A Class Act
In my Jewish community, choosing a prospective school for one’s children is a mission that possesses Talmudic intensity, and is a topic of passionate debate among my contemporaries. Buzzwords like blended learning, iPads and SmartBoards help assure anxious parents that their children will get ahead and get into Harvard; what more could a modern Jewish mom want?
But I pay extra attention to talk of anti-bullying programs and a commitment to fostering the value of kindness. I wonder if these programs will be enough to counteract the unfortunate tendency children often have to band together and winnow out the “nerds” and “losers,” or to make it okay to be different in an typically homogeneous environment like a Jewish day school. I wonder if it would have been enough for me.
Sara Leah stood out like a sore thumb among the neatly-pressed and perfectly coiffed schoolgirls in our right-wing yeshiva elementary school. She had huge curly hair that resisted attempts to be corralled into a ponytail, and her shirt was consistently untucked. She wore pastel pink coke-bottle glasses and saddle shoes, way before they became ironically vintage, and her knee socks were embossed with things like rows of hearts when everyone knew classic argyle was the way to go. Academically, she was weak. She had no clear, defined role to play except that of class nerd, and she fulfilled her purpose beautifully.