DEIJ all the way

Cati Werbin-Gradel, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Starting in 2021, CESJDS has made more of an effort to bring Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ) into the school community and instill these values in the students. As a result, the DEIJ framework was created in both the Upper and Lower Schools. Currently, there are three DEIJ coordinators at JDS: Lower School Language Arts, Social Studies and DEIJ Coordinator Kimberly Sherk in the Lower School, World Languages Department Chair Silvia Kurlat Ares in the Middle School and photography teacher Debra White-Dilworth as the High School DEIJ coordinator.


Kurlat Ares was offered the position of Middle School DEIJ coordinator at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year. As the new coordinator, Kurlat Ares works alongside the administration and the other DEIJ coordinators to create programming for middle school students. 

Although each DEIJ coordinator plans different activities and curriculums because of the different maturity levels throughout the 12 grades, they each check in on each other to make sure that what they are planning is similar and shares the same message. Kurlat Ares strives to plan activities that help educate middle schoolers on the diversity in the JDS community and  ensure that students promote a welcoming environment.

For example, Kurlat Ares created a program for Martin Luther King Jr. Day where students learned to make paper cranes that were donated to the NIH Children’s Hospital. 

“It’s [the DEIJ programming] that makes the school as a community aware of who lives in our community, who is a part of our community, who participates in the nuances or differences … it’s very personal for me,” Kurlat Ares said.

Kurlat Ares believes that the DEIJ program is an important aspect of the school’s curriculum because it helps provide spaces where students can learn about and respect the Jewish values of inclusion and pluralism. 

“It’s really about being kind and being welcoming even within our community to all possible points of view and perspective[s],” Kurlat Ares said. “It’s all about really listening because everybody has different experiences. You don’t have to agree with everybody … but to listen to others and to listen with your heart and to assume that everybody comes from a good place, I think it’s important … and that is for me, sort of the core of the whole thing.” 


Dilworth was asked to take on the role of High School DEIJ Coordinator during the 2021-2022 school year. Although she was interested, she initially declined because it was too much for her schedule. However, this year she decided to give the position a try. 

As DEIJ coordinator, Dilworth’s purpose is to see what the needs of the students and faculty are. She aims to work hard to attend to those needs and help everyone in the community feel comfortable and safe. Her goal is to not only help the community feel more open, but to also make sure that everyone in the community is educated on the principles of being accepting to all kinds of people and backgrounds. 

Dilworth said that it is important to not only “plaster” the school with diversity by teaching it to students, but also by demonstrating it visually throughout the school through artwork and photography, which is her passion.

“I’m not here to change anybody or to make people more diverse, because I think people are already diverse,” Dilworth said. “I think they just don’t know it. I just want to bring out that diversity, to show the world that we are already a school that has a diverse, inclusive curriculum as well.”

So far, Dilworth has built a community garden in the back of the school where anyone is able to come and plant, hang artwork and “grow their ideas.” She also created a presentation that highlighted Martin Luther King Jr. and his accomplishments for MLK day. 

In addition, Dilworth is hoping to have more events that call attention to the diverse community at JDS and feature influential figures that are often not recognized. She also wants to educate students and faculty on gay rights and leaders in the LGBTQ+ movement. 

“People forget about diversity or inclusion and they get stuck in that same little bubble, so it’s kind of like a reminder that it doesn’t take events like George Floyd or some kind of horrific event to bring us together,” Dilworth said. “We want to be proactive instead of reactive.”