Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School
68° 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

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Arts Chai-Lights celebrates art and STEM

Tali Loeffler
To honor the 133 hostages being held in Gaza, Lower School art teacher Emma Whitaker made individual portraits of each of them.

The room fills with silence as sophomore Ella Arking plays the first notes of “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane on the piano. Sophomore Josh Dori chimes in and starts to sing, accompanying Arking with an acoustic guitar. Arking and Dori sing the melody once more in unison, and the audience bursts into applause as the song draws to a close.

CESJDS hosted its annual Arts Chai-Lights event on March 29 in the Upper School building. Arts Chai Lights celebrates all of the types of art programs at JDS, including the performing and visual arts and STEM. It shines the spotlight on the students within the community who are involved in those programs. Starting this year, the event is endowed by the Blecher Family. It recognizes Mia and Lee Blecher’s establishment of the Blecher Family Upper School Music Endowment, which is in memory of Mia’s parents.  

Arts Chai-Lights includes visual artwork produced by students of all ages and faculty members from the whole year, as well as musical performances from students. Visitors and guests have the opportunity to participate in hands-on art activities, while enjoying the display and performances throughout the evening. Different exhibits and stations were set up for kids and families to create and experience art in different ways. Some of these stations, like the ceramic station, were student-led. 

“Creativity is important,” Director of Arts Education Dr. David Solomon said. “We call it Arts Chai-Lights – Chai meaning life. And for so many students the opportunity to express and be creative is a life flow. We express who we are, our identities, our values [and] our imagination.”

Solomon is in charge of planning, organizing and running the event. Preparation for Arts Chai-Lights is a year-long process that involves major planning and coordination between students and faculty, according to Solomon. For example, all year, students from the Art Z’man Kodesh have been working on a mural that they unveiled during the event after finishing it.  

In addition to artwork, there were a total of 45 musical performances by students and three dance performances from students in the lower school. These took place in various locations throughout the school, allowing it to be spotlighted hand in hand with the visual artwork. This year guests had the opportunity to participate in STEM stations and view STEM student-work on display as well.

As one of the stage managers for both middle and high school performances, Arking helped set up and run the sound system in the Beit Midrash at the event. She also performed both individually and with JDS’ acapella group, Shir Madness. Arking enjoyed the opportunity to perform for her peers, as Kab Shab spots typically fill up quickly. 

“Obviously, I love music so much so I think it’s really special to get to walk around and listen to people I’ve maybe never heard before,” Arking said. “I also think that it’s a really good way to get our community together, because a lot of kids from the Lower School come.”

This year, Lower School art teacher Emma Whitaker created individual portraits of all of the 133 hostages that are currently being held in Gaza. After noticing a decrease in media coverage for the hostages and their families, Whitaker wanted to bring attention to and honor them through art for Arts Chai-Lights.

“When I was painting those portraits, I had the opportunity to learn about the hostages, their families, their stories, their experiences, their hopes and their dreams,” Whitaker said. “And so another thing I wanted to honor with the project is like these are real people who had real lives and people that care about them.”

To create the portraits, Whitaker took commonly recognized photos of hostages from the internet and outlined them before coloring them in. She got inspiration from American artist Alex Katz and aimed to create a minimalist, yet cohesive project.

Overall, the event provided students and families to enjoy the arts and appreciate the talent of individuals. It culminated a school year full of emotion and expression

“The arts allow us to reflect, to heal, to come together as a community and of course [to] celebrate our students’ creativity,” Solomon said. “Creativity gives us some hope.”

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