Portland Jewish Academy
By Olivia Jacobs
I have attended a Jewish day school (Portland Jewish Academy) for the past nine years. Before that I went to a synagogue preschool program. I have always been surrounded by Judaism, and while that may cause my education to seem more secluded than most, I believe that it is quite the opposite.
Going to a Jewish day school has prepared me for the struggles and accomplishments of the future. I feel ready to take on high school and whichever tasks will be thrown at me afterward because of the core values I’ve learned throughout my experiences at PJA, such as study, respect, responsibility, community, appreciation and Jewish identity. These important bases of character will aid me in the process of transition between private and public school. I won’t know many people in my class next year, so the courtesy and confidence I’ve learned will help me meet new people and make new friends quickly.
However, my school has not only provided me with excellent skills for later in life. My education at Jewish day school has also taught me how to react in tough situations here in middle school countless times. For example, sometimes my friends and I heatedly debate current topics in class, and we have a hard time coming to a consensus. But by the end of each argument, we agree to disagree and recognize our differing opinions, because we know that attempting to change a peer’s beliefs through forceful arguments could tarnish friendships or rip a hole in the strong fabric of our class. We try to keep our discussions healthy and free of disrespectful commentary on opposing views. I really enjoy this aspect of our school because it shows how when conflicts arise, togetherness will always prevail.
One very important reason behind my admiration of PJA still needs to be mentioned. What really makes Jewish day school special does not just pertain to specific subject matter or inscribable qualities. It’s hard to spot, but can be noticed everywhere once detected casually. What really makes Jewish day school tick is the aura surrounding it that brings grins, outstretched arms, giggles and general joy among children, teachers and parents of all ages. It’s the adorable high fives between eighth-graders and kindergartners in the hallways and the collective murmur of prayers during Tefillah. It’s the sound of guitar and song during Kabbalat Shabbat and the excited face of a child excitedly rushing through an explanation of his or her wonderful idea for a class project. None of these things can be measured on any scale or titled with one word, because this encompasses so much warm feeling and specific experience. I guess the best way to describe it would be by calling it the “Jewish air” that I’ve been breathing for almost all of my life. And although after this year it might be a while until I smell it again, I wouldn’t trade it for any other atmosphere.
Olivia Jacobs is an eighth-grader at Portland Jewish Academy.
Maimonides Jewish Day School
By Chaya Bialo
To have a Jewish school available means that I get to practice my Judaism and learn about my religion. Practicing and learning are related but different. If I went to public school, I would be able to practice my religion, but I would be far away from learning about my way of life. People don’t always have the opportunity to express themselves. I am very fortunate that we have a Jewish school in Portland and that I am a part of it and can express what I have learned and practiced.
I think that having a school available is one of the most important things in my life. A Jewish education means that I practice and make myself a better and smarter person. It is a great mitzvah to learn about my heritage. Learning about myself makes me feel like I am lucky to be part of the great nation of the United States that gives me the freedom and keeps me safe so that I can grow.
When I grow up I want to be someone that people would consider being a good contributor to my religion.
I am very proud of my teachers and principal who made this school a reality. I am really happy that all of the staff members get along very nicely. I need to say thank you to everyone who gives money and who hopes this school will be a great place to spend my day. Further, I would like to thank my parents for transporting and paying for me to have a good education.
Chaya Bialo is a fourth-grader at Maimonides Jewish Day School in Portland.