Some 42 years ago, Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, founder of Maimonides School, explained to a gathering of parents that Judaism is “an experience of intoxicating beauty, enriching man’s life, inspiring his heart. It is a rousing experience… This experiential quality is very hard to impart through special classroom techniques. This must be absorbed by osmosis, by involvement, by living participation. We try our best to create such an atmosphere.”

created at: 2013-12-05

Decades later, the Rav’s description remains apt and vibrant at Maimonides, exemplified during the celebration of Chanukah this week.

Students are in school each Chanukah weekday, of course, but the spirit of the holiday permeates the classrooms, the corridors and the cafeteria, where a seven-foot Chanukkiah presides. Morning tefillah is augmented by Hallel, and for older students, the daily ma’ariv service is introduced at dusk by candle-lighting and singing. The Student Council hosts its annual Chanukah Banquet, a dress-up affair that is an annual highlight of the high school calendar. Each Elementary School day includes a special Chanukah feature, including the annual Mesibat Chanukah on the seventh day, complete with music and dancing, sufganiot and games.

Chanukah observances and festivities make “the gift of a day school education” seem self-evident. At Maimonides, that gift also extends to acts of giving. The Chanukah landscape at Maimonides includes receptacles overflowing with new toys, to be delivered to children in need.

That attitude also was illustrated by the school’s successful Yom Chesed in November. Weeks of intense preparation were rewarded by a turnout of more than 500 volunteers – students with their parents and grandparents, faculty and staff, graduates and friends.

The beneficiaries were 15 social service, educational and municipal agencies, as well as elderly residents, hospitalized patients and their families, neighbors of the school. Volunteers made and delivered gift baskets to Brookline police and firefighters and Boston Children’s Hospital. They helped paint a middle school in Dorchester and cleared invasive plants from the Reservoir park on Route 9. They helped screen potential bone marrow donors, made Chanukah cards for soldiers in Israel and prepared food for the area’s only kosher soup kitchen — operated for 15 years by Maimonides students.

Recipients were grateful. “We don’t really have a protocol for this – it doesn’t happen very much,” said a Fire Department officer about the baskets. “The welcome bags and blankets will surely uplift the hundreds of families that ROFEH supports throughout the year,” said spokesman Mike Hirsh. Participants expressed gratitude as well. “For us as a family it was such a special experience, which gave us the satisfaction of doing chesed and enjoying the outcome – preparing baskets and seeing the families’ smiling faces when we dropped everything off,” said parents Rinat and Joseph Naggar. “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for allowing all of us to take part in such an uplifting experience.”

“The password of the Jew is chesed – kindness, compassion – to his fellow Jews and to his fellow man,” Rabbi Soloveitchik said in his 1971 remarks to parents. “The Jew must share in the destiny of his people and be concerned with the destiny of mankind.” Decades later, the Rav’s school continues to put chesed into action, not only during Chanukah but every day.

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