Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital recently launched its Scholars Forum, a weekly multi-disciplinary course in which middle school students examine contemporary issues with guest speakers sharing real-world perspectives. This year’s Scholars Forum explores leadership, collective memory, and institutional change, and what it takes to turn a vision into a reality.
These themes are timely: Milton just opened the doors to its Moses Family Middle School, and will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year.
As part of the Scholars Forum, Milton’s sixth graders will create a documentary film about our school’s history and its impact on the Washington, D.C., Jewish community. The project will help students cultivate skills in research, writing, project management, interviewing, collaboration, and storytelling. It will also enable students to connect Jewish text and study to their own experience, and to contribute meaningfully to the wider community by producing a historical record of the only Jewish day school in the nation’s capital.
At the first Scholars Forum, the founding Head of School Susan Koss and current Head of School Naomi Reem spoke to the students about the school’s history as well as its enduring qualities: dedication to cultivating each student’s identity and voice, and commitment to fostering connections between students and their learning, their peers, and their teachers. Both speakers conveyed the importance of memory and documentation in preserving and strengthening the Jewish community of Washington, D.C.
Following the guest speakers, the students engaged in a study of Jewish texts related to memory, including the Zichronot(Memories) section of the Rosh Hashanah Musaf Amidah, and Rambam’sMishnah Torah. They shared personal memories that they wished to always keep, including many at school — from the excitement of creating a business in kindergarten to early memories of teachers helping new students feel like they belonged.
The students discussed the ways in which these memories help reinforce their own values, such as friendship, joyful learning, and gratitude. The discussion expanded to include communal values that drove and shaped our school’s past and continue to define Milton today.
Finally, the first Scholar’s Forum concluded with a brainstorming session, with students thinking of ways of documenting and strengthening the enduring values of our community in the film project.
By Lisa Schopf
Lisa Schopf is the middle school director at Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital.