It takes a village …

Remembrances from a religious school graduation ceremony

Am David teacher Dori Adler stands with student Matthew Smith. /RABBI RICHARD PERLMANWAKEFIELD – If I asked you to complete this thought, “It takes a village,” you would undoubtedly respond with “to raise a child.”

Virtually all of us have heard this proverb, probably African in origin, and many of us would agree with its premise. As parents and guardians, we take on the monumental task of rearing our children, although not in a vacuum. We ask for help from countless community members, including extended family, friends, health care professionals, babysitters and, of course, educators.

With good reason. Learning from and interacting with a variety of people in healthy, meaningful ways can help children form a sense of community and foster their sense of identity. Many of us choose to enroll our children in a formal religious school education to further enhance this process.

At Temple Am David’s Louis and Goldie Chester Religious School graduation ceremony last spring, I was repeatedly reduced to tears by how religious school can profoundly impact our children.

There was the group of 7- and 8-year-old girls who jumped up and down and hugged one another after each received her graduation certificate.

There were the teachers making spot-on statements about the students that demonstrated how deeply they understand their students. Many long-standing teachers add consistency and stability to Am David’s program.

There was the group of middle school students who started their tenure at Am David as toddlers in the Shalom Friends program and are now all b’nei mitzvah age.

There were the kids graduating and promising to come back to volunteer as high school students.

There were parents discussing Am David’s new Family Shabbat services that engage students in leading different parts of a traditional, yet child-friendly, ritual experience.

There were cheers and laughter from everyone in the room when Rabbi Richard Perlman made jokes, some at his own expense.

There was applause for Jane Levenson and Gayle Katzman who, after more than 10 years, are stepping down from their positions as school committee chairs. (This September, Meredith Daniels and I will take over  – talk about big shoes to fill!)

There was the overwhelming feeling that religious school builds a sense of community while providing a meaningful Jewish education.

It really does take a village.

Jeanine Silversmith (, webmaster and editor of the online newspaper for Am David, is co-chair of the religious school.