 

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