Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School
57° Rockville, MD
The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

Nathan celebrates after breaking the school record for the 3,200 meter race. Used with permission from Nathan Szubin.
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Arditi Zarouk (second from left) celebrates the 50-year anniversary of Perach with her team at the residence of Israeli President Herzog. Used with permission from Arditi Zarouk.
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The Israeli embassy and military send over emissaries every year, and many of these families choose to send their kids to CESJDS. When they go...

A day of matzo meals
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Junior Evan Klepper gets ready for his WIS opponent to serve
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“Twenty four on 3, Mashiach on 6,” junior and tennis captain Evan Klepper said to the varsity boys tennis team before their match against...

Eighth grade visits Capitol Hill
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Jonah Mitre, Reporter • April 17, 2024

To put their learning from government class into perspective, eighth grade students visited Capitol Hill on April 10 for a field trip. Throughout...

At the college fair on April 7, Pitzer College representatives boasted about their Students Justice for Palestine (SJP) club to a Jewish student.
Opinion: Colleges need to support Zionist students
Stella Muzin, Editor-in-Chief • April 16, 2024

On April 7, I attended the Washington Area Independent Schools College Fair, which was co-sponsored by CESJDS along with other schools from the...

Opinion: CESJDS should only offer davening Zman Kodesh options

While+in+middle+school+students+are+required+to+be+in+a+davening+ZK%2C+in+high+school+students+can+choose+to+opt+out
Abby Chesman
While in middle school students are required to be in a davening ZK, in high school students can choose to opt out

There are many occasions when I daven in my Zman Kodesh, unmotivated and tired, and yet, I always find myself drawing something meaningful from prayer, whether it is gratitude or hope for more guidance in my life. ZK allows me to pause the bustle of daily life and reflect on my fortune and future dreams. Regardless of the day, my davening ZK is one of the most important parts of my morning because it allows me to connect with Judaism and start the day with a meaningful few minutes. 

CESJDS celebrates pluralism in numerous ways, with the diverse student population, different options for Jewish classes and a spectrum of teachers that teach Jewish classes, giving a wide variety of opportunities to practice different sects of Judaism. 

However, JDS needs to change how they express pluralism in davening. Right now, pluralism is the choice between a davening ZK and a non-davening ZK. Instead, the choice needs to be what denomination of Judaism to daven with while in a davening ZK. 

Currently at JDS, there are 11 Zman Kodesh options, with a program called Drisha with six choices, as an option for those who opt out of traditional davening options. Under the Drisha program, options include Yoga and Mindfulness, Art, Journaling and Book Club. These are all fantastic activities to do, but none of them give the same Jewish knowledge that tefillah does.

JDS has gone through many iterations of tefillah, with a mandatory freshman davening ZK, a learner ZK for people coming from public schools to learn the basics and mandatory praying ZKs. Eventually, the school landed on Drisha and davening options that have been in place since the early 2000s.

“There was a time where everybody was davening in some style in the JDS high school, but that was before I went here,” chair of Jewish life Robbie Shorr said. “So [Drisha] has various options that aren’t traditional davening, but are meant to be a way to connect to identity Jewish community spirituality, getting good mental health in the morning, and all of that sort of thing.”

I understand that many students at JDS don’t connect to Judaism through prayer and feel that their morning is spent best doing activities that help them start their morning. But at the end of the day, JDS is a Jewish school, and I think that it is unwise to have students completely opt out of prayer simply because they are unable to connect with the davening. Grade school years are the most formative years that people experience, which makes this the most important time for students to be exposed to and immersed in different types of Judaism. 

JDS is such a unique place with so many options for classes, sports, arts and Jewish activities, but we have reached a threshold of too many options. At the end of the day, JDS values community, and davening together is the most communal activity that a group of students can do together. There must be times that JDS limits the options for the greater good of fostering a community of practicing Jews, of all backgrounds and observance levels. 

My ZK, partnership minyan, is the epitome of community-building. What started as a way for more observant students to get to pray how they saw fit became a haven for many students to sing together in a circle on Fridays and indulge in the shtick that everyone loves. It is truly beautiful to see students with less exposure to religious Judaism embrace the traditions of partnership minyan. 

Pluralism is all about exposure to different ways of practicing Judaism. For ZK, it is so important that people get exposure to different types of davening, even if it is a little forced sometimes. Pluralism exists for students to find the path of Judaism that is right for them, but not to opt out of Jewish activities overall. It is not substantial enough for Jewish identity for students to be journaling or drawing in the morning. 

“I think that our Drisha ZK options offer a lot to students in terms of community and reflection, but I do think it’s sad that under our current structure, a JDS high school student might spend four years here and only participate in traditional Davening on Shabbatonim,” Shorr said. 

In addition to Jewish identity, davening is a great way to learn many life skills, especially for people who don’t connect to prayer. Learning how to reflect silently and immerse yourself in a spiritual environment is critical to finding pockets of serenity throughout the day. It is also a fantastic exercise in stepping outside of your comfort zone and learning how people find meaning in their lives. 

Davening also teaches discipline, especially when it comes to Judaism. Davening can be boring and even dull at times, but learning how to find a connection even on the most mundane of days is so important. 

Arguably the most important life skill to take away from morning tefillah is forming Jewish identities and relationships, and high school is the ideal place to do it. After high school, there are no more mandatory Judaic activities. Therefore, it is so important that students absorb the most that they can from a Jewish Day School so that they are fully equipped to solidify their Jewish identities in the years to come.

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About the Contributor
Eliana Wolf
Eliana Wolf, Sports Editor
Eliana is pumped to be this year’s Sports Editor for Lions Tale. She has always had an affinity for sports, as she is on the Varsity Tennis, Winter Track, and Softball teams. She loves editing articles and is so excited to enhance the sports sections with engaging content. Eliana is also an active member of the Bohr-Franklin Science Journal and the STEM fellowship. In addition to Lion's Tale, you can find Eliana playing the piano, spending time with her family and friends, reading, and hiking in Rock Creek Park. She can’t wait to work with her co-editors to edit articles and design spreads for the section.  

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    AnonymousMar 19, 2024 at 11:58 am

    I mean, I get where your coming from, but as you said yourself, some people are just completely unable to connect to prayer, and I don’t think forcing davening upon these people is going to change anything. Like, in middle school, only davening ZKs are offered, and everyone in mine who was uninterested and just talking to other people kept the same mindset throughout the year. Even when people willingly join the davening ZKs in high school, I still find many people of all grades just talking on the side. I also think the beauty of Judaism is partially its freedom of interpretation and practice. I just don’t think it would be easy to enforce, especially given how some people already love their current Drisha ZKs and would be very heartbroken to have it taken away.

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