CESJDS takes visit to Bishop McNamara


Photo courtesy of dimensions yearbook

Senior Talia Sporkin participates in a dialogue between CESJDS and Bishop McNamara students.

Harry Davidson, Managing Editor: Copy

A select number of CESJDS students visited Bishop McNamara high school last Friday as part of a new partnership between the two schools. The students spent the day shadowing various classes and having meaningful conversations about the similarities and differences between the two schools.

Bishop McNamara is a private Catholic school in Prince George’s County that is 97 percent students of color. Throughout the past year, administrators from the two schools have been working closely to find a way to establish a meaningful partnership that fosters dialogue between students and teachers of schools that are inherently different despite being just a 30 minute away from each other. 

“The focus really was exposing [the students] to racial and religious diversity,” High School Principal and Campus Head Dr. Lisa Vardi said. “ I thought it was an overwhelmingly successful visit because on both sides the students were engaged and interested in each other and learning about each other. I think that both sides were surprised at how much they learned and how much they realized that students have a lot in common.”

The day started with a meeting in the Bishop McNamara Chapel, where administrators from both schools spoke to introduce the day and explain its purpose. Students then played icebreaker games and had discussions about how faith impacts their daily lives at school. After eating lunch in the cafeteria with everyone from Bishop McNamara, the JDS students visited various classes with buddy students.

 “Everyone was so welcoming, and they really were curious about why we were there and Judaism,” senior Talia Sporkin said. “I was so happy that I was able to shadow a student to the African music and dance class… and it was really interesting just to learn about the Sunu dance that they were learning.” 

While JDS students shadowed various McNamara classes, the teachers from both schools had time to discuss how they approach the curriculum and ways they connect with their respective schools. High school English teacher Dr. Dori Fox said that it was very interesting to speak with these teachers and she learned a lot about their learning environment. 

“I was really happy to just go to a different school and see how they organize things differently,” Fox said. “Going somewhere as an outsider with those fresh eyes is always an exciting experience, and it also allows you to come back to where you work or where you learn and you can look with fresh eyes.”

The day concluded with students from both schools coming back together with the teachers to analyze a psalm that is featured in both Jewish and Catholic texts. After that discussion, JDS students had time to take pictures with their new friends and exchange their social media information.

Students from Bishop McNamara will visit JDS  in the spring, and the hope is that the partnership will continue for years to come. 

“Being at a faith-based school where values are taken very seriously helps form strong identities in students,” Vardi said. “The plan for the future is continuing the student engagement but broadening it to include more student participation.”