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Gali Hampel and Nava Teller celebrate the Jewish New Year by holding a "Shana Tova" (Happy New Year) sign and a apple, signifying a sweet new year.
Not unlike other schools in Houston, my school is a religious one. We observe the laws of Orthodox Judaism and learn how to balance our Jewish identity in a secular world. This past month, our academic studies took a hit from the Jewish calendar. The Hebrew month of Tishrei, generally coinciding with October, is crowded with holidays, including the High Holidays.
Most of these holidays, according to Orthodox Jewish law, are spent refraining from work and in synagogue. Because of this, Robert M. Beren Academy missed quite a few days due to the holidays. While most other schools have progressed through their curriculum, my school has stalled on the very subject and points which we discussed the opening weeks of school.
Many can look it at this as a burden. They can regard our religious observance as a hardship and a hindrance to the student body’s advancement. But, Robert M. Beren Academy has taught us to see it in a different light. Students are able to view our religious holidays as a meager way to express our appreciation to God. We are able to appreciate all that God has blessed us with in this world and take but a few days out of the year off to express our gratitude by observing His commandment. In my opinion, temporarily falling behind my fellow American high schoolers is even an inadequate method to pay back our debt to God.
In another sense, the Jewish holidays fit into the mission of our school. Obviously, Jewish holidays are not something most of the world deals with - let alone high schools in America. Understanding that our Orthodox Jewish school can compete nationally within the boundaries of Jewish law teaches us the ever important lesson. It lets us know that a Jewish life and an excelling secular one are not mutually exclusive.