Bishop McNamara High School continues growing partnership with JDS


Abby Chesman

Students from Bishop McNamara accompany JDS students to their photography class.

Adin Halbfinger and Aaron Waldman

Visitors from Bishop McNamara High School came to CESJDS this week as part of a partnership program. JDS students and staff visited Bishop McNamara in October and joined forces at a community service project at the Capital Area Food Bank in February, so they were eager to host their new friends.

“I think that it’s a special thing when two communities come together, they bond and they get to know each other,” Bishop McNamara freshman Marissa Tyler said. “What’s so special about this partnership is that you see two different [schools] coming together.”

Bishop McNamara is a Catholic High School in southern Prince George’s County. With 872 students, they offer over 60 clubs, 22 varsity sports teams and 190 courses.

The day started with an introductory meeting with the Bishop McNamara visitors and some JDS students and faculty. At the meeting, students introduced themselves and engaged in brief discussions about religious values and education at JDS. After the introductory meeting, students participated in a STEM and photography activity before the high school joined together for an assembly in the gym.

Dean of Experiential, Leadership and Service Learning and math teacher Tori Ball started the assembly by introducing JDS’ “Assembly Norms” of being tuned in and tech free, and having ruach and respect. Whereas during a normal assembly in which Ball breezes through the norms that are familiar to all JDS students, this time she expanded on them to explain the Hebrew term ruach for the visitors.

“The way Ms. Ball led the assembly to help introduce the guests to KabShab, and also to share a lot about Jewish values and Jewish terms was really special,” Jewish text teacher Rabbi Benjamin Barer said.

After Ball’s introduction, JDS junior class presidents Yael Greenblum and Eliot Rogal gave a D’var Torah about Purim before Bishop McNamara students shared a slideshow about their school. The assembly closed with a musical performance of the song “Try” by Pink sung by juniors Shiri Cohen and Serena Gill.

After the assembly, the visitors sat in on a variety of classes before heading to lunch. During lunch, faculty from both schools ate lunch together in the atrium, while students had lunch in the school cafeteria. Many appreciated the unstructured time to connect with each other. 

“I really liked having lunch with them because it was a really chill environment,” Rogal said. “We talked a lot about how their school is compared to our school.”

After lunch, the visitors participated in a final debrief session with some JDS students and faculty before saying their goodbyes and heading home.

“It’s a great beginning to a partnership, so now I’m just curious to see where it goes,” Barer said.